Just because I don’t talk politics doesn’t mean I’m privileged

Just because I don’t talk politics doesn’t mean I’m privileged

PoliticsAugust 25, 2017 By Kyle Sparkman

I tend to steer clear of political banter.

And before brandishing your digital pitchforks, let me clarify.

Like the plague, I avoid Donald Trump’s daily shitstorm of tweets, vicious arguments on Facebook, the 24-hour “news” cycle and ego-stroking echo chambers where one confirms their righteousness so long as it’s in the right corner of the Internet.

Other than signing an online petition against net neutrality, the extent of my political action over the past year has been voting (in vain) to prevent Trump’s presidency.

I thought I was fine to go about my life avoiding our broken political system and the toxicity of the Internet, until recently, when I learned that I should be deeply ashamed of myself.

I’m talking about the slew of articles concerning political avoidance that have been making rounds. They assert staying out of politics or political discussion is a luxury of the privileged, who don’t care about anything that doesn’t directly affect them.

“To think that you can just stay out of politics is saying that social issues don’t matter to you,” states Carolyn Monk in an ad-filled Odyssey blog. “It takes a certain kind of privilege to deny that there is a need for social justice and that there wouldn’t be a benefit from it.”

Really? All this time, I thought I was just avoiding a heated discussion on Facebook with my Aunt Linda about immigration. Apparently, I don’t give a lick about injustice or suffering because I’m too busy living a carefree life, completely unaffected by the actions of our current administration.

I’m not denying the existence of privilege. Nor am I ignorant of the problems we’re facing as a country. I simply take issue with the implication that I refuse to talk about politics because, in the words of another blogger for the Odyssey, Eve Rosenthal, “systematic oppression serves me” or because I’m fine with the way things are going in our country.

Not true. I avoid engaging in political discussion because the vast majority of people engaging are only seeking to confirm their existing beliefs.

When’s the last time someone left a conversation with a political opposite thinking, “Hmm, they made some good points, I’m going to reevaluate my position after further research”? I avoid engaging because, like many Americans who are both privileged and unprivileged, I’m utterly disillusioned with the way our political system operates.

These articles also lump those who don’t want to engage in politics with white male conservatives. One article puts people who assert, “I stay out of politics” in the exact same category as those who say, “Give him (Trump) a chance.”

“If you have the ability to live out your life without feeling directly affected by democracy, you’re benefiting from a significant amount of privilege,” says Eve Rosenthal. “Black Americans can’t ignore politics because their men, women, and children are being shot and beaten to death as a result of systematic racism.”

Despite the picture bloggers like Rosenthal paint, the people who often choose to avoid political discussion instead of investing their time and energy into Internet activism come from diverse backgrounds and political persuasions — at least in my experience.

I’m sure the authors are well intentioned. After all, they’re trying to help by pointing out how ignorant and privileged everyone is! What’s that quote about good intentions, again?

“Good intentions don’t mean shit.” — Shakespeare probably.

Intentions aside, these antagonistic armchair activists are more drops in the bucket of polarizing pieces by the vocal minorities perched at each end of the political spectrum. They’re oversimplified and more damaging to rational political discourse than the most politically avoidant person out there.

“Maybe you’re uninformed, maybe you don’t want to put in the effort, maybe you think the world just is the way it is, but stay involved in politics,” adds Monk.

I’ve yet to see one of these articles offer a concrete way to get effectively involved with politics. Maybe that’s because they’re based on the erroneous notion that politically avoidant people don’t care about politics or social issues. Maybe it’s because the extent of these author-activists’ actual political involvement is writing and sharing inflammatory clickbait articles that have no constructive effect on current issues.

Would it work if I shared more articles that will inevitably be labeled “fake news” by anyone who disagrees with the point of view expressed? I refuse to waste time arguing fruitlessly with delusional Trump fanatics and triggered social justice warriors who are just looking for a fight. When I see someone who has convincing plans to fix the polarizing state of our political system, you can bet your ass I’ll throw my full support behind them.

Until then, I’ll try to keep my privilege in check.