Imagine yourself in five years.
You are having lunch with your boss. During your conversation, you are asked about the upcoming election.
He or she asks you what issues you are voting on and what candidates you like and why. Suddenly, you feel yourself become very hot and nervous. You realize you are incapable of answering such questions due to your lack of knowledge about the election.
Your boss patiently waits for your response, but you are unable to come up with an answer.
A plague of ignorance is penetrating American minds. According to a poll reported by the New York Times, 40% of Americans have no idea that the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is a law on the books. Additionally, the New York Times drew attention to the alarming fact that 65% of Americans are unable to name a single justice on the Supreme Court. Fox News’ Jesse Watters, of “Watter’s World” illustrates how prevalent ignorance about political issues is in the United States.
Questions such as “What year did the Founding Fathers sign the Declaration of Independence?” or “Why do we celebrate Memorial Day?” puzzle every day beach goers and concert attendees.
So, many of you may be asking, well, big deal…other than when I have a conversation with someone like my boss, why is it necessary to know what Obamacare is or why it is important to know anyone on the Supreme Court? As a citizen in American society, you must be willing to engage in politics in order for our democracy to prosper.
Democracy by definition demands our participation. An engaged citizenry spins the wheels of democracy.
When the people invite ignorance, democracy loses a wheel that is vital for proper function. For example, as the 2016 presidential election inches nearer and nearer, many Americans continue to express their disdain for the current candidates in both major political parties. Frustration from voters diagnosed with ignorance is wasted breath because they (unconsciously) put Clinton and Trump at the top of their respective political parties.
In contrast, those who actively voted for Trump or Clinton and participated in American democracy took it upon themselves to make a decision that will affect the future of the country.
The point is: the people elect government officials. Therefore, it is the people that must understand the importance of government’s role in our lives and, consequently, take action. Government is woven into every part of every American’s life. You do not steal candy bars from gas stations because government laws punish you if you do. You attend a public university that government implemented. You eat at restaurants that follow government health codes.
The list goes on and on. Furthermore, given the significant role government plays in our lives, you must understand your crucial role in American democracy in order to make your own political decisions that will greatly affect your livelihood.
When Americans fail to seek information on political topics they fail to see how precious their American citizenship is. American democracy is exceptional because Americans are able to decide which media to watch, listen, read or browse and formulate their own opinions and decisions on who to vote for.
Accepting apathy and ignorance takes those special rights for granted. The consequence of those actions ultimately means that the next president of the United States will likely be decided based on which opposing party has the most disinterested, uninformed, non-voters who stay at home and ignore their right to vote.
So, I encourage you (yes you!) to better inform yourself. Set aside twenty minutes a day to read the news. Become engaged and embrace the advantages of your American citizenship because it is one of the greatest blessings that anyone could ever receive.
Collegian columnist Taylor Chaffetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org