Political disillusionment is a common sentiment among college-aged people. Because of this, it may feel exhausting and frustrating to have a stake in the current political climate. Many of the problems facing our country are not only issues that young people haven’t had a hand in creating, but also ones that they haven’t had a hand in voting on until recently. Coupled with political polarization and division, many wonder why would they involve themselves in unsolvable controversy anyway.
Averse feelings to the political atmosphere is justified, but it’s important to distinguish the difference between disillusionment and disengagement. A failure to engage in the issues that matter personally, as well as those that affect the rest of the community, are a waste of opportunity and can have more severe consequences later on.
Political inactivity contributes to and reinforces many of the concerns of those representing the politically disillusioned. This includes deciding not to be informed, deciding not to engage in tough conversations and deciding not to vote. All collectively work to increase polarity.
Misinformation and ignorance go hand in hand with the partisanship — the less you know about a subject, the more likely people are to make uninformed decisions about it and refer to the more tribal sides of the argument rather than the most rationally considered.
People are more likely to feel disillusioned by a system if they see a bureaucracy doing nothing for them. Yet how is a system able to do right by its people when engagement and interest from its constituency is low?
It’s critical to consider how opportunities to engage are often a privilege in the U.S. in contrast to the political systems in other countries. People in the U.S. — regardless of whether they have citizenship or not — are able to participate in the political process in ways that go beyond simply voting.
Beyond this, political ignorance is also often reflective of the belief that political and economic issues as well as social concerns do not personally affect you and are therefore pursuits that are irrelevant and unworthy of one’s time. The truth of the matter though is that while an issue may not have direct implications for a person, the political is always personal.
Opportunities to get informed and decrease one’s own ignorance about an issue are made particularly accessible at USC. The University offers spaces for engagement on both the local and international levels, through offering debate watch events, speakers series with esteemed faculty and visitors from various political backgrounds and roundtable discussions.
Institutions like the Center for the Political Future and the Global Policy Institute are two programs offered on campus that connect students with speakers, conversations and resources for political engagement.
Whether or not you are studying politics, these programs at USC are available for everyone to take part in. College campuses are home to individuals representing so many different sectors of society — medical professionals, engineers and business people to name a few, so including everyone in the conversation only improves the quality of political discourse in terms of all allowing various ideas heard and addressed.
Exercising civic duty and becoming more politically engaged is only one part of the even greater conversation to be had about what it means to be part of a community. Disillusionment and apathy are common feelings, but it doesn’t mean they should ever inform the more rational decisions we make.
Political engagement is ultimately a privilege afforded, almost more so to young people than others; it must be practiced and taken advantage of to dismantle any of the obstacles otherwise present in our system.