Column: Politics all the way

By Shouger Merchant

A year ago, I did a piece on apathy versus political activism where I followed two students around, got a glimpse of their lives and wrote a story comparing their interests, hobbies etc. Both students were extraordinary people, yet I believed that the politically active student had a fuller existence. Revisiting that story today, I realize that my college life would have been very different if I hadn’t involved myself politically. Thus, my final plea of the semester is for students to become more politically active.

Six years ago, I often denigrated politics for being a dirty game for power-hungry saps. While it is true that politics may not strike a chord with every citizen and most of the time it might be corrupt and vicious, I realized that we have an opportunity to change all that.

Many people harp about their vote not counting. This concept is amiss. I’m not trying to be an idealist, but every single vote does count in the big picture. Firstly, it is true that if every citizen said “my vote doesn’t count so why should I bother,” we would be short of a large chunk of votes that could make or break an election. Secondly, when politicians scrutinize the numbers and demographics of voters, they see patterns and then appeal to those target audiences. If they see a lack of interest from the youth, they won’t care about youth reforms. We are a critical mass that can change the governance in this country, and we need to become aware of our own potential because if our apathy continues we will find ourselves silenced.

Not only will we be able to exercise some authority and influence the election of public officials, but we can assist framing their agendas so that they attend to our needs and thus influence public policy. Local politicians need to tend to their constituents in their home state before they go out conquering the general public. Because they are in need of our support, they will try to pass legislation that we favor and deeply desire or attempt to champion our cause. However, if the youth vote doesn’t yield numbers, they see no need to court us with enticing developments. If we want our voices heard, we have to make sure people are listening.

Thirdly, each vote carries with it the input that we make to governance and gives us a personally rewarding feeling. We have so much to fight for and so many rights that aren’t fully available to us. We should make our voices heard, get our views across and make a contribution to the governance of this country by fostering deliberation. We must debate and have discourse over every political question for it to be a democratic process. We must question government and state our opinions lucidly and comprehensively. It is easy to find fault and complain about political processes, but to be a part of that policy making process involves a little extra effort.

At the end of the day, all we have are our principles, and it only takes passion to decipher those into activism. So engage yourself politically. Whether it is a simple vote, registering people to vote, distributing education on candidates and issues, participating in a campaign, writing to a public official or attending a town hall meeting, it is a small contribution to the political atmosphere which is in need of reshaping.

My two favorite political adages are “Politics is too important to be left to politicians” and yet “under every stone lurks a politician.” We are all capable of assisting and influencing politics in one way or another. It is time we realized our power and took advantage of it. It is the activists that the rest of the community depends on. So you either become one or you can lie in wait for someone else to further your goals. Fight for what you believe in, leave a legacy; we only live once.

Shouger Merchant is a senior in Communications. Her columns appears every Wednesday, She can be reached at [email protected]