The Register Forum

Evaluating Civic Responsibility in the Trump Era

Oscar Berry, Contributing Writer

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Since the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, American politics have been turned upside down. Government bureaucracy has been hijacked for political purposes, our political beliefs are increasingly arbitrary, and our society is split at the seams. Democratic institutions we thought safe and secure are now under assault by the forces of nationalism, populism, and partisanship. More than ever before, it is essential that we do our part as American citizens and not be led back into tribalism by divisiveness.

It is commonly accepted that the world is filled with injustice, and it is the duty of the people to protest injustice. Movements such as the Women’s March, the March for Our Lives, and Black Lives Matter are positive no matter what they propose because of their very nature: They are protest movements. Far too many contemporary politicians are more concerned with “victories” than working to solve actual problems such as civil oppression, prison labor, and climate change, and as such, it is our responsibility to stand up against them. In a democracy, we as citizens are obligated to speak up on issues we care about and to take responsibility for our nation. Especially in times like these, we simply cannot afford to be passive.  

Our second responsibility is obvious as well, but we are having a much harder time following through with it. As much as we can argue and debate, it is critical to listen. I see people locked in by their beliefs, unable and unwilling to open their minds to other points of view. Cambridge and CRLS specifically pride themselves on their tolerance of differences, but when it comes to tolerating other beliefs, many, including myself, fall short. Our democratic society is built on an acceptance that individuals are different in not just who they are, but in what they believe. Progress is not achieved by shouting at a wall, and the only way we can move forward past our differences is to take a step back and make the effort to see the other side and respect each others’ opinions. If we seek to make real change in our society and start to mend the divide that is plaguing our nation, then we must put a renewed emphasis on listening to ideas that might make us uncomfortable. It may be difficult. It may be painful. But it is absolutely necessary.

Thirdly, be relentless in your pursuit of the truth. In 2016, we all saw how the American public fell victim to fake news, conspiracies, and outright lies. The result is a society more polarized than ever before in our lifetimes and one which is struggling to find facts that everyone can agree on. It might seem impossible in our political climate to convince others that climate change is a certifiable fact, but we can start the process of reconciliation at a much smaller level: that of the individual.

Every day, we, as humans, make thousands of decisions. Most of them are made unconsciously, even when it comes to what we say and what we believe. Maybe a few years ago this would have been acceptable, but no longer.

In a world where fake news swarms around us and tempts us with deceitful lies, we must be ever vigilant in upholding the truth. Do not be quick to accept information you receive as simple fact. Look, investigate, and determine what is correct for yourself. We cannot allow ourselves to be corrupted by the politicization of basic facts, and the best way to combat such a phenomena is to personally take responsibility of your sources of information. This is important, clearly, because the information you have determines what you believe and what you say, and every lie you pass one is one more person infected with the virus. As a citizen, you have to make a powerful, and conscious choice. Will you strive to contribute to an environment that puts facts over feelings, or one that is sketchy when it comes to the truth?

This piece also appears in our May print edition.

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Evaluating Civic Responsibility in the Trump Era