Let’s be honest. There are just too many issues out there to be passionate about all of them. The political news coverage can be outright overwhelming, causing us to want to retract from it all; making it seem like we don’t give a shit about any of today’s pertinent political issues.
The finger pointing and political discourse is ridiculous these days. If an issue arises, our elected leaders hold a name calling press conference attacking the opposing political party before they even consider the source of the problem. Actually solving a problem…forget about it.
It’s pretty easy to get discouraged from participating in the political process these days. Sometimes it feels like the problems are too big, and none of our actions could have any impact on the future of the nation. I frequently have these thoughts, but I do believe we can change our attitudes towards politics in ways that can keep us active and vocal.
1. Start Small by Thinking Small
Don’t try and carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. At the end of the day, our real responsibility is to be good to the person next to us. And if we understand that we all have an equal responsibility for the health and safety of our communities, we can start to work together to make manageable changes locally that might be influential for policy changes nationally.
For example, a set of parents might notice their child’s fitness worsen gradually over the course of a school year and become passionate about improving the quality of food in public schools. If these parents partnered with an expert on growing food locally and organically, they could drum up enough support, coordination and collaboration, to petition their school board to dedicate a portion of the school grounds to growing food. The student body could be responsible for the majority of the upkeep, and if successful a blue print could be created for other interested school districts. Imagine what the impact would be if public schools grew even just a small fraction of their produce themselves.
The simple point is that if everyone acts on the issues that are most relevant to them, and the ones that they can have the most positive impact on, then we can divvy up the work load, so to speak, and alleviate the unmanageable burden of solving all of the world’s problems from off of each other.
2. Don’t Care About Politicians and Party Lines; Care About Policy
Don’t get duped by talking points, let politicians or media personalities drive you towards hate, and don’t let political party affiliation dictate how you feel about or vote on issues that matter to you. These days “the people” are more influenced by politicians than politicians are influenced by “the people,” and this level of lopsidedness is dangerous. The extreme dichotomy of every public issue is mostly an illusion invoked by duplicitous politicians and lobbyists attempting to gain support for a policy that may or may not be in the best interests of their constituencies.
My advice is to strip a policy down to the intent behind it. Ask yourself a few questions: What problem is the policy trying to solve? How does this problem and its solution fit into your own personal story? And finally, will this policy make the world a better place to live? If you can come close to answering these questions you will have confidence that you came to an honest conclusion about your support, or lack thereof, of a policy and will not feel so pressured to support an issue just because a representative told you you were supposed to.
3. Don’t Get Offended
Hey guess what? People don’t always agree! I know, I am blowing your mind right now! The bottom line is it is OK that there are multiple different opinions on how to solve an issue. It is how we know that we have thoroughly considered the best way to solve a problem, and that we’ve pondered unintended consequences of a proposed solution. If you find yourself getting offended by another person’s opinion, take a step back and figure out why. There is no need to get all worked up and try and prevent the flow of ideas. With enough participation and level headedness the worst ideas will fade away into non-existence. Bad ideas only thrive in the right and left wing echo chambers we have created by blocking new ideas from reaching the ears of those shouting obnoxiously from their political mountain tops. Let’s talk to each other and learn from each other and avoid the nasty labeling and name calling. Remember Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, etc…are your brothers, sisters, friends and neighbors.
4. If You Don’t Know What to Do, Don’t Do Anything
This might be a tough one to get behind; but remember, a man who knows anything knows he doesn’t know anything, and sometimes not doing is as important as doing. Have you ever made a rash decision and found yourself saying “oh, I wish I would have thought that one through a little bit more.” Well, the same thing can happen in politics. It happens frequently when towns are confronted with the tough decision of exploiting lands for various clear cutting or drilling techniques for new found energy sources. Sometimes in response to economic pressures for job growth and revenue sources, towns quickly give the green light to such endeavors, only to become disheartened when most of the profits go to companies headquartered in different states, while being left with the task of cleaning up the environmental impacts left in the wake. Sometimes it’s OK to say, “hey, let’s just not do anything yet until we’ve thought this through.” In a sense, the “doing” is being vocal about the importance of “not doing.”
5. Remember: You Have Every Right to Get Involved and Be Heard
It doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do for a living, what your level of education is, or your race, sexual orientation, or any of those other demographics we use to categorize people. You are a citizen of this planet and you have every right and responsibility to give a shit as much as anyone else. You might be way out there on some issues and right in the middle of the pack on others. If you seem to be way off on an issue you might be missing a critical piece of information that you won’t ever receive unless you get engaged and start hearing other perspectives. Don’t forget that others benefit from hearing your unique perspective on issue. Sometimes the smart people that will ultimately solve a tough problem just need to hear what life is like for people suffering. Whether or not your are the smarty pants that will fix the problem or the person who knows how much life sucks under the current system or policy, your opinion is just as valuable either way.
I hope this post can help you sift through the madness, reduce the problems of the world to something small and manageable, find an issue you care about, be open minded to multiple perspectives, be comfortable about sometimes not knowing what to do, and most importantly be confident that your opinion is important.
Thanks for reading.