Political involvement shouldn’t be a trend

Meg Trogolo, Opinion Columnist

Politics is not a form of entertainment or something to ignore. It is instead a chance to decide who determines the circumstances of your life and the lives of those around you and choosing not to take politics seriously is a luxury most cannot afford.

This year’s marches against police brutality here in Burlington illustrated this idea perfectly. During the last week of August, UVM students filled Battery Park, Pearl Street and Church Street, spending equal amounts of time chanting protest slogans and taking photos of the crowds in awe.

Almost two months later, the size of the marches that are still taking place three times a week is a fraction of what it was when it was fashionable for UVM students to participate. They are now mostly made up of committed activists and mutual aid volunteers.

Those marches were intended to protest the actions of three Burlington Police Department officers and called for them to be fired. Two of them, Cory Campbell and Joseph Corrow, are still employed by the department. I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen their names on social media in recent weeks.

The only UVM students I see marching and bringing up these issues now are people who have been there the whole time, who have already committed to using their presence to advocate for justice. Otherwise, the trend has come and gone.

Every political decision impacts lives, this is part of a government’s function. A city government impacts the day-to-day experiences of that city’s residents. 

A nation’s government impacts its citizens’ major choices. All of the names on your ballot, all the way from the top to the bottom, affect what happens to your community.

However, they will affect some members of your community more than others. According to a Sept. 30 Washington Post article, economic crises such as the recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic hit people of color, low-income people and uneducated people the hardest.

Employers are less likely to offer jobs to these groups when the economy is coming out of a recession.

In addition, ongoing inequality means that these groups already experience other types of adversity, such as racism and poverty, even when there is no recession.

Every resident of Burlington, from students, to immigrant parents, to wealthy business owners, to people who are forced to sleep on the sidewalks, are all part of the same community. 

We all live in the same city, and that means our lives are all tied together.

There is a story that I have heard many times about the anthropologist Margaret Mead being asked what she considered the first sign of civilization in a society. 

Supposedly, her answer was a bone that has been broken and then healed, as this is proof that another person took the time and energy to help the injured recover.

Caring for each other is what makes us human. That includes all of us, no matter how much money we have, what culture we come from, or what walk of life we find ourselves taking.

America is currently seeing a fascist movement that would rather this not be true. Even before President Donald Trump was elected four years ago, he was disparaging immigrants, women, transgender people, disabled people and anyone else he deemed undesirable. That was only the beginning.

In 2017, a right-wing domestic terrorist used his car to kill a woman during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA.

In 2018, reports surfaced of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers abducting and separating Latino families and starving people who sought political asylum.

This year, after the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police officers, Americans from all backgrounds took to the streets to protest against police brutality and institutionalized racism.

Trump called those protesters “thugs” and threatened state-ordered violence against them, tweeting on May 29, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

According to CBS Miami, that phrase was first made famous by Miami Police Chief Walter Headley in 1967 in reference to his department’s crackdown on majority-Black neighborhoods.

I personally witnessed multiple drivers shouting Trump’s 2020 campaign slogans, harassing protesters, and attempting to run over traffic volunteers during this fall’s Black Lives Matter protests here in Burlington.

Trump also promised during a 2016 debate to appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade, the decision that established access to abortion as a constitutional right.

The only people who are unaffected by this government’s actions are those who are insulated by the privilege that their skin color and economic status gives them.

If you are white, wealthy and well-educated, it’s easy for you to make a few comments about the election, maybe vote and post your “I Voted” sticker on Instagram, and simply leave your political activity at that.

No matter who becomes president, or governor, or state representative, your world will keep turning, food will stay on your table, and your daily life will be much the same as it is now.

Taking advantage of that position in society by staying out of politics and paying little attention is one of the most selfish and cruel things a person can do.

Voting because it’s a trend and then forgetting about politics after the election results are announced is not enough. As members of a community, it is vital that we take care of and look out for each other, especially when some of us are directly threatened by both other civilians and by the government itself.

Don’t just go to the polls. Join mutual aid organizations. Speak in the public comment sections of city council meetings. Demonstrate in the streets. Donate to local relief and bail funds. Get to know your neighbors, and genuinely care about them, too.

Keep going after Election Day. Keep going after Inauguration Day.

Do it for each other’s sake, and do it for your own sake.