It has become a time-honored tradition among for Americans to avert their eyes and engage in emotional abstinence during countrywide turmoil. During this period, large swaths of Americans abstain from voting and avoid discussing contentious current events. A larger share openly boast about their aversion to viewing the news.
Unsurprisingly, amidst the sea of recent unsettling events, a new iteration of political hipsterism has emerged – individuals dismayed by hyper partisanship, rising tribalism, lack of Presidential statesmanship, and certain public policy proudly and loudly opt out of the national dialogue.
It should be made clear that the exercise of political indifference is not cool, inspiringly authentic, profoundly contrarian, or an effective pushback against indecency and dishonesty stemming from Washington.
It is simply an act of cowardice rooted in injudicious obliviousness, the worst kind of privilege, and an irredeemable abdication of one’s civic duty.
One can applaud an attempt to showcase an avant-garde sophisticated thinking in an era of burgeoning groupthink behavior, but it is actually a display of intellectual shallowness when one retreats from observing the barrage of troubling information. When one fails to take the time to form or espouse an opinion worried that it may not jive with their peers, disrupt their blind bliss, or signal an attempt to be above “the noise” that someone, in reality, lacks the will to critically think and a fears knowledgeably engaging. Skepticism only works when it is rooted in intelligence, not ignorance. Cynicism should be evaluated when it is ingrained in deep thought, not dangerous naivete.
Donning the indifference identity badge is a mark of one’s privilege to be unphased by the consequences of the egregious actions of this current administration. Privileged to turn a blind eye from the children separated from their parents at the border, privileged to ignore the acts of kleptocracy who fill their bank accounts to the detriment of the voiceless, privileged to show no concern for the transgender soldier concerned about their job security, privileged to disregard the fears of immigrants and people of color being uprooted or murdered in their own homes, privileged to overlook the countless victims pleading with society to hear the pain they endured when were reduced to a physical object for mere pleasure, and privileged to be unsympathetic to the women fighting to have control of their own bodies. Above all, pivoting out of immersing yourself in the status quo is the mere privilege of not having to grapple with the magnitude and unfairness of privilege itself.
“A fool thinks he’s wise man, and a wise man know he’s a fool”
Winston Churchill believed, “courage is to stand up and speak, but courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” But in today’s world, these two acts are no longer mutually exclusive. The vast access of information in the 21st century means courage is the ability to sit down, listen, learn, and then stand up and speak. Power left unchecked only tears at the heart of a democracy – cannibalizing all avenues of power, dismantling institutions served as checks and balances, and ultimately squelching the voices of those they are meant to serve. As James Madison asked in the Federalist Papers, “What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?”
It is human nature to fail to grapple with despair. It is human nature to understand the quest for justice and search for truth is a never-ending journey with enormous bumps and bruises along the way.. However, for those who pivot out of civic action, their cowardice deserves no respect from those willing to brave the political storm.