Paying attention to the news is your moral obligation

AB Boyd | Cartoonist

It feels like every morning we wake up to more news telling us just how chaotic the world we’re living in is.

Some people respond to the ever-increasing madness surrounding us by arguing that the world has always been this insane, we just haven’t ever been this informed about it. But how true can that be?

From a public health standpoint, we still have an uncontrolled pandemic raging throughout our country. While many other countries have been able to resume a somewhat normal life again, America has surpassed six million cases and we’re closing in on 200,000 deaths. On a global stage, that means America (which makes up roughly 4.4% of the world population) accounts for about a quarter of the world’s COVID-19 cases and about 22% of the world’s recorded deaths. No matter which way you slice it, we’re not doing well.

On the social justice front, we are in the midst of protests and organized activism reminiscent of the 1950s and ‘60s. In fact, the protests that took place over the summer were much more widespread and drew much bigger crowds than most marches throughout the 60s. We’ll probably see sustained protests until real action is taken in response to protestors’ demands.

Economically, we’re living through wealth disparities between the richest and poorest citizens where the rich are getting richer faster, and the poor are working just as hard while making less. In fact, the wealth inequality America faces now is comparable to wealth distribution in 1788 France, before the French Revolution. Just to jog your memory on how that turned out, the people cut off their leaders’ heads.

We’re also sitting in the middle of hurricane season, with Hurricane Laura tearing through Louisiana last week and leaving death, destruction and pain in her path. California is experiencing more intense and destructive wildfires than were recorded at this point last year. As climate change worsens, these natural disasters are just going to get worse and worse, and they’re going to disproportionately affect communities of color. And we’re running out of time to reverse the effects of manmade climate change.

And then on the foreign relations front, U.S. tensions with Iran and China are continuing to heat up. Belarus is facing mass protests against their leader, Alexander Lukashenko, often called the last dictator in Europe, after what many suspect to be an unfair election earlier this month. Lebanon is also facing upheaval after an explosion in early August which sparked the entire government’s resignation. Japan’s Prime Minister just stepped down, citing health concerns, and his successor is not currently clear. Needless to say, things around the world are not looking very promising either.

All this while America heads into an election cycle threatening to unseat President Donald Trump, perhaps the most divisive president in modern history. People both enthusiastically support him and passionately oppose him, and in many cases, clashes between those two groups have led to violence and sometimes even death.

In the face of all of this chaos, it is easy to throw our hands up and say, “well, I’m just a college student. What can I do about any of this?” But the thing is, the most important thing each of us can do is to not look away. When people look away, when people start losing interest and especially when people stop holding public officials’ feet to the fire, corruption breeds like bunny rabbits.

Though there is very little any one of us can do to make measurable change in these areas, collective action in the right direction will force this country to shift its course that right now seems as though it’s headed straight to hell.

This democracy only works if we’re all participating, and that doesn’t just mean every four years during a presidential election cycle. It includes voting in every election at the local, state and federal levels. It includes having civil, albeit difficult, discussions about the direction we want this country to go in. It also includes actively participating in our communities and volunteering for causes close to our hearts.

And most importantly, it means keeping our eyes, ears, hearts and minds open. Pay attention to what’s going on in the world around you, be open to new information that challenges your worldview and be willing to take action when the opportunity presents itself. At least from where we’re sitting, that seems like the only way out of this mess.