In a country where, according to USA Today, the last presidential election claimed a vote of less than 20 percent of the population aged 18-29, it is perhaps not surprising that my political knowledge of some major issues has been lacking. Funnily enough, it’s a conviction that certain legislation will have little to no impact on our lives that often fuels the apathy of those of us without strong political views, a sort of denial that could turn out to be well-justified or, as in my case, terribly misplaced. It is entirely too easy for us to find comfort in the safe places we create. It becomes a matter of expectation to hear about world news, shake our heads, and go on with our days. This practical apathy is a danger to positive progress. If the population, especially the young population, is unwilling to educate and involve itself in world issues, they cannot possibly assist in their improvement and correction.
The year and a half that I spent studying in Scotland opened my mind and my eyes to many new concepts and realities that certainly were not limited to my master’s courses. I became almost unconsciously more politically aware. The vote for Scottish Independence was looming and campaigns for both sides were practically unavoidable. I also became aware of the messier, more difficult side of dating someone from a different country. Suddenly a whole new world of immigration laws and the many intricacies and difficulties involved in applying for and obtaining a visa became topics of inexhaustible interest. I was forced to acknowledge that the immigration legislation currently under discussion in the US was no longer something I could ignore. I found myself actually voicing an opinion when the Washington Times the reported that President Obama had “offered amnesty to 5 million illegal immigrants” in November of 2014. My previous ignorance of the issue has meant that I have spent the last several months struggling to take in and understand years worth of information and legislation to become even marginally aware of the struggles we are facing and will yet face. Had I made even a small effort to be conscious of the major political movements of my own country, I may not have been completely blindsided by the many difficulties that immigrants from all over the world face on a daily basis.
I am only just beginning to learn the many ins and outs of this very complicated and controversial section of law, but it has also made me realize that I have wilfully shut out major issues because I believed that they would never have an impact on my life. It is a realization that is both humbling and motivating. I have been taking steps for a while now to become better acquainted with and aware of both national and world news. From even my small efforts it has become increasingly evident that there are issues far more important than those that have an immediate impact on my life and the lives of those I love.
Immigration is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the denial that I and so many others employ to avoid weighing in on tough issues. As evidenced by USA Today‘s demographic profiles, young men and women, and interestingly, most men and women holding graduate level degrees choose, by a huge margin, not to take part in the biggest political election in the US. If we are unwilling to even to educate ourselves on the campaigns and participate in the election of the leader of our own country, how can we expect it to improve? I am guilty of this stubborn blindness as well, but I will not continue to be. I genuinely hope that we see our generation move toward more political activism of all types, not merely voting in major elections. I hope that they do not limit their efforts to their social media platforms. And I hope that others do not need the shove I did to become aware that such issues are not simply floating in our peripherals to be ignored as issues for someone else to deal with.