Maybe it’s because I’m from Washington, D.C. and I’m used to constant political discussions, but Cornell is a little dry on the political front. Sure, there are the classic Cornell Democrats and Republicans clubs, and some clubs that focus on more specific issues, but in general, Cornell students are pretty apathetic about politics. I mean, it’s no secret that Cornell is overwhelmingly liberal, and what’s there to talk about when everyone already agrees on a subject?
But I’m not writing about the issue I take with the lack of political discussion just yet. I’m writing about the people who read the previous paragraph and became the slightest bit uncomfortable at the mention of politics. “I just don’t like talking about politics,” they say. “I have other things to worry about, and I honestly don’t really care about it.”
These people are agreeable and nice. It’s likely that they dislike talking about politics because any type of controversy makes them anxious or nervous, so they’d rather just not get involved with potential conflict. However, they don’t realize how privileged they are to be able to not care about politics and still sleep at night.
When one hears the word “politics,” a person is likely to think of some commonly repeated phrases like “Trump” or “inefficiency.” Sometimes, it can be easy to forget that politics is not some abstract idea, and that it is actually about the issues that affect our lives, not just the mess in Washington.
However, the ability to forget is a luxury. If you can forget that these real issues affect real people, then you’re likely someone who isn’t affected by the groundbreaking decisions made in government. Refusing to talk about politics doesn’t make you a more mature and agreeable person. It just makes you selfish for not speaking up because the issue doesn’t directly affect you.
Sometimes, we do care about politics a little more than usual. It comes every four years, and it’s called the presidential election. It becomes exciting to talk about because everyone’s talking about it, and to ignore politics then is to be ignorant. It’s all over the media, and it’s almost like a reality show. But, there is more to politics than just the presidential election.
On the anniversary of the 2016 election, my International Relations professor asked the class how many students were registered to vote in the local election. Of the 200-person class, only eight people raised their hands. He then asked how many of the registered voters actually voted. Four people slowly dropped their hands. My professor joked, “at least there’s a fifty percent turnout rate.”
Just four voters out of 200 students is abysmal. It’s even a Government class, so you’d think that the students are more politically-minded; imagine the sample size in other classes. Although local elections aren’t as glamorous as presidential elections, they deserve attention too. Local elections are just as important, especially as it directly affects issues in the community.
It’s easy to get informed about the issues in politics: just read the news. If you use social media to get your news, make sure you’re aware of the bias. Also, download some news apps. To make it even simpler, you can subscribe to either theSkimm or Politico’s Playbook Power Briefing for a summary of the major current events. And don’t feel that the only way you can support your cause is by dramatically writing hate mail to your senator. Just start by joining an on-campus club, or volunteering with an associated organization; better yet, you can get involved by just talking about the issue. You won’t regret it: doing just one of these things will make you an excellent conversationalist and an overall more well-rounded person.
Next time you see something political on your feed, or you hear people talking about politics, think twice before you say “I just want to stay out of it.” If you are able to stay out of the issues, then your privilege is getting the best of you. Use your voice, even if it isn’t for yourself.