Thomas Jefferson once said, “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government.” And so one must wonder: What has the political state of our country become?
Remember when we first got lessons in social graces and appropriate topics for conversations and we were told “never discuss religion, sex or politics, because all of them are controversial and sure to start an argument?” Well, if you’re not like me, you accepted this sagely advice and stuck to trading recipes and discussing plans for the weekend.
But, if you are like me, you revel in the intellectual sustenance that is an opinion-fueled argument and “go for the contentious gusto” at any given moment, such as starting a discussion on politics.
Recently, a few of my Stater coworkers and I were discussing the current state of the union, all of us having very different views and affiliations. As we started talking about issues, and the conversation became more heated, it occurred to me; deep down we all want the same thing. We all want a decent life and the freedom (within reason) to pursue that life.
It is not ourselves and our views that force us apart, it is politicians and their perpetually pedantic mind games, mixed with a hearty dose of misguided rhetoric, that make us want to rip each other’s throats out.
But it wasn’t always like that.
In fact, there was a time in this country where politicians were on the level of superstars. The country at large had a vested interest in the affairs of state and those running it. Many were intimately acquainted with the pivotal issues at hand (especially in the 19th century era of women’s rights, temperance and abolitionism) and actively challenged lawmakers they felt were doing a disservice to the country. Now, our “superstars” reside in the tabloids and on the sports fields, made larger than life by television and film, but who in the larger scheme of things have about as much chance of affecting positive global change as Charles Manson has of getting parole.
So, fed up with the political game? Change it. Pay attention to the things that matter – the people who campaign for a government-funded office, no matter how low the level. How do your child’s potential school board officials really feel about education? Does your governor really want to solve the growing unemployment problem in your state? If so, how? Better yet, fed up with all the potholes on your main route to work? Write your state senator and tell him to fix them!
That’s the great thing about this country — you don’t have to fight with fists or guns, you can fight with your vote. But you need to be informed about the issues and the stance of the people who are running to be the major decision-makers in your life.
So next time you go to the store, why not push aside that copy of People and pick up a copy of The Nation instead. It’s your country you owe it to yourself to be as involved in it as you can.
Shelley Blundell is a senior magazine journalism and history major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]