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Opinion

Students have to take action

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November 15, 2007

How can I begin to write in a few short paragraphs that which has been gnawing at me for the last few years?

It is an issue of national security, of freedom, of democracy and of individuality. And it is life threatening.

It is the American Problem. It is apathy, fear to stand out and the inability to stand up and change the channel. I’m talking about politics, about media and the fact that we need to make a change.

Why do I even bother writing it here? This is just a student-run newspaper at a backwater school full of politically inert bodies. People here don’t want to read about how they should actually do something to affect the world they live in. They want to read something funny that makes fun of some odd group that doesn’t have the gumption to stand up for itself even in a few measly words addressed to the editor.

If working at the Student Voice has taught me one thing, it’s that people on this campus don’t care unless the issue is on campus, and even then they usually don’t. So why am I even writing? Honestly, I’m not even sure. I, for some reason, seem to hold onto this idyllic notion that perhaps the right words might induce someone to take the first step.

Because we are not just students of UW-River Falls, and when we write and take action we are not just a student voice. We are the voice of America. I know, it sounds corny. But think about it. We are adults—able to vote and able to tell our government what we want it to do. This is, after all, a democracy, and despite what the current government would have us believe, it is not up to rich old white guys to decide how this nation behaves—towards the rest of the world or towards its citizens.

It is up to us, the students, the young adults who are just coming into the working world. Why? Because all the rich old white guys are going to be dead in 40 years, and we will be the ones running this supposedly great nation. Today’s present is tomorrow’s past, and if we don’t take action now, the past will be coming back to haunt us. In case you forgot, the laws that get passed today will still be in effect 20 years from now. If they don’t affect us now, they certainly will then.

I know too many people who throw their hands up in the air when it comes to election time, saying “I don’t know,” or “I don’t care.” But if one foot doesn’t know where the other foot is going, how can a body walk? Or how can your left thumb not care when your right finger pulls a trigger to shoot off your big toe? Don’t laugh. As citizens of the United States we are all part of a living, breathing body. We all perform different functions, but we all have to work together, like it or not. And if we continue as we have been, this nation will suffer—and die.

The United States was founded on the idea of democracy. Everyone knows what it means—that the people have a voice and that one person can’t control everything. But look around you. Right now, a very select few do control everything, and each year that number is shrinking, while the number of people who think that they can’t make a difference keeps growing.

The problem isn’t limited to politics either. The media reflects public interest. And what do we have coming out of our newsrooms? Feature stories. The Bachelor. Half-hour news, most of which is weather and sports. And those stories that do cover political issues side with the government, because the American people have decided that any voice in the government is the last word. No one questions. We’re all a bunch of lemmings jumping into the water to drown because no one could find the courage to stand out and stop it.

On August 18, 2004, President Bush himself was in Hudson, just a short drive away. If he can see this area as a place worthy of targeting in his campaign, why can’t we consider ourselves worthy of speaking up? Are we content with the thought that our president knows more about our power than we do?

This is where I would normally try to end with some inspiring comment that would drive those of you who think that we students are not accountable for our current situation to finally decide to get up off the couch and change the channel. But I’m not going to, because I know that most of those who read this will probably either agree and turn to the next page or disagree and call me a host of names I’d rather not publish. If I’m lucky maybe someone will find me on Facebook and write me a nasty message, or maybe they’ll make an effort and write me an e-mail. Because that’s what people in River Falls do. But I refuse to think of myself as a worthless lump of blood and hair that my government will only count once I’m in a body bag.

Katrina Styx is a student at UW-River Falls.