Eric Stubben is a mechanical engineering junior and Mustang News conservative columnist. These views do not necessarily reflect the opinion or editorial coverage of Mustang News.
Like many Cal Poly students, my first week of winter break wasn’t exactly exciting. Friends on the semester system weren’t home yet, family was at work all day and my brain was still trying to recuperate from the previous hectic finals week.
Luckily, between trips to the gym and binge-watching episodes of “The League” on Netflix, I was able to ponder some politics. I’d flip the TV to one of the major news channels or open up my laptop to read over the latest political news.
However, my most intriguing political thoughts didn’t come from the likes of Sean Hannity on Fox News or Wolf Blitzer on CNN, they came from casual conversations I had with friends and family. Continually generating ideas and questioning popular notions and facts allowed me to solidify my political ideals.
Though it’s incredibly cliche, I believe that over the past break I recognized true political change does not come from the politicians we elect or the ideas we represent. I realized that political growth and change comes from the grassroots, from personal ideas, discussions and movements.
As philosophers have discussed for ages, the best way to grow and change is through the continual questioning of common notions and lack of becoming content with the status quo. When we look back on America’s greatest changes and movements, we realize they were not instigated by politicians and elected officials, but by masses of people believing in one movement. Take, for example, the civil rights movement, the enabling of women’s suffrage and even the American Revolution. All of these movements were instigated with the banding together of common citizens like you and me to create uncommon results and positive change for our country.
The problem I see today, though, is that society’s attitude is continually shifting away from creating our own personal opinions to using the opinions we see in popular culture. For example, it is easy for anybody to turn to Fox News if they want to establish a conservative opinion on an issue, or to MSNBC for a liberal one. Rather than questioning our previous notions and discussing issues with peers to form a true and unbiased opinion, we too often form an opinion developed by how we want to be perceived.
This brings me to my next point: We often concede our personal values to have our views coincide with those of our favorite friends or public figures. While I understand that scrolling through a Twitter feed and scanning for the political views of your favorite actor or athlete can be entertaining (I’ve been there), it should not define one’s personal values or political views. Why should LeBron James’ or Jennifer Lawrence’s views on politics be valued more heavily than anybody else’s? Just because they’re of high public status doesn’t mean their vote has more value than any other vote.
I realize that up to this point, my column might just seem like a bunch of jumbled ideas that ran across my mind over the break. To a certain extent, that’s true. But all of these ideas do follow a common thread, I promise. That common thread is that as Americans, we need to stop being passive when it comes to decisions that can set the course of our country for generations. It’s not enough to turn on the TV or skim one news article to form an opinion you plan to vote on.
While some legislation, such as universal healthcare, the Keystone XL pipeline (hint: there’s a hot topic to form an opinion on) and education reform cannot be voted on, many other important topics can be. Legalizing marijuana, various taxes and local infrastructure projects that change the fiscal dynamic of the country can be voted on. Even the smallest pieces of legislation can one day become important. In a country where every vote truly counts (even if it sometimes doesn’t seem like it), individual knowledge of issues is important to anybody who decides to exercise their right to vote.
I’d like to end my column with one of the most eye-opening questions I’ve ever been asked. A former high school teacher of mine posed this question to the class: “Have you ever taken time to just think? No cell phone, no TV, just you and your thoughts?”
The point of the question was clear: Do we ever take time out of our busy lives to reflect on our ideas and question the notions of what is right or wrong? In a country built from the ground up, based on innovation and persistence, critical thinking is a key to success and a strong future element of America.
This sounds like a bloody campaign speech. Zero content, lots of hackneyed phrases and glossy, trite slogans enmeshed in a droning progression of common sense masquerading as profundity and insight. Bravo.
It’s no campaign speech unless he’s running for office, you know? Your string of aggressive five dollar words is impressive, bravo. Heaven forbid Mr. Stubben takes a timely opportunity to encourage his largely apathetic generation to form independent political opinions!
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