Apathy is Killing Our Democracy
I have heard from a lot of people recently, a lot of people I respect greatly, about how they just can’t get involved in politics anymore. They will tell me how much they love reading TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less each week, but that they just can’t ascribe to one party or another or follow the news about this issue or that. To be honest, their exasperation is understandable as we have devolved into a contentious dichotomy of one camp bitterly pitted against the other, and their reticence to engage in the dissension certainly has its merits. I mean, I am sure that it had to pass through the noggin of at least a couple Hatfield or McCoy kin to simply change their names to Jones or Smith or maybe even Rickenbocker as the case may be, anything to extricate themselves from a senseless feud they never chose to begin with. The perpetual infighting of social media alone can leave one numb to even a remote ability to give a shit anymore, throwing up one’s hands in utter frustration at the meaningless inertia of it all. But if we have learned anything from the past couple of weeks, it is that political apathy has a consequence. In the immortal words of Rush, “If you chose not to decide, you still have made a choice,” and the choices we are making with our refusal to participate in our nation’s fragile democracy is having a devastating real-life impact on our society as a whole.
I hear from many of these folks that both parties suck, and it is hard not to agree. They do. But politics has often been a choice between the lesser of two evils, and if we fail to recognize the greater evil that is casting a pall over our nation’s broken democracy, we are in very real danger of slipping into the type of repressive authoritarianism that swallowed Nazi Germany before many even had the foresight to see it coming or do anything about it. Democracy isn’t something you just get to kick back and take for granted. Many of us have come to think of our rights to a democratic society as something fought for and won by generations past, something we have inherited an inalienable right to. But democracy and rights need to be fought for and defended with each and every successive generation, and political participation, engagement, and awareness are the price we pay for having the liberties we have all come to rely on, even when that awareness and engagement can come to drain the very soul from your being. After all, let’s not forget that Arlington National Cemetery is filled with the remains of scores of brave veterans who laid down their lives for you to have the privilege to be involved in that soul-sucking process of democratic engagement.
This past week alone bore witness to one of the most egregious reversals of women’s rights in this nation’s long history as the Supreme Court ended decades of progress by overturning the landmark case of Roe vs. Wade. Quite rightfully, many have exploded with outrage at the erosion of women’s reproductive autonomy and basic personal liberties, but where was that same outrage when Republicans stole the Supreme Court seat that made that decision possible? When Republicans engaged in the ultimate hypocritical gamesmanship of nominating and then confirming Amy Comey Barrett just days before the 2020 election after refusing to even hold a hearing for Obama’s appointee of Merrick Garland nearly a year before the 2016 election, I wrote a lengthy column urging folks to stand up to this type of power grab and usurpation of the voice of the American people. After all, this is how the same crowd that likes to talk about how “elections have consequences” masterminded the dodgy scheme to somehow procure a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court despite losing the popular vote in all but one presidential election since 1988. But all we heard from the collective American populace was an unsettled groan as they knew Republicans were playing dirty pool but didn’t have the gumption to actually do anything about it. This court in no way reflects the will or values of the American public, but all we did about it was shrug our shoulders and move on. And it was just that lackadaisical indifference that conservatives relied on to deprive women of their essential constitutional rights.
Meanwhile, anyone who actually gives a damn anymore has been treated to two straight weeks of hearings detailing how our nation came perilously close to an unprecedented coup and overthrow of American democracy itself by a would-be dictator and a Republican Party that was more than happy to be his willing accomplices. But how many people have, in fact, been paying attention? I mean, after all, the NBA Finals was going down, right? And it is just that type of aloof nonchalance towards the democratic process, that contention that “both parties equally suck”, that Republicans are counting on so that they can make their harebrained schemes finally come to fruition in 2024. Every Scooby Doo villain would have gotten away with too it if it weren’t for those meddling kids, but instead of pressing for hard truths and an adherence to rightful democratic processes that align with the will of the American people, we are too busy blazing it up with Shaggy in the back of the Magical Mystery Van to give two craps and hold these fuckers accountable for their malfeasance. Apathy, my friends, has a very exacting price, a price that Germany found out a little too late.
I understand that democracy and political engagement are hard, but damn it, it’s still a lot easier than going out and fighting a bloody war to defend it. This is our war because the attacks on American democracy are no longer coming from outside the country but from within it. And unless we decide to grow a pair and start giving a damn about where this country is headed, it may too late when they come for your freedoms next.
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com