By Joseph McCann | firstname.lastname@example.org
This article is an introduction to a series that will (hopefully) give a basic knowledge of current events and political issues in the United States in a plainspoken manner, entitled “Who, What, Why: (topic),” so that we can all ruin our gas station experiences and day-to-day blissful ignorance together.
Recently I was in a friend’s dorm room playing every college student’s favorite game, Cards Against Humanity, essentially a darker, raunchier version of Apples-to-Apples (please don’t look it up, Nana).
Someone got a card with the name Condoleezza Rice and I couldn’t help being completely dumbfounded when she had no idea who she was. I have to take this lightly because I come from a family that heavily values history and politics, and a lot of others don’t. My father’s worked in politics and lobbying his whole life, and my mother is a high school economics and American history teacher; so knowing about people and policy was required for me.
But I still found myself amazed that someone didn’t know who Condoleezza Rice–the second female Secretary of State in American history who served under George W. Bush, and our nation’s chief diplomat during the beginning of the Iraq War–was.
This type of situation popped up a couple of times. I would see something about Jeff Sessions on a news notification on my phone–something that would cause me to visibly and audibly scowl. I’d make a comment, but only one person at my table knew who he was. She only knew him as the senator from Alabama, her home state. Not even she could tell me that he was the current Attorney General of the United States.
After this, genuinely confused and slightly agitated, I threw some names around hoping that somebody would recognize major political figures like Justin Trudeau, Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, Elizabeth Warren, Theresa May, or Angela Merkel was. To my dismay, they did not. When I asked if anyone knew a single candidate for Florida governor, someone replied with, “we’re having an election soon?” Yes, we are.
Now to be fair, I would be content to sit and talk about domestic policy and world leaders for days on end. I also understand that in the eyes of my peers, this is grounds for certifiable insanity or mental instability. However, it frightens me that we as a whole are so unattached to who is leading us, and what they’re doing–especially when we’re charged with the privilege to vote.
I apologize to my friend who is anonymously being called out, and I don’t mean to wreck her knowledge of current events, but it’s a trend I see more and more: that people of my generation are oblivious to politics. This shouldn’t be the case–it can’t be the case if democracy is going to work correctly. But the fact is that people like Condoleezza Rice, Jeff Sessions, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg matter. What they do matters, and it matters to us a great deal more than much of my generation recognizes.
I understand that it isn’t easy to jump into controversial issues, they can be incredibly complex. Imagine trying to jump into a conversation about Israeli-Palestinian peace. On the surface, it’s a conflict about land and who is the rightful owner of it–pretty simple. But then add in non-governmental groups in the conflict–Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS–external governments–Russia, the United States, Egypt–blockades, assassinations, genocide, and even more, believe it or not.
I can’t blame people for not putting themselves into these issues–it’s hard. I spend more time than I care to admit reading about all sorts of domestic and foreign affairs and, unfortunately for my friends, I love to talk about it. However, for me to pretend that I know what I’m talking about all the time with these kinds of issues, whether they be international or domestic, is absolutely ridiculous. But these issues affect us in more ways than we realize, and that’s why it’s so important for us to know about them.
Let’s look at an example that we all can relate to. Most of us have driver’s licenses, so we have to get gas sometimes (except for those of you who don’t have driver’s licenses, so metaphorically put it in neutral for a minute). We don’t go to fill up our cars and think that this conflict could be making it harder to move oil through the Middle East causing gas to be more expensive for us here in our safe, historic town–it’d be weird if we did.
It’s everyday things like this that remind me why it is so important for us to be aware of what is happening in our country, and around the world. Otherwise, I’d be able to get gas in peace, and only have to think about how dirty my car windshield is and how I’m not going to wash all the bugs off, instead of thinking about international crises.