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Dust the Political Shelf

Robert Lofton examines the importance of political awareness and action.

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A surprise encounter with a forgotten old book has reminded me how important it is to care about politics.

I found it on a shelf in the Jung-Kellogg Library, as I searched for a biography on an obscure president.

I needed a non-fiction book for a presentation, and I thought it might be interesting to read about someone who was not part of most people’s common knowledge.

The book I found was on President William Howard Taft’s time in office, and I was certain that in Taft I had found an obscure president.

Nonetheless, it was hard to believe when the librarian informed me that I was the very first person to check out the book, which had been published in 1973.

I turned over the implications of this unloved volume for the rest of the day.

Do people realize that Taft actually is important, that he stood for a set of beliefs that is still competing in the marketplace of ideas today?

Do people really even care about politics anymore?

As a teen, I gave no thought to such seemingly unreachable and unchangeable things.

Many people I spoke with thought the same way. They believed their one vote didn’t matter, or they had more immediate things to be concerned with or that what took place in Washington didn’t affect them that much.

It seems that now, even as younger voters appear to be getting more involved, many Americans still feel this way.

According to an ABC article, only 57.5 percent of all eligible voters turned out for the 2012 presidential election.

The Bipartisan Policy Center has published several reports and a body of statistics that goes into more detail on the election.

According to the BPC report, individual states also had a generally poor voter turnout, and, the gap between the number of eligible voters and the number who actually voted seems to have widened over the past few years.

The apathy extends beyond simply voting in elections, though.

A Pew Internet study published in 2009 reveals that a somewhat small percentage of voting-age people in the U.S. were involved in politics through other avenues, such as attending meetings or rallies or contacting representatives.

Having been the sort of person who doesn’t want to get involved, I understand the aversion that Americans have for political activity and voting.

But if we don’t care what happens to our nation, who else will.

It is our right to have a say in how our government is run, and if we don’t use that right, we will lose it.

It would be foolish of us to think that America is somehow special, that it will forever continue to exist in freedom and democracy without the efforts of its citizens.

No other democracy in history has lasted forever.

So even if it isn’t easy, or you think that your one vote doesn’t matter, or you feel like Washington, D.C. is too distant for it to matter, don’t throw away your right.

Vote. Get involved. Do whatever you can to have an impact.

You may not radically change the nation, but you will help keep the freedom we love alive.

@mbutimeline

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