The active discussion of politics is a necessary component of any healthy democracy, and as former President James Madison famously said, it is “sown in the nature of man.” Yet there is undoubtedly a point at which it can become too much. In the United States, we reached that point in 2017, a year in which just about everything that could be politicized was politicized — from the Oscars in Hollywood and a heartbreaking mass shooting in Vegas to the National Football League and natural disasters. Data shows that the American public was more unhappy and depressed than ever before, possibly due to the massive politicization. Clearly, then, we should do everything we can to prevent politicization from hampering our 2018 as much as it did last year.
In 2007, the U.S. ranked third happiest out of 24 economically developed countries, according to the World Happiness Report. By 2016, however, the U.S. had dropped to 19th, and continues to drop, which I think is almost undoubtedly due in part to our current obsession with politics.
Who’s to blame for all of the politicization? There’s not just one answer, because multiple actors are playing a part. An obvious first choice is our president, Donald Trump. As a result of Trump’s personality, the nature of his entire administration and, of course, Twitter, politics are always with us and seems to reach into every aspect of our daily lives.
But Trump isn’t the only one to blame. The vast majority of us are at fault as well. It’s been over a year now since the presidential election, yet it seems that most of the daily conversations I have with people are still about Trump, whether about the latest thing he infamously tweeted or how he supposedly watches eight hours of television every day. By now, one would think that we’d have something else to talk about, but apparently, we don’t. When I tune into a late-night television program to have a few good laughs, for example, I can’t even come close to laughing because it seems that every single attempt at a “joke” is about politics.
This is not meant to be a tirade against the left, or against the right. Both are equally responsible, and equally affected. It’s just time that we all admit it. Yes, I understand that politics and politicization are a pervasive part of our culture, but in my opinion, America has not seen anything like this in a long, long time.
Two other highly contentious times in American history come to mind. First, the early part of the 1860s, when half of the country seceded from the rest. And second, the 1948 election between President Harry Truman and Thomas Dewey, just three years after Truman made the still-debated decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki and end World War II, going to bed all but believing he had lost but waking to hear news of a highly-unpredicted victory. Both of these times undoubtedly caused anger and unhappiness to sweep through the American public.
But so did the massive politicization of the past year, and I think it’s hard to deny that the 2016 election, all of 2017 and what is now the first year of the Trump administration ranks right up there with them.
Ask yourself this: Wouldn’t it be nice to have some occasional relief from our current political climate, perhaps by watching a good movie or having a thought-provoking conversation with your friends and family about how important they are to you? I know I would enjoy that.
So, take the time to disconnect from social media from time to time. Talk about literature and theatre with your friends, rather than politics for a change. Just for a second, ignore what’s happening in Washington, no matter how much you love it or hate it, and appreciate all of the good things in your life. It will make you happier, and it will in turn make 2018 a happy and enjoyable year for everyone.
Wesley Shirola is a Weinberg freshman. He can be contacted at [email protected] If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected] The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.