Why it’s actually important to talk about politics or at least pay attention

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

Many of us are taught – or  believe – to not talk about politics.  I even remember when I was growing up in the 1980s and 1990s my family didn’t. People went to vote and that was that. Nothing to discuss. 

But it was also  a rather uneventful time period. Yes, there were conflicts and I actually grew up with kids who got out of the former Yugoslavia as war erupted there. I was growing up in Germany and the wall came down reuniting Germany – a positive event. Europe’s borders opened. Otherwise it was quite an uneventful time when it came to political unrest or change.

Fast forward to today. Political ideology is shifting in some places and some countries  it’s making an attempt to. 

Somehow we ended up in a society that uses terms like:

  • Muslim bans 
  • Fake news
  • Post truths 
  • Alternative facts 

And the other day the White House Press Secretary told a reporter that the reporter was “perpetuating a false narrative.”

Much of this rhetoric has gotten me to pay more attention to politics than ever. The other day I tweeted that it was the first year ever where I paid attention to the elections in  France, the Netherlands, Turkey and the United States.

Some of today’s rhetoric doesn’t add up and some of it fuels into the community that only sees the black or whites of the situation-forgetting that we live in a society of greys. When you see things black or white:

  • The news media either gets it right or wrong. In reality the mainstream news media gets many things right  while obviously everybody has some kind of bias because we are human.
  • You’re either against guns or for them.  While  in reality you can certainly be for self protection but against gun crime.
  •  You’re either pro life or pro-choice. While in reality you might  never give up a child by choice but do leave other people’s decisions to themselves.

And of course sometimes we make fun of some of these buzzwords and buzz phrases that politicians are throwing around. 

I’ve heard Make Content Great Again for Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again phrase.  Anytime anybody mentions a wall a quick joke follows that we will make whomever else pay for it-referring to the wall Trump wants to build along the Mexican border and making Mexico pay for it.

The late-night TV shows have had a field day with what’s going on. Every night pretty much.  I watch them daily.

I also pay now  to read the New York Times and Washington Post online to see what is happening and what it means. See that’s what media companies really should be doing: telling us what it means – not just what happens. The context matters.

I have the notifications turned on on Twitter so every time they tweet I see it. I also have Trump’s tweets turned on so I can see what he is saying. And the ACLU. In fact it’s the first time that I’ve donated to the ACLU. That was prompted by the so-called Muslim ban.

It can get tiring to keep up and sometimes depressing. And then of course some people don’t want to talk about politics and other people want to talk about them so passionately that it ends up being an argument.

And then I remember somebody saying somewhere that most political changes will not even affect most of us on a daily basis in the United States. That hopefully remains the truth and is one reason why this country still is great. But changes likely will impact the most vulnerable in our country.

And changes happen slowly. They take time. And sometimes we don’t see them until it’s too late. One way to stay on the right track is to talk about what’s going on, pay attention to the context and dig deeper without getting politic overload. 

And then of course the next step after talking is voting. Since I have been able to vote I’ve tried to never miss an election – even when I wasn’t tracking politics news daily. I don’t even go to the polling place. Absentee ballot voting in Iowa is simple and convenient. 

Be in the know and make your voice heard when it counts. That could be through:

  • Staying updated
  • Sharing news and context
  • Sharing the personal impact of what’s happening when that is the case
  • Donating to organizations like  the ACLU or others
  • Voting

Politics – even when it’s not comfortable to talk about them are part of our stories. Just like any chapter of our lives be sure to at least  contribute to the relevant chapters. They are the stories we write for all of us.