Friday, August 22, 2014

You Really Do Need To Be "Into" Politics

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Friday, August 22, 2014
By Bill Gouveia


            “I’m just not into politics.”


            Every time I hear that phrase I chuckle and shake my head (yes, that’s the rattling sound you hear).  So many times I want to stop and ask these people if they truly understand just what the word politics means.


            They seem to be under the impression it is something unsavory, illicit, and sneaky.  They look upon the very breadth and scope of the word as an evil to be avoided whenever possible.  They seem to consider it beneath them.


            They see politics as the act of running for office, of promoting yourself or your party, or merely gaining an unfair advantage.  Much of the reason for that is because this is the aspect that gets the most attention.  Politics in essence has given itself a bad name, with considerable help from those who utilize it more to aid themselves than others.


            But according to the dictionary I consulted, politics is at its core “the practice or study of the art and science of forming, directing, and administering states and other political units; the art and science of government.”  And that is not only a necessary practice, but a noble one.


            Politics is largely what makes our country, states, cities and towns good or bad places to live.  In areas where it results in well-managed governments, politics is what takes care of us as a people.  It is what builds our roads and schools, what brings water and electricity to our homes, and what provides and enforces laws that allow us to live in relative security.


            While politics is not and should not be the driving force in the lives of every member of society, it is not something you should readily ignore or not “be into” either.  Just as keeping our air and water clean is ultimately the responsibility of everyone, politics too requires a collective effort if it is truly going to be effective.


            I’m not into art, and I’m definitely not into science.  So why would I criticize anyone for not “being into” something described as the art and science of government?


            The answer to that question is simple.  The fact I am not a fan of fine art or the details of scientific discovery does not significantly affect the lives of those around me.  If I don’t go to a museum, my neighbors will not suffer any negative consequences.  If I don’t understand how the earth was formed, it will not lead to problems for those across town.


            But if I don’t participate in the political process, if I don’t at least make an effort to vote and be reasonably informed on the issues – it can create issues for others.  The smaller the total voting public, the easier it is for any political persuasion, party or candidate to seize control and exert their will instead of that of the public. 


            Politics is our duty.  It is essentially a right, one that is necessary if we are to provide for the common good and come together as a people and a government.


            People who are not “into” politics often suffer for their lack of interest.  When you own a home and suddenly need a zoning variance, it is overwhelming to not have any understanding of how the process works.  When your property taxes are threatening to substantially rise and you need to do something about it, politics suddenly becomes extremely important.


            There is no need for everyone to be a political expert.  You don’t have to run for office.  You don’t have to work on a campaign.  You don’t even need to put a sign on your lawn or donate to a candidate.


            But you really don’t have the luxury of not being “into” politics.  It affects your life on a daily basis, in ways you don’t even think about until it is too late.  If you consistently and deliberately allow others to dictate the rules of our society without your input or participation – then you deserve whatever result is delivered.


            Politics can be a good thing if we make it so.  The first step in doing that is to at the very least take the opportunity to cast your ballot.


Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime area town official.  He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

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