Staying Informed Of Capitol Hill...Even During The "Off-Season"
With the election over and the next four years “decided”, many voters will stop paying attention to politics. Most importantly though, they will stop paying attention to their government. We will read headlines and maybe the whole story, but interest will wane until the fever pitch of another election returns.
You know what…I get it. I don’t live in a battleground state, I live in California. I was not bombarded like someone from Ohio or Florida, with campaign ads for 6+ months. I had a taste of this while attending college in Georgia during the 2004 Presidential election. I was so ready for it to be over. SO many negative campaign ads and at the risk of sounding over-sensitive, it really bummed me out. I appreciate the disenchantment that so many people feel with our government after a big election, especially in those battleground states. But the truth is, you can’t just give up because you are sick of it. A lot of stuff happens during non-election years, and you should be paying as much attention during that time as any other. It’s your responsibility and in my humble opinion, the ONLY way to rightfully call yourself an “informed voter.”
I’ve heard idle conversation of individuals describing themselves as “a little out of touch and really needing to catch up.” Seriously?! Being informed about your government’s actions should not be described the same way as being informed about the latest season of Breaking Bad.
I wish that people would invest more of their time into learning about their government and paying attention to what the officials they have (or haven’t) elected are doing. A great example of this, and very relevant to the readers of this blog is is the free contraceptives you might have been getting for the last few months. I had August 1st circled in my calendar (kidding, though it was on my mental radar) wondering if I really was going to walk in to my pharmacy and not pay a penny for my prescription under the new healthcare act. A happy dance ensued. For the last few months I’ve spoken to more women who had NO CLUE why they weren’t making a co-pay, than knew the reason. They just thought it was a mistake. This was HUGE, front page, even controversial news. I even received a letter from my healthcare provider to tell me that I would be receiving this benefit along with other benefits under the new act. So I have to ask, why were so many people were in the dark about this? I suppose my answer is that people were flat out not paying attention…for months.
I wish that we would be more open to talking to others who have similar AND differing opinions. It’s important to talk to your fellow Americans about what they are concerned with, and for you to share with them the issues that concern you. Make sure you explain yourself. We’ve managed to develop so much technology, allowing people to keep in touch and communicate in ways previous generations marvel at, but technology can not communicate for us. I have seen comments from and heard so many conversations of people extremely irritated that they have friends who are constantly posting their political opinions on social media. Once again, I hear you. There is a limit.
Hourly posts everyday for six months can be tiresome, especially when they seem based in ignorance or extremity. But please, don’t encourage people to STOP being passionate about our country’s government. If you read something you find important or relevant, share the article on Facebook or Twitter, but by all means, be responsible about the information you share. Be prepared for someone to disagree with what you’ve shared, or even be flat out offended. Most importantly, be respectful. Respect that someone might have a very personal and painful reason for how they feel. Never hide behind the anonymity of social media and the internet. Take responsibility for the things you say. We all have our own opinions and live in a country that protects our right to free speech, but leave out the hateful and blanket statements. Once again, in my humble opinion, there is no place for condoning racism and inequality, especially in America. Don’t start a fight, but don’t be afraid to start a discussion. Don’t be afraid to discuss, what has unfortunately been coined “politics” with your friends and family when you know you have differing views.
Try to leave the politics out of it. Talk about the issues. Don’t just hear someone with a different opinion, listen to them. If you are both passionately on opposite sides of an issue, it is unlikely that you will change someone’s mind completely. However, you both might be able to understand on some level why the other feels the way they do.
Staying informed of the decisions being made in the Capitol is the first step towards upholding an ongoing and relevant conversation among ourselves.
The more we communicate the better our chances are of making decisions to better our future instead of just fighting among ourselves.
You can see more from Lynette Boyle on her blog.