Despite my own professional commitments, I completely understand why so many people don’t follow politics. Indeed, many good and reasonable people prefer not to “get political.” The arguing we see in the news and on social media, after all, seems endless and pointless. Why bother taking one side or another in the first place?
One common answer is civic duty — we have an obligation to our country to exercise our political right to vote. Our vote, moreover, is expected to be meaningful, and we voters should be reasonably informed about the candidates and the issues. But then lots of people, on the other hand, will argue that voting is pointless. For one, you will probably never be the deciding vote in an election. Two, we live in a free country. Voting isn’t a legal duty, but only a hypothetical duty — so save yourself the trouble!
Hardly anybody can take a duty like this seriously. Get involved in a big messy argument that we can’t influence anyways? Ha! But fortunately for *cough* democracy, I think there’s more to it. The main motivation for why we should follow politics is not out of a sense of duty or a love of the fight, but because it’s (potentially) good for us. And that goes for everyone. I don’t think it generally matters who you are, what your ideological beliefs are, or what party you associate yourself with. Here are 5 reasons why getting political is a great thing to do.
1. The more you do it, the more you love it. It’s a great missed opportunity to be born in a democracy, and then never at least try to get into politics. And if you look around, when people try to get into politics they usually don’t give it up. In this sense, it isn’t like dieting, learning piano, or picking up a foreign language. Rather, the interest and involvement only increases. Take seniors, who vote at a very high rate. This isn’t only to protect their group interests. Politics, like religion, is something many people don’t think they have time for, but eventually come around to and stay with.
2. Increased appreciation for the important and the emotional. To listen or read about a political issue is to think about right and wrong, what is just, what is fair. As you learn more about the big issues — our country’s economic opportunities, our education goals for our children, our treatment of immigrants, our foreign policy, etc. — you increasingly appreciate why these are indeed such “big issues.” What bothers a lot of people is that there are no easy answers, but this genuine difficulty is actually beside the point. Simply appreciating these problems enriches your life, multiplying and deepening your sympathies for others. And you shouldn’t feel rushed to take sides; over time you’ll almost unconsciously begin to lean one way or another.
3. You will feel more integrated. As your love for politics grows, and your appreciations increase, new people open up to you. Some are uncommonly fair and really smart, but most people have at least some evident flaws in their reasoning. That’s okay. We all have these flaws, but our common deficiency in this respect actually knits us together. You feel safe around people that agree with you, and challenged around people who don’t. Both experiences are a result of our flaws, and both experiences solidify our membership in a common political society. Of course, we see everyday how politics can make people angry with each other (bringing to mind an earlier post), but by the same token, it drives many likeminded people together.
4. You will be proud of yourself. If you bought the first 3 reasons, then this probably doesn’t require much explanation. Having at least something of a handle on the big issues of the day carries with it a very tangible self-confidence.
5. You will develop useful habits. Navigating politics requires practicing many virtues that are easily transferable to other areas of life. Whether at home or work, we all find success when we are more aware and appreciative of the world around us. Moreover, “getting political” stimulates both our minds and our hearts, bringing us out of ourselves and under the scrutiny of those we choose to get political with. The exposure and the vulnerability of this experience pushes us to strengthen ourselves and to challenge others to do the same.
As I mentioned at the top, getting political has its regrettable vices as well. That’s granted and self-evident. And, maybe in my biased presentation here, I have gotten a bit political in the bad sense myself — leaving out some important details, perhaps in order to advance my pre-determined conclusion. Well, what can I say? I like getting political, because I think the good in the end outweighs the bad.