It appears the decades-long political apathy that has existed in the U.S. may be at an end. That apathy which has allowed our government to reach systemic corruption, with our representatives filling their own pockets – unchecked – with little regard for the desires of their constituents. Americans have finally gotten fed-up with it all. Not since the Vietnam War have I seen so many people actively concerned about the state of our politics. And it is certainly not a bad thing, since a democracy, after all, is a government by its people.
But ‘waking up’ has come with a price. Too many years of not paying attention – whether due to job focus, lack of interest, or simply not wanting to offend – have eroded our skills in civil discourse and thinned our skins. It has reached the point where healthy debate over political things that matter quickly devolve into unproductive arguments, name-calling, and strained relationships. This has been magnified by the impersonal aspects of social media, where a person can sit behind the shield of their computer and say things they would not typically say directly to someone’s face. This situation is made even worse by the explosion of ‘fake news’, causing people to fight over things that simply aren’t true.
I feel it myself and worry how many of my friends and family have had enough of my thoughts. Probably more than I want to know. Where is the right balance between being an educated, involved citizen and not driving those around us completely nuts? I have tried to read differing, well thought-out perspectives and the debates that ensue, and sometimes add my own opinion. I think it helps. These are the debates that will hopefully bubble up to hold our elected representatives accountable and drive them to find the compromises that serves us best. But the number of those debates and the ugly confrontations that frequently result are becoming too much for most of us these days, myself included.
We need to find a balance between staying silent and speaking out that allows each of us to remain part of a healthy, respectful discourse while not turning us into enemies. Because it is the discourse that is needed to fan the flames of our re-awakening and let those we elected know their party is over. We have learned that apathy doesn’t work.