Five Important Things a Teen Learned from Politics

Politics are boring. At least that was what the younger, more ignorant me thought.

Before this year, the only news I had watched were E! News and snippets from sxephil.

When I reached the epiphany that it was probably important to know more than what can be relayed to me in a ten-minute YouTube video and which celebrity’s alleged sex tape was leaked, I started to pay attention to real news. Things that really mattered.

I had a hard time figuring out exactly what kind of news that was at first so I simply avoided anything that talked of “Kardashian” or “Kardashian clan” at great length.

That was a struggle.

But I did figure it out and started reading more political articles (mainly Huffington Post) and seeing into the important-looking twitter trending topics (anything without the words vagina or penis).

Eventually, I found myself getting sucked into the whirlwind world of American news and politics. And let me tell you, it is anything but boring.

Speaking of bore, let me stop boring you and get into the list.

Here it is, things I learned from paying attention to politics:

1. 99% of gaffes are meaningless but 100% matter.

I knew politicians had to watch what they say but I didn’t know such a Carly Rae Jeppson sex-tape hailstorm could result if they slip up, even the tiniest bit.

In fact, every sentence that comes out of their mouths has to be molded to perfection or else it could become the target of an attack ad that leaves out all the other sentences they may have said.

For example, if Obama or Romney were to say, “Old people should die… with a substantial amount of money to leave their family.” The headline the next day on some news-starved publication will read, “PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE THINKS OLD PEOPLE SHOULD DIE.”

Commence twitter arguments.

In the short time that I have given my focus to politics, I have already seen many stories revolving around “gaffes.” That’s right, politicians mess up so much when they talk they had to make a word for it.

But is it that they make so many mistakes? Or is it that we are too critical sometimes?

From Barack Obama’s “You didn’t build that” (taken out of context) to Mitt Romney’s “Corporations are people too” (taken slightly out of context), members of both parties seem to enjoy attacking a politician’s words rather than his actions.

Then there are the gaffes made by people who have little to do with anything. Hilary Rosen, the woman who said Ann Romney never worked a day in her life, is not at all associated with the Obama campaign but the president (who condemned the statement) was pulled into the controversy anyway. And when Ann Romney herself supposedly said “you people” during a GMA interview, she was immediately pegged as pretentious and out of touch (you know, even more than she already was).

Rosen’s statement was said the wrong way but taken out of context. Romney didn’t even say “you people.”

So from the knowledge I had acquired from listening to news report after news report condemning/supporting these statements, I have learned almost nothing about what each presidential candidate actually plans to do with the country.

But please, continue talking about how Biden’s “put ya’ll back in chains” gaffe is going to divide the country as unemployment is at 8.3%.

2. Looks matter… a lot.

Looking at pictures of James Madison and Abraham Lincoln, one would not think that supermodel good-looks were needed to win an election.

(No offense to either of them; I’m sure pointy beards were trendy in the 1800s).

However, looking at our current first family, their current contenders, and a few others over the years, looks DO matter.

You can’t be ugly and win an election, no matter how good your ideas are.

It’s kind of like being a porn star: It doesn’t matter what you’re screwing over– as long as you look good doing it.

In order to be president, from what I have learned, one of the requirements is to have an attractive family and be yourself attractive.

Obama, Romney, Reagan, Kennedy, and most prominently VP candidate Sarah Palin all fill this requirement and were able to gather large amounts of support.

Want evidence? Type in Paul Ryan and see what the first suggestion is.

I don’t want to sound too cynical. I understand why celebrity-looks appeal to the public; we want someone who we can look up to.

And we prefer to look up at pretty things with nice biceps.


3. Not everything is so black-n-white.

No, that was not an Obama-n-Romney pun.

Every single policy or idea has its pros and cons. Although it may seem easy to depict a certain party or politician as evil and/or idiotic, if you consider all the facts, you understand why someone may see something a different way. You may even question your own position.

Before I started looking at things for myself, I accepted every idea from anyone who can entertain me (what some may call the “liberal” media). I often had a hard time picturing things from the other side (Republican) and so I saw them as greedy, bigoted vultures who had little interest of anyone below the top 1%.

Then something scary happened: Their ideas and views started making sense!

**some of them.

I realized at this point that I needed to broaden my news sources if I really wanted to educate myself and not keep myself in a biased bubble.

What’s disappointing is that I see so many other people -adults- doing this. It’s so easy to get caught up in the Democrat vs. Republican war that we give up our open-mindiness and become, instead, stubborn and stereotype-wielding dogmatists who pick fights in the comments section of blogs (but feel free to do that here).

Granted, I still harbor many democratic views and prefer getting my information from CNN rather than FOX news but at least I have a better, gentler idea of republicans now.

They’re just greedy and bigoted, not vultures.*

Commence blog fights.

4. Social issues aren’t that important.

Let me rephrase that: they don’t have as big of an effect on a majority of voters than, say, economic issues.

In a recent Pew Research Poll, voters ranked jobs, budget deficit, healthcare, and education high on a list of issues they considered “very important.” The economy topped the list with 86% of people saying it really mattered to them.

What issues landed at the bottom? Abortion (39%), birth control (34%), and gay marriage (28%).

But you don’t need a poll to see this. Turn on the news and most of their converage focuses on various topics centering on the economy. Magazines that don’t cover Robsen’s breakup or Brandgelina’s wedding headline shocking titles on job growth/decline.

The reason I (and maybe some of you) had a hard time seeing this before was because movies and television shows like romanticizing social issues and, in many cases, exaggerating them.

For example, gay marriage. What you can’t tell from the entertainment industry is that most people do not fall into the anti-gay or pro-gay category but the I-just-don’t-care category.

But charts and graphs on the effect of universal medicare is not as fun to watch as a starcrossed love story of two lesbians.

I understand.

5. Politics is wildly entertaining.

I did have to force myself to read my first Economist article. I knew educating myself was important but I knew it wasn’t going to be enjoyable.

To my surprise, it was.

I am talking (mainly) about politician battles and slip-ups that are at times more hilariously fun than watching Kristen Stewart trying to show emotion.

The republican primary, for example, was pretty exciting. I started making bets (to myself like a weird loner) on who would be the next top contender, which hopeful would land in a racy sex scandal, and how many seconds would Ron Paul be allowed to speak at the next debate.

Of course, it does get a bit dull sometimes and I still find myself dozing off when reading a paticularly lengthy article on health care reform, but all you have to do is look up some Obama memes and you’re back on track.

Dull? I don't think so.

I think it’s very important for people, including teenagers, to start paying attention to politics, especially in this day and age.

It shouldn’t take a well-made youtube video on a Ugandan warlord or a vicious attack-ad to make us care about “the issues.”

Because what happens when we stop caring?


I rest my case.

Your beloved blogger,

*I kid.


One thought on “Five Important Things a Teen Learned from Politics”

  1. Very well written. Hopefully you will be an inspiration to your friends and peers so that they also pay more attention to politics and government. One less hour of E! and one more of C-SPAN per week, and the country would be in much better shape!

    – SemiPartisanSam

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