The dangers of political apathy

“Dude, who cares why Obama went to India last week, I want to know where Angelina and Brad went for their anniversary.”

A peer said this to me as I was rambling about how funny it was that the Indian Prime minister welcomed Obama by wearing a pinstripe suit with his own name, Modi, written all over it.

I mean, yes, discussing how the prime minister stole the show with his bizarre piece of clothing is debatably not the most important news out there, but that response made me stop and think.

Why is it hard to find young adults eager to discuss political matters? We live in an educational environment that endorses continual intellectual growth, yet topics that will stir this growth are being purposefully disregarded. It’s ironic.

Young adults, ages 18 to 24, have been less engaged with voting lately. Voting rates have droppedfrom 50.9 percent to 38.0 percent in 2012, according to the US Census Bureau.

Why are students more excited to watch TV than to go and exercise their power to vote?

“It angers me when people pay so much attention to celebrity news, I don’t get it. Don’t they know that people are dying of poverty, and impacted by oppression, not just overseas but right here, in the country we’re in?” said Nuha Muntasser, an economics major at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

It is tragic how college students these days yearn for trivial information but shy away from any news that enters the premises of politics. Sometimes, it is the word politics itself that pushes students away.

Frankly, I don’t blame them.

Why bother to vote when elections never bring about change? All these colorful promises and smooth talking from the candidates sway us, but in the end, all that happens is nothing.

During the 2008 presidential election, President Obama promised to establish a $2 million Global Education Fund to “offer an alternative to extremist schools.” What a colorful promise, but no sign of such a program anywhere, according to the Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Assistance.

Students want a leader that is not only consistently truthful, but will discuss matters that pertain to them, such as jobs after graduation and ways of decreasing their monumental loans.

Sadly, most daily life issues are looked at passively. How many school shootings do we need to get through before a stricter gun control law is passed? How about immigrant’s rights? Taxes. Foreign policies. Social security. None of these are terribly germane to college students, yet they make up the bulk of most political discussions.

Muntasser said her biggest concern right now is what’s going to happen after she graduates. “I try not to think about it because it depresses me when I do,” she said.

From 1990 through 2013, the unemployment rate averaged 4.3 percent for recent college graduates, compared with 2.9 percent for all college graduates, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

“Elections are rigged, fixed, so why pretend our votes matter?” Another phrase I hear so often.

I can’t help but raise an eyebrow at the billionaires and corporations pouring millions into elections to sway them while many of us sit back and watch.

The New York Times announced in January that the Koch brothers, who are planning on running for the 2016 presidential election, are choosing to spend $900 million on their campaign, the most expensive in history.

Is your eyebrow raised yet?

Money buys elections now. I dream of the day that an ordinary person gets a chance to run for office, someone who is not an extremely rich military leader or lawyer. It has gotten to the point where American students have lost trust in the system.

The youth in the Middle East vote regardless of evidence that proves elections there are rigged. The youth here are reluctant to vote; the assumption that one person’s vote will not add or change anything is very popular.

“I already knew Obama was going to win so my vote wasn’t really going to do anything extra,” said history and economics major, Emaan Syed.

This mentality is unfortunately prevalent among many students. We are not aware of the power of our voices. We are blessed with freedom of expression and the opportunity to vote, while others around the world protest day and night to be heard.

Judging from recent headlines about elected officials who have had to step down because of a scandal or corruption, politics seems to be getting dirtier by the day, and the effort of continuously having to sift through all the rhetoric is taxing, to say the least.

“Politics is a concept, which to me, is based on half truths and deceit,” said mechanical engineering major, Talha Mirza.

When are politicians going to start realizing that the youth require their attention? Are politicians not connecting with the youth because of how openly they exhibit their nonchalance? Restoring a politically involved culture among students and young adults will undoubtedly take years, maybe even decades, but remaining optimistic is our only hope. Otherwise, who will be left to believe in change?


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