As a political science student, my peers always react similarly. First, my choice of a notoriously demanding major perplexes them. After all, who in her right mind opts for a sleep-deprived, high-pressure, anxiety-ridden semester full of reading, writing, seminars, exams, and – oh yeah – some more reading and writing. I’ll admit, I had no idea what awaited me. I can remember my first day in a class called Faith and Politics. My professor assigned a “short” student response paper. I thought to myself, “A short paper? That’s totally doable, only a page or two, right?” Wrong. It turns out a short paper in poli-sci language actually entails about 6 or 7 pages. Of course, looking back I understand exactly why my professor labeled it that way. It was a short paper. Well, at least in comparison to the next ones that would double or triple that in length. Oh, how naive I was.
Please do not mistake my candor for complaint. It’s all in good humor. Believe it or not, I love my major. This brings me to my next point. Apart from the initial horror of my academic tenacity, many instantly disengage with me. They will say, “Oh, political science? I could never do that,” or “Wow, good for you. You must be good at arguing.” Comments like these absolutely puzzle me. They imply that only a select few can survive in the dishonest business of politics. Clearly, American distrust in government has translated into total cynicism and political apathy. However, politics affect us all, whether we like it or not. Ignorance is not bliss; it merely gives government a pass. In fact, as citizen involvement lessens, American democracy crumbles with it. Before us two options arise: knowledge or oblivion; action or oppression; freedom or tyranny.
Accustomed to the American system, many of us do not recognize the extent of our blessings. We take for granted our freedoms, especially those political in nature. Some of these include a free press, equal suffrage, and the rights to protest and petition our officials. In the end, the people possess ultimate power to check government. We may utilize numerous media outlets to form individual opinions. We may actively voice these opinions in the public square. Most importantly, we may realize these opinions by electing our own representatives. Thus, our political freedom founds every other freedom we enjoy. We employ it to ensure policies and leaders who prioritize our Constitutional rights. So, who’s really to blame for corruption in the system? Sure, it’s easy to pinpoint immoral, unwise public officials. But, who granted them authority in the first place?
Of course, the Lord won’t call everyone to a political science degree. Still, we cannot reserve politics for just the bold and resilient. We all inherit the duty to partake as informed, ethical citizens. Besides, isn’t that the essence of American exceptionalism? Abraham Lincoln declared that a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.” National flourishing rests in our own hands. With each election, we receive another opportunity to pursue liberty and virtue. In fact, political withdrawal represses these aims. So, rather than shy away from debate, we must exercise the freedoms earned courageously for us. Regardless, we may move or we may not, but the wheels of government will keep on turning. How will you act?