Opinion | All students should put down Pinterest, and pick up the ‘Post
If the Shew Fits
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 14, 2013 21:02
Greetings from Washington. In between ludicrously expensive dry cleaning and deliciously caloric cupcakes, I’ve missed the Oxbox a time or two. I realized this nickname is very aptly chosen for our college town, and that I don’t ever want to be cozy again, even when I get back to Oxford. I won’t settle back into the blissful routine of classes, organization meetings and parties on the weekends.
“This town” (as every politician, lobbyist and judge seems to call D.C.), is a magnificent, horrifying, multi-faceted and ever-moving machine. It churns out decisions and mandates policies that affect everyone in this nation, even down to our quaint little Oxbox.
I’ve been blessed to meet with all kinds of governmental influencers here, and the knowledge I can pass on from these meetings is twofold: partisanship is both real and fabricated in this town, and being well-informed requires listening to all the news sources at your disposal, even those whose platforms disagree with your own.
So I implore you, Miamians, not to become political powerhouses of news-gathering (unless that’s your thing, then more power to you and let’s meet up in the fall so you can teach me a few things), but to understand how some of the policies play out in D.C. and affect you. Pick an issue that interests you, and follow it. Please.
I’m not a numbers person; I don’t understand economics, and it’s the only class in which I received lower than a B+ in college. However, I’ve realized that I need to follow economic issues in our government, because the decisions made, or lack thereof, will directly affect me, the rest of my generation, and my great grandchildren’s generation.
Tied to this, I spent a day on Capitol Hill, where I watched the Hurricane Sandy bill be passed on the House floor. Let me tell you something first about the Capitol: it is intoxicating. Seeing the people across the room instead of on a television screen, and walking the halls that so many great men and women have walked, is truly a moving experience.
But watching the bill pass on the floor was even more so, as I could see the politics both within and between parties at work for myself. Congressmen were mingling, searching for final votes and calculating the likelihood of passage. I saw 50 billion dollars pass through the lower legislative body, a necessary 50 billion that adds to an already staggering deficit.
If I had been in Oxford, I probably would have known the bill passed a few days after the event. I certainly wouldn’t have been watching it unfold on C-SPAN or refreshing my newsfeeds on Twitter every second to keep informed minute to minute. Here, politics, policy and power are in every discussion. In Oxford, even if you want to be informed, it doesn’t come with the same degree of feasibility.
It isn’t easy to stay well informed in a small town; I’m not denying that. But as I’ve said before, and the point that has become increasingly salient in my time in Washington, is that even though it’s hard, or perhaps not of great interest to you, being informed is our responsibility as American citizens. It’s also our responsibility to be honest with ourselves about the information we’re getting, and how we use it.
I know Democrats and Republicans in this group who willingly watch MSNBC, CNN and FOX in the morning, and follow BBC, Politico, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal online. Being informed means knowing the beliefs of all sides, and the policy ideas formed from these beliefs, because in order to work with people you must first understand where they come from.
If we, the American people, expect people in Washington “to put the nation’s interests before party” as Obama said Tuesday in the State of the Union Address, we must first do so ourselves. If indeed, we believe “that America moves forward only when we do so together and that the responsibility of improving this union remains the task of us all,” then we need to make it the task of us all.
So take a few minutes a day, and take this task to heart. If you find yourself Facebook stalking your ex or pinning workouts you’ll never do and food you’ll never cook, switch over to CNN. Follow some journalists on Twitter. The decisions made in this town should be known and talked about, even in the Oxbox, so we can be more responsible voters and citizens.