Eric Stubben is a mechanical engineering sophomore and Mustang News conservative columnist. | Ian Billings/Mustang News

Ian Billings/Mustang News

“Nobody has to pledge support to one party or another, but being politically uninformed is one of the highest forms of ignorance.”

Eric Stubben
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Eric Stubben is a mechanical engineering sophomore and Mustang News conservative columnist. These views do not necessarily reflect the opinion or editorial coverage of Mustang News.

Last week, a question was posed to me that stopped my mind in its tracks.

Why am I interested in politics?

As I sat down for lunch with a Cal Poly staff member and Vietnam War-era veteran, I expected a conversation full of political jargon and classic Vietnam stories. What I got out of the lunch was much more than that. A series of thought-provoking hours and days followed. What really makes me interested in politics? Why do I feel so inclined to write about my political views? Why should others care about politics?

Every Friday night, I begin to think about what my topic will be for the upcoming week. It rarely comes easily. No matter what I write about, some readers will agree and some will disagree; that’s just the political nature of the beast.

What I hope readers gain from my columns or any other political articles is a sense of political awareness. Nobody has to pledge support to one party or another, but being politically uninformed is one of the highest forms of ignorance. Voting and political awareness affect history far more than any one leader’s decisions can.

Nearly a century ago, the United States was a much different place. Women couldn’t vote, black and white people were segregated, and we thought we’d just finished the “war to end all wars.” Thousands of rallies, speeches, acts of courage and acts of leadership have changed all that.

Susan B. Anthony and many other women were taken to court and were tried for their attempts to vote in the late 1800s. Almost fifty years after their attempts, the 19th Amendment was ratified to allow women’s voting rights. It cost Martin Luther King, Jr. decades of law-defying acts — and eventually his life — before desegregation finally became a reality. Neither of these laws would have been adopted had it not been for political activists and their political awareness. Hundreds of thousands gathered in Washington, D.C. for King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. While it was a brilliant speech, it would have meant nothing without the support of others who helped display the magnitude of the March on Washington.

A lack of political awareness also contributed to the rise of the Nazi party and beginning of World War II. After World War I, a young Adolf Hitler falsely influenced the German people to support him. His excellent public speaking and empty promises of economic and social recovery after the Great War were enough to charge his rise to power. What followed was one of the greatest tragedies in human history.

Hitler’s actions show how important voting rights, freedoms and liberties are. Before the mass killings, before the concentration camps and before the world war, Hitler stripped his people’s freedoms. He took away gun rights, voting privileges and religious freedoms. The powerless people living under the Nazi regime were forced to succumb to the evil policies of Hitler and the Nazis.

While a dictatorship is highly unlikely to arise in America or any first-world country today, political awareness is still necessary. The rise of progressivism in the United States is a phenomenon that can potentially change our country’s history. The battle over universal healthcare, climate change and many other social issues will determine which direction our country goes. We must ask ourselves, are we a country devoted to economic success or worldwide social conformity? As of right now, we haven’t found a way to have both.

Politics do not have to consume your life. Laws and debates are often complicated and tricky to decipher without spending ample time researching and focusing on each one. However, everybody should have a basic idea of what is happening in the world around them. With Congress kicking issues further down the road and problems in the Middle East becoming more tense, our younger generations will be forced to deal with economic reforms, international tensions and social progressivism.

In today’s society full of social media and instant news, it is not difficult to be an informed voter. Simply watching the news or scanning the Internet for (unbiased) articles is bound to create some sort of political awareness.

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written to preserve Americans’ freedoms, rights and civil liberties. Politicians seem to try to push the lines as far as they can, bending the words of our Constitution. As citizens, we must realize that we vote for our elected officials and they, in turn, work for us. Voting is the single greatest power any of us have. Our right to vote and practice political freedom wasn’t achieved overnight. It was achieved in war by our Founding Fathers and in rallies over a century later. Every eligible American gets one vote for every issue and every position, so use them wisely. Be informed, be aware and be active.

Recognize there are people in this country who have fought for our freedom and understand how great this nation can be. There are others who have inspired greatness and led our country through oppression. As Americans, we owe it to them to be aware of our surroundings so our vote can support what we believe is America’s history of greatness.

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