I'm Done with Politics By: Joshua Chamberlain Posted: June 2, 2012
I’m done with politics.
There was a time, quite recently in fact, when I started getting really bent out of shape about the goings on of the American political system. I have always acknowledged that the social aspects of government have meant more to me, which is why I associated myself with the Democratic Party. As time has gone on, my views have not changed (or “evolved,” as the president might say) at all. If anything, I am more convinced of the need for gender and race equality, marriage rights for all citizens, and the spreading of wealth than I have been previously.
How, you might ask, can I be all done with politics if my views on the issues have only hardened?
It is because I have come to realize that, despite popular opinion, these are not political issues at all. They may have been politicized, but they are not political. As such, they are not issues that can be solved in the House, Senate, or even at the Executive level.
Government is meant to solve problems, but these are not problems that can be solved by government. These are problems that will take years and years to solve. They will require education, exposure to new ideas, and the type of in-depth, multi-faceted, and personal conversations that will never take place on the national stage.
When someone says that gay people shouldn’t marry, for example, that is a highly personal belief. It is not a belief formed by watching politicians or election-year television commercials. That belief is formed by years of upbringing, exposure to religion or other social forces, and personal experiences. Just like opinions are formed over a period of generations, opinions are changed over a period of generations.
Politicians talking about the issue will not change anyone’s beliefs, because people will not change their minds on something like that. If someone is racist, homophobic, sexist, or otherwise bigoted, politics are simply not the issue. While politicians can absolutely make it legal for gays to marry, they cannot change the real issue, which is that many people don’t think gays should marry. It is a matter of action versus belief. Actions are much easier to change. Beliefs, on the other hand, take a long time to change and are simply not changed in the political realm.
A good example of this in America is the Civil Rights Movement. America did not change when the Birmingham schools were forced to integrate. America changed when the majority of people started thinking integration was the right thing to do. This could only happen over a long period of time. Looking back, it was inevitable. Just like people protest against changing marriage laws now, people protested against integration laws then. It was, and most likely will be again, a losing battle.
For a long time, racism was accepted as a matter of course; it was the acts of racism that needed to be stopped. It was just accepted that many people were racist, and the hope is that the action needed to be stopped. Now, we have progressed to the point where even being racist is looked at in a very harsh light. Race problems have not been fully solved, of course, but the fact that the discussion has shifted from the action to the root belief is a sign of progress. The same can be said of pretty much any social issue.
While politicians can “do the right thing,” they are governed by their desire to be re-elected. Their decisions will ultimately reflect the will of the people, for the will of the people dictates who is in office. Unfortunately for the people currently caught in the middle, changing the will of the people takes a long time and requires a lot of real conversations.
Social media might contribute to the conversations that need to take place, but for the most part, people just surround themselves with online “friends” or “followers” who already share their beliefs. In this sense, we have entered an electronic age of preaching to the choir. Even the debates that take place online are truncated and largely ineffective, as there is no need to see the other person’s point of view on an issue. These debates amount to a person seeing something upsetting, firing off 140 characters of added fuel to the fire, and closing the laptop screen. This is not effective dialogue.
Sending out inflammatory tweets and moaning about government’s inability to change things is an exercise in futility, for the only way to really change the way things work is to first change ourselves. In this sense, things are improving. More children today are accepting of other races, for example, than a generation ago. The future will only see that number increase.
The same is true of issues like marriage equality. More children now are raised believing that everyone should have the right to marry. A generation from now, that number will increase. Eventually, a tipping point will be reached and the conversation, just like with race, will change permanently.
This is why I am done with politics. Saying I am a Democrat will not change anything. Saying that Republicans are evil will not change anything. Simply clinging to a political party in this most polarized of political cultures will not change anything. Making two-sentence Facebook posts or Tweets will not change anything, either.
Time and exposure to reality will change things. It already has, and it will not stop.