For a community that is often considered overwhelmingly left-leaning, I’ve witnessed a surprising amount of nonchalance at Andover concerning the 2016 election. Every day, I hear students say that they have given up on this year’s race or that they don’t want to choose between the lesser of two evils. This tendency to steer away from forming a strong opinion on either of the two major party candidates is becoming a more popular option for students.
Much of this apathy towards the election seems to be connected our lack of knowledge about the policies and scandals surrounding Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Do the majority of us truly understand Donald Trump’s taxation policies? Do we actually understand the meaning behind Hillary Clinton’s emails? Or do we skim through BuzzFeed articles to fill us in on these issues and similarly crucial topics? Or, in some cases – do we avoid politics altogether?
Although we have easy access to almost all political information via internet, we can never fully understand these two main candidates because their histories are simply too complex, and many of the details concerning their lives are hidden away from the public eye. But that doesn’t mean that we can ignore their campaigns because we think both candidates are “evil” or “corrupt”; these are most likely hasty judgements we form even before we have tried to familiarize ourselves with Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton.
This detachment from politics also seems to be related to the intimidating mess that is our political system. While the electoral system is complicated to say the least,complexity is no reason to avoid politics and assume of it as a convoluted storm of politicians fighting for ultimate control. Though the election is less captivating than “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” keeping up with these two candidates is an integral part of our duties as citizens of a democracy.
I feel as though the reason for our political indifference has a lot to do with lack of incentive to learn. Most Andover students cannot vote yet, and even those who can vote have minimal motivation, as they feel their votes likely won’t impact the outcome of the elections. Though this is all true, we still have an obligation to educate ourselves on the people who will represent us as we grow into adulthood. We have a responsibility to learn and develop interest about what kinds of bills are being discussed, what our state senators are fighting for, and how our president is leading the country. We should pay attention, and we should care.
Though this election is a less than desirable one, we must transcend our prejudices against Trump and Clinton and carefully weigh the pros and cons of their policies and character. After all, we are electing the person who will represent the United States for at least the next four years, appoint a justice to the Supreme Court, make decisions concerning refugee crises and the seemingly endless conflicts in the Middle East, plan how we will tackle environmental issues and social issues rampant in our own country, and so much more.
We shouldn’t sit back apathetically, cluck our tongues, and assume we could do better in four years, or blow this election off as if it is minimally significant. There are definitely issues within this nation and our international relationships that warrant attention. But we often fail to properly critique the boundless issues in our world when we condescendingly choose to not watch the debates or follow our parents’ political views without much knowledge ourselves.
In our lives, and especially within these next couple weeks, we must care about elections. That means discovering what specific issues hit home for us. That means reading fact-based articles from traditionally conservative and liberal sources. It means listening to those we disagree with and exploring hypocrisy in ourselves. It means truly comprehending the political histories, past mistakes, and promises of all candidates, not just Trump or Clinton. Above all, this means recognizing that voting is a privilege not available to everyone – we should make every attempt to inform ourselves so that we can aid in the national effort to improve America, as well as the rest of the world.
Junah Jang is a Junior from Bellavue, WA.