Editorial: I'm A Political Junkie, and I'm Already Over 2016

Why election season is such a bummer

Editor-in-Chief Brian Wild

There used to be a time in my life when politics was everything to me. Granted, as nerdy as that might sound, my situation isn’t all that hard to comprehend. After all, each one of us has a certain hobby or passion that gives our lives meaning – and all we want to do is eat, sleep, and breathe that subject. Whether you’re a movie buff, gamer geek, or sports enthusiast, chances are you know what I’m talking about when I describe how consumed I was by politics. Indeed, my political coming of age occurred at a similar time as what we’re witnessing now: when our country last said goodbye to an outgoing president, and hello to an incoming one.

Like millions of Americans in 2008, I fell hard for Barack Obama, a man whose very existence in the political arena marked a turning point in our nation’s history. Indeed, when he was nominated, elected, and sworn in as our 44th president, a wave of euphoria swept over me each time. To think that the most powerful office in the world would be held by a non-traditional figure – like a person of color – was truly inspiring for me.

Looking back, I try not to chuckle and roll my eyes at how hopelessly naīve I once was. While it’s still true that having a black man in the Oval Office does represent how far America has come, it’s also true that even the most feel-good election season is but a fleeting moment in time. Such events can and do fade fast from our collective consciousness.

Now that America is once again at a crossroads, ready to determine who will succeed Obama as president, politics no longer has the same captivating allure for me. Sure, I still voraciously consume political news on my phone, and I plan to remain a political science major for the rest of my stay at UH Hilo. But unlike 2008 - which felt like a movie I never wanted to see end - I desperately want this year’s election to be over with already.

For the past several months, my social media newsfeeds have been held hostage by a barrage of political posts: various rants by Facebook friends, conspiracy website posts on Twitter, and much worse. If these posts were just about the issues – for instance, which candidate has the least costly tax plan, or what’s the best way to combat ISIS – that would be understandable. But that’s nothing like what I encounter.

Instead, everything political now seems to be only personal. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen posts that read like this:

“IF YOU SUPPORT (insert candidate’s name) FOR PRESIDENT THEN UNFRIEND ME RIGHT NOW, YOU ARE A FCKING STUPID PIECE OF SHT AND I HOPE YOU F*UCK OFF AND DIE”

I mean, come on. How is that supposed to pass as reasonable dialogue between adults? The sentiment behind these types of posts is bad enough, but just the subsequent reactions to them are just as damaging. I can’t help feeling heartbroken, for instance, when I read comment threads in which two of my best friends from high school are screaming at each other over the most sensational topics – like why Hillary Clinton should or shouldn’t be in jail, or why banning Muslims is a good or a bad idea.

Now, here’s the thing: as stupid and uncivilized as I think all that is, I get why people do it anyways. It’s because enough of us realize that, like it or not, politics is not some silly game. It has serious consequences. For some, it can mean literally mean the difference between life or death. What would history be like if George Washington became a king instead of a president? Or if the Civil Rights Act never got signed into law? Or if Al Gore won and we didn’t invade Iraq? Who’s to say how many lives would be better or worse off, depending on how decisions are made by our leaders.

Because of the serious reality that is participating in a democratic system, where the people are supposed to choose their representatives, it’s tempting to let your passions flow freely on social media. As my favorite middle school teacher once taught me, anger is a natural emotion that is not inherently bad. In fact, if harnessed properly, it can lead to implementing constructive changes for the better. But far too often, we are unaware of how to utilize our frustrations in life, and instead just aimlessly rant to others while we stew in our own juices. This negativity is toxic, and when unleashed on social media, it can lead to all sorts of problems like trolling, cyber bullying, and isolation from those close to us.

After getting my South Park fix this past week, Trey Parker and Matt Stone - the show’s creators - really seem to be nailing it, as far as I’m concerned. Too many people are focused on the past - on “the good old days” or “how things used to be.” At times, even I find myself yearning for what once was, as if captivated by an appetite for Member Berries.

Feeling nostalgic is normal. It’s completely human. Yes, it can be good. But as I’m sure most people know, sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. I’m reminded of a passage from Ecclesiastes, in the Old Testament. I remember reading this many years ago, and it’s stuck with me ever since…

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

A time to be born, and a time to die,

a time to plan and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing

a time to search and a time to give up

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.

What exactly does this have to do with 2016 politics? In short, it’s a matter of getting out of our comfort zones, not just sticking to our old habits and ways. To live a truly fulfilling life, one must be ready for the “new” - whether it be people, places, things, or ideas. This includes the very discomforting, but plausible, thought that: maybe I don’t have all the answers? Maybe my way of thinking - including how I vote - does need a reality check. Our egos may balk at the notion that somehow we need to change how we live our lives. But failing to check our egos would be a grave error. Rather, we must be willing to accept some change, no matter how unappealing it may seem at first. Otherwise, we only confirm the truth that our worldviews are hopelessly brittle, are only as good as they are unchallenged. Hostility to the “new” could portend a change in personality - both reactionary and destructive - which forces us to isolate ourselves from those who see things differently. It is indeed this self-segregation that has largely contributed to the polarization of American politics, and it has to stop.

Do I still care about politics? You bet your ass I do. But there are so many other things in life that demand my attention: earning my bachelor’s, applying to law school, spending time with my family, and much, much more. So on Election Day, if anyone asks me who I’m voting for, I’m just going to pause and smile. Then, I’ll point to the House of Cards shirt I’m wearing and say “Um, Frank Underwood - duh?” and walk away. Sometimes in life, even the serious stuff shouldn’t stop you from letting go of your troubles and throwing care to the wind…

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of UH Hilo’s recovering political junkie, Brian Wild.