Crises Beget Consciousness

By Wayan Buschman

I am ashamed to say that I have never been the type to pick up a newspaper in my free time. I mastered the ability to feign a knowing shake of my head when one of my peers asked my opinion on some recent, tragic, news event. “I heard about that. It’s awful,” I would say along with  a sad shake of my head. The image I attempted to project was that of a socially conscious student; in reality, I had no idea what was going on.

Illustration by Caroline Li

When I turned 19, I had a realization, in my newfound maturity, that the success of society is reliant upon civilians remaining well informed. In all honesty, it was the sorry state of the government that prompted me to educate myself about current events. I decided to pick up a paper, not for a selfless motive, but because I was concerned about myself and my place in this new American regime.

The election of Donald Trump is far from a blessing. The glaring faults in his administration draw attention from the previously apathetic groups and individuals in a way that more subtly nefarious administrations do not. Thankfully, awareness is a game of dominoes. One might begin by asking, “How does this affect me?” First, they might peruse regional news, which will lead to national news, which will then lead to international news. What begins as a selfish but completely legitimate concern leads to awareness of worldwide phenomena through close ties between the regional and the national, the national and the international. Awareness is the key to tactful opinions and actions.

I was only mildly perturbed when Trump first decided to run for president back in 2015. That was when I signed up for The New York Times Morning Briefing Newsletter, in which The Times summarizes the day’s important news events in a brief email for lazy chumps like me. All jokes aside, it takes five minutes to read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who doesn’t have the time to read a real newspaper every day. Still, at that point, I was not convinced that Trump would be successful in his endeavors, and thus, many of the morning briefings sat in my inbox unread. Then he won the election. For someone with such scant knowledge of politics, I was shocked by my own emotional response in the following days. I was upset at how little I had done in previous months to educate myself about the situation at hand. In the same way that spectators glued their eyes to the television in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing or any other horrifying event, I spent the day after the election riveted by my computer screen. I was trying to find some semblance of an explanation for Trump’s election and why no one saw it coming.

I suspect that I was not the only one. Complacency breeds inactivity. Although the Obama administration was nowhere near perfect, there was little cause for anxiety in my liberal social circles. Now there are red flags left and right. I was spurned from complacency toward activism, or focused anti-complacency at the very least. I read my Morning Briefings. I read The Times when I can. And who would have thought that maybe I would even start to write for my school paper?

It took a period of crisis to jerk me awake. Next time the topic of current events is broached, I hope that I will be able to respond with authentic confidence.

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