‘I don’t like to talk about politics’, ‘I’d rather just take a step back and not get involved in political conversations’. These are some statements that I have heard during my Thanksgiving break. Whether I visited family or talked via text or call, these phrases seemed to be go-tos for many of my family members. It’s as though many of those within my family are either incredibly vocal on their political opinions or they ‘don’t believe in politics’ (whatever that’s supposed to mean) – two extremes, I know.
Personally, I view someone’s political beliefs in correlation with their moral beliefs – which can then help me to understand that person’s perspective on life and their overall personality. For example, if someone tells me that they are pro-life, I can make the assumption that they were probably raised in a conservative neighborhood, are middle-class, go to a generally well funded school, and haven’t been exposed to world issues. These assumptions can be made by simply looking at demographics. There’s a large difference between stereotyping someone and inferring a conclusion based on data and prediction.
That being said, I don’t think that one can necessarily say that politics are just talk. Politics – our government, laws, and bills – are something that affects everyone on a daily basis. For some, the school they go to doesn’t have sports teams or free lunches as others may have, this is because the school isn’t being funded. Now the reason as to why some schools aren’t funded can vary, but for the majority, the school is defunded by the government during the reallocation of funding after the new budget is set every year. When I was in high school, my school lost its special education program and a variety of the girl’s sports teams after the Trump administration passed the new budget which cut funding from the U.S. Department of Education – $5.6 billion dollars were cut to be exact. We even lost some school buses, causing a lot of kids to lose the one resource they had to get to and from school. This is something that affected me every day for four years – now it affects my siblings who go to that high school. So when I hear people saying to ‘keep politics out of it’ or to ‘not get upset’, it’s really frustrating.
Politics are not an optional subject for some people. For some, their bodily autonomy changes daily as new bills are passed. Their healthcare is revoked due to their gender identity, they can’t get married because of their sexuality, they can’t move to certain areas or get jobs because of the systemic issues that they face – and if you can’t get a job, you can’t get food, you can’t survive, you starve. For some, they are geographically isolated, and because of this, taxes are raised on them, prices within grocery stores increase with each year, and yet, minimum wage stays the same. Currently, in the U.S., in order to be employed with a decent job you need a degree. Yet, college tuition has been multiplying by each decade – in the 1980s the average cost of tuition at a 4-year university was about $8,981, currently, it’s $20,598 – and again, the minimum wage hasn’t even doubled in that same time period. Politics is not a ‘topic’. Political actions, agendas, and decisions have repercussions – and those repercussions affect us, they affect everyone’s lives whether they are actively conscious of that or not. Politics dictates the ordinance of our lives. We live the lives we do, as opposed to how people in other countries live, due to politics. Our health and wellbeing, financial stability, housing – our rights as human beings – are decided by politics. It cannot simply be confined to the label of a ‘topic’ when it is the most complex and integral part of our lives.
So, for the next upcoming holidays, I advise you to not back down when that one uncle starts talking about ‘my body my choice’ when you ask him to wear a mask inside your home. Stand your ground, even with your family. While your family may annoy you for a few days at most during this break, they are annoying and misinforming others after you leave town. Just because your family doesn’t directly hurt you with their beliefs and words doesn’t mean that they aren’t hurting others. Set an example for your family these upcoming holidays and aid in stopping the enablement of ignorance. However, take my advice with a grain of salt. Understand who you’re speaking to and approach each conversation differently and with an open mind. The first step in tearing down this overall American trait of avoiding not-so-sunshine-and-rainbow-topics is to educate yourself and then share that education with those around you.