On Thanksgiving weekend I had a conversation with someone who told me she does not really follow politics or current events. That, in itself, is okay. I understand how annoying politics can get and how depressing it can be to follow current events. What frightens me is that I mentioned several different major current and/or political events (Occupy Wall Street was one), and she gave me a blank look on all of them. Even worse than that, though, is that this person is a voting citizen of the United States (not to mention Minnesota, where I intend to live).
If you are going to vote, I believe it is your civic duty to inform yourself about what is going on in the world. You need to know exactly what is happening around you to make good decisions. Even if you only know the general views of the party you vote for, it is important to know in what context you are voting to elect a member of that party.
If one knows nothing of current events it becomes impossible to rationally and reasonably decide which party will do a better job governing the state or the country. I do not like the idea of voting on party lines because I know that politicians are individuals. Some may see it as their duty to represent your (their constituents’) views while others may see being an official as a chance to spread their ideas because, after all, their constituency did vote them into office. The former is clearly superior to the latter. Despite all of this, the first responsibility of the voter is to know the context into which they are electing officials. The second responsibility, in my mind, is to inform oneself about the candidates themselves, rather than just the political party to which they belong.
It scares me that there are so many people in the world who do not attempt to stay even marginally informed about current events. Watch the news or scan the headlines (essentially the same thing as watching the news…) – either makes you a more informed person. Listen to what others have to say about what’s going on, discuss with friends and ask questions if you are lost.
Attempting to inform yourself is nothing but admirable, no matter what state you are starting from. If you know nothing about anything that’s going on, but you are trying to learn about it you deserve no laughter or derision. You deserve only praise and encouragement.
The government of this country will only run smoothly if citizens take responsibility for those they elect. Like it or not, such responsibility requires a lot more than going to the polls and voting based on which party you favor or which man/woman is better looking.