Arizzi: Don’t lose your political voice

Erin O'Neal

This past Thursday was Sept. 11 – the two-year anniversary of one of the most horrific days in American history and a day that will surely live on in infamy in the hearts and minds of our generation.

Early in the day, my friends and I made plans to attend the memorial Mass at 5:20 p.m.; since most of us had classes and meetings until about 5:15, we assumed we’d be sitting toward the back. We didn’t realize that we would be not sitting, but standing up against the wall because of the number of students and faculty who came out to remember the attacks on our country and our people.

Later that evening there was a candlelight vigil on South campus where I again was struck by the patriotism of the student body. On any given day I would never describe myself as overly patriotic, but this Thursday I realized how proud I am to be American.

On Thursday night, as I lay in bed trying to sleep, I couldn’t help but think how many of my fellow classmates will not vote in the upcoming election and of all the students who so sincerely love their country but will choose not to take part in the most distinguishing facet of our democracy. I believe a large part of our indifference as a generation toward politics stems from the fact that our country runs so smoothly. You and I can choose not to vote, and America will still elect new political figures, the country will keep running and our lives won’t fall apart. We are incredibly lucky that we live in a place where the government seems to take care of itself. And if it works so smoothly without the input of most of the citizens, just imagine how great it would work with our input.

This isn’t a major election. In November of 2003, states all over the nation will elect new legislators and governors. Some cities (think cheesesteaks) will elect new mayors, most counties will vote on new countywide positions. These may seem small and insignificant to we intellectual college students, but these are the elections that matter most to our daily lives and the lives of our families. Just because we are in college doesn’t mean we aren’t part of society. The elections that occur at home will have a direct effect on property taxes, school budget cuts and other local laws. Seem irrelevant? If you are receiving any sort of statewide scholarship award to ease the burden on school, guess who’s writing the check to Villanova? Who do you think put the sales tax back on clothes in New York this past spring? Do you have a sibling in a state university? Who determines tuition increases in state schools? You guessed it.

You can’t escape the power of your local government; they follow you everywhere you go. As long as you’re still technically residing at your parents’ address you are affected by the decisions of the people back home.

Now, to those of you who say they don’t care either way, I don’t believe you. You don’t have to be an expert in politics to have political views; all you need is an opinion. What are your views on abortion? Do you think affirmative action is right? How do you feel about gun control? Are you supportive of the death penalty? If you answered anything other than “I don’t know” to any one of those questions, you have an opinion. You have no reason not to exercise that opinion on the national stage.

If you are a registered Democrat you will have the unique opportunity to vote in the Democratic primary this March. You get to choose, through a popular election, which nominee will be running against the incumbent in 2004. More senior citizens in this country are voting than young people, wheeling themselves to the voting booths while most young people don’t even know where the voting booths are. We are the future of America – we are the people who will be running this country someday and I believe that as this nation’s future we have a responsibility to take part in this country’s present.

I was proud to be part of our country this past Thursday, but I was even more proud last June when I voted for the first time ever in my town’s budget vote. The budget passed, and for me it was exhilarating to know that my vote was a part of that. I guess for most people voting isn’t so exhilarating, but to know that you’ve made a difference just by pressing a button is a feeling you don’t get every day.

Register to vote; you have nothing to lose. Forms are available in 108 Dougherty Hall and can be picked up until Oct. 20.