We’re Numb To The Political Horror Show

We’re Numb To The Political Horror Show

The disturbing lack of political efficacy in America.
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Political efficacy is defined as “the citizens' faith and trust in government and their belief that they can understand and influence political affairs.” Essentially, do we think we can influence politics, or do we leave all these responsibilities to our leaders? Many indicators seem to point to a decline in political efficacy in our society.

How many times have you heard something along the lines of “I just can’t look at the news anymore, it makes me depressed,” or “there’s no point in paying attention to politics anymore”? And it’s easy to see why we wouldn’t pay attention, because you have to dig pretty deep into your news feed to find a story that’s not about whatever dumb thing Trump tweeted yesterday.

I’m definitely guilty of this, and I’m not alone.

I think it’s because our country as a whole has lost the sense that our engagement in politics makes any difference. Of course there are people who are still engaged, and they should be applauded. However, the vast majority of us have given into the feeling that since we can’t do anything to change how things are going, we shouldn’t do anything at all.

And it’s not all because of Trump, either. A poll released by The Atlantic in 2014, pre-Trump, revealed that while many Americans - about 65% - occasionally engage in one or two offline political activities, only 1% have sustained, consistent engagement. Most of us are simply “slacktivists” online, and often not even that.

The poll, however, discovered that 72% of Americans believe that “major social changes in this country have come from average Americans pushing government to change, rather than government taking the lead.” Furthermore, Pew research center has found that 55% of Americans have very little or no trust in the Executive Branch of our government, and 64% have little or no trust in our legislators (the judicial branch does markedly better) as of September 2017.

One would think that the attitudes that our government can’t be trusted and that ordinary citizens are the ones who have the power to make real changes would lead to more civic and political engagement. However, I think that for a long time our political system has seemed like a distant process, and recently this process has descended into a level of insanity.

It’s easy to feel like we’re just watching a bad reality show, with occasional cliffhangers where we have to wait until the next week to find out if we’re going to nuclear war. And of course there’s the season-long arc of the Russia investigation. Is there really anything we can do other than watch? I keep getting Twitter ads about a petition to impeach the president, but there’s truly nothing that a petition, or really anything that ordinary citizens are capable of short of armed revolt, that can actually force a president out of office. And there’s often not a lot we can do about other issues, especially concerning foreign affairs and world issues like climate change.

However, there are some signs that many have become more politically active. After all, ordinary citizens played a huge role in domestic issues, such as halting the repeal of Obamacare and the downfall of the Muslim ban. But how many people have been a part of this resurgence of political action? Most likely, it's not that much more than the 1% in 2014.

It’s still too early to tell, statistically and otherwise, how the election has affected political efficacy as a whole. There’s no doubt, however, that this is a turning point. We have the choice to either take control of our political system or continue to watch it devolve into a national joke, with horrifying international consequences.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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Irish-American History Is Just As Important As Any Other Culture, You Can't Prove Me Wrong

I cherish being Irish and I will not let anyone let me feel bad for that.

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Depending on when you're reading this, Saint Patrick's day has either just passed or is around the corner. For me, Saint Patrick's day is tomorrow. I've been debating this article for some time now because I didn't know how it would be perceived. At this point, though, I feel it's important for me to get out. No, Irish people were never kept as slaves in America, and I will never be one to try and say they were. However, Irish people were treated tremendously awful in America. A lot of people tend to forget, or just try to erase entirely, the history of the Irish in America. So much so that I felt shameful for wanting to celebrate my heritage. Therefore, I want to bring to light the history that everyone brushes under the rug.

In 1845, a potato famine broke out across Ireland. This was a big deal because the Irish lived off, mainly, potatoes. They were cheap, easy to grow, and had tons of nutrients. So when the famine struck, many people either died of starvation or fled to America in seek of refuge. When the Irish arrived in America they were seen as a threat to the decency of America. People viewed them as drunk beasts, sinful savages, barbaric, violent, belligerent, stupid, and white apes. When the Irish would go to look for jobs, many times they found signs that read "Irish Need Not Apply," even when the job was hiring. Therefore, the Irish did the jobs no one wanted, and even jobs African slaves wouldn't do. The biggest example of this is when Irishmen built canals and drained swamps. They were sent to do these things because of the enormous amount of mosquitoes; in the swamp, they would get bit and ultimately die of malaria.

Also, during this time, Irish people were poor and therefore lived in the same neighborhoods as the free African Americans. A lot of the Irish people were friendly with their neighbors of color and even got into interracial relationships. Because the Irish lived in these neighborhoods they were seen as dirty and even a lot of people at this time put African Americans higher on the totem pole than Irish. One person during the time even said, "At least the black families keep their homes clean."

The main reason American's outlook on Irish people changed was that most Irishmen took up fighting for the Union in the Civil War. I make this argument, not because I think the Irish suffered more than African slaves. I don't say this in means of trying to erase the struggles of the African slaves. I do not think that any of our ancestors should have been treated the way they were. I mean to say that the Irish did in fact suffer. Irish people were treated wrongly on the basis of...nothing. Simply because my ancestors hailed from the shores of Eire, they were treated with malice. And I write this simply because I want people to remember. I want people to understand what happened.

On Saint Patrick's Day this year, next year, and for the many years to come, I want people to embrace the Irish culture. I want the folks of Irish heritage to not be ashamed of where they come from; to not be ashamed to share their culture the way I have for many years. I want everyone to have a beer, wear some green, eat a potato or two, and dance the Irish step; to celebrate the history of Irish people with a bit more understanding than before.

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Our Leaders Need A 'Time-Out'

We all learned a few essential rules as children.

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As I look watch the news, I can't help but wonder if the lessons we learned as children might not serve our leaders well. They seem to have forgotten these basic lessons. I am reminded of the book by Robert Fulghum "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten."

Watch out, hold hands, and stick together.

I think this could be useful in a couple of different contexts. First, the current divisiveness in the country doesn't serve us well. We are first and foremost, a part of the family of humankind. Differences in politics, religion, and so on come in far behind that one important attribute. What happened to the notion of agreeing to disagree?

Second, when leaders get off a plane in another country, they should remember who they came with and who they represent - "watch out, hold hands, and stick together."

Clean up your own mess.

Trump seems to take great pleasure in blaming everyone else for their "mess." The government shutdown was someone else's fault – any Democrat. When the stock market went up, he happily took credit, but when it went down, he quickly shifted gears and placed the blame on the Federal Reserve Chairman. Daily and hourly tweets out of the White House place blame on someone else for his "mess." Sadly, he still likes to blame Obama and Hillary for his mess.

Don't lie.

Politicians have always had a bad reputation when it comes to honesty. Still, the number of lies that we hear from Trump (and members of his staff) is unprecedented even for a politician.

We all learned these lessons when we were little more than five years old. Now more than any time in history I think our leaders need a " time out" to re-learn these lessons.

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