I’ve never really considered myself to be a political person. Besides the slightly unexpected vote from my high school peers that deemed me “most political” of my class, I have always tried to shy away from politics. The world of politics always seemed too complex for me. The politicians, the policies, the history. It was too big for me to grasp and catch up with.
I’ve felt like this from the time that I had a vague concept of what government was. Everyone always seemed to know more facts, and understand more than I ever could. Mostly this was a problem with my age, as I have always expected myself to compete on the same level as those much older, much more experience. But how could I expect my 15-year-old self to have the same understanding of politics that well-seasoned and professional political pundits? The answer is, of course, I couldn’t. And, at the ripe age of 20, I still can’t.
Learning that was a struggle, rooted in my faulty perfectionism. More or less my logic was that if I didn’t try, I wouldn’t fail. For a long time (and even now, I regretfully admit), I have thought being wrong was failure. And it’s much too easy to be wrong with politics.
It may be somewhat obvious that whenever you are introduced to a new subject, you can’t compare your knowledge to professionals or scholars in that field. However, this hasn’t always been so obvious to me or my pride.
Politics was also slightly different than any old academic subject. Eventually, as I grew older, I realized it was something that I just couldn’t avoid. Growing older and understanding the importance of policies that are passed, that affect so many of us (sometimes unfairly disproportionately), I couldn’t say, “I’m just not really interested in politics.”
Simultaneous to my journey into realizing the importance of politics, social media grew rapidly. But of course, we all know this. We have watched—some of us from the beginning of our lives—social media reach and absorb every aspect of our lives. It has become an extension of self, and politics are certainly close to the hearts of many.
Millennial politics have been reduced to social media. Well, I suppose “reduced” is the wrong word, as social media political statements can be valid, but sometimes, and I dare to say even oftentimes, they are reductionist. Although I’ve spent my fair share of time retweeting, sharing, liking, and favoriting political articles and posts on my own social media, I never dared to post myself. There was always something that seemed unnatural or perhaps even untrue about posting political messages on social media.
This seems, however, to be one of the most fervent versions of politics and political activism today. For many, this is as far as their politics reach. Although making content go viral and sharing and composing posts on social media can make a difference, many can say this comes down to “slacktivism.”
As I questioned my own right to have any opinion on political issues because of my lack of knowledge, I questioned those who posted online. How much did they know? What did they know? Many made good points and many didn’t—it is the internet after all. If these people, who I doubt have rigorously studied the policies that they are so vehemently criticizing, I can too, right?
Well, not exactly. But I am here, at The Tempest, writing about the news, giving commentary about political issues. Through this, I have learned the value in caring about politics and policies. I doubt anyone will reject the fact that politics have such an immense effect on our world. But there is a difference between internet slacktivism and actually being “political.”
Political does not mean conservative or liberal, left or right. It does not have to coincide with a party or a point of view, but making the effort to understand what’s going on. Just making the effort to turn on the television and turn on the news instead of a show is being political. Turning on the radio and listening to the news instead of music is being political.
It is, however, a little bit more than that though. It’s also being skeptical. As many of the judgments of policies and politicians that do make it to the media have come to resemble reality shows, we must make the effort to question the media and search for deeper answers.
There is always more to a story, and I say that as a reader, not a writer. Being political is not only knowing the names of politicians and having the years on you to have watched policies take shape. Being political is caring with informed contentious criticism. Looking deeper into what’s going on, and realizing how that one policy could change everything. It’s caring enough to find out how.