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Opinion

Americans must stay informed when it comes to news

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October 23, 2015

After watching one of John Oliver’s segments from last Sunday on Canadian elections from his HBO show “Last Week Tonight” — on YouTube, I don’t have spare money to just throw at HBO — it occurred to me that Americans, okay the majority of Americans, really have no idea what is going on. At all. Not in their own country and forget about the rest of the world. It’s as if all we look for in news is the weather, and turn away as soon as the nightly news comes on to inform us about the world and our country.

John Oliver has ignited an interest in me to find out more about the world through various segments on his show where he often talks (at full volume and with lewd graphics) about issues that everyone should know about – but actually don’t. This lack of awareness is a big deal to me – I’m all too aware of it, and it makes me cringe in embarrassment sometimes. (It will be important to note right now, that I am not an all-knowing wizard on foreign affairs by any means, either.)

While in French class in high school we had lessons completely centered around French politics, because of how ubiquitous politics are in everyday French life. While I was in France, it was quite impressive to me, how much politics were talked about at such a non-aggressive level. Every person in a conversation where the subject of politics came up was able to talk, comment, and respect everyone’s different opinions. Everyone had something to contribute and was able to continue the conversation. Another time during my family stay, my host parents knew an astonishing amount of American politics, knowing different policies and names of prominent government officials, governors, senators, and could easily communicate their understanding of our politics by being able to have a discussion about some of our absurd laws and policies; such as our inadequate and expensive health care and our lack of gun laws – the latter of which they thought was something to worry about, way back when I was in France in 2013.

It is really worrying to me that our culture and day-to-day lives are narrowly focused on just local news and worst of all, non-news, as in celebrity news that really should have no hold on our lives. The American general public, myself included, are missing out on essential information that we need to operate in our society and out in the world. It seems unfairly lopsided to me that the rest of the world is so knowledgeable about the United States, while it seems that most of the time we cannot even identify where so many countries are on a map. The American public should be able to reciprocate the level to which people around the world are involved in our culture; from speaking English, knowing about our politics, and enjoying our music, movies, and television.

And finally, I am all too aware that people every year in our country vote for a specific person and not for the specific issues that those people stand for. Part of what I have said already, the duty that everyone has of being a well-informed citizen, making well-informed decisions, is one of the most vital aspects of every election and of being a person that is living in the United States. Therefore, with the 2016 presidential campaign almost exactly a year away, now is really the perfect time to finally educate yourself on real news, real issues, and real people, so that you can be prepared to make a sound choice for the person who is going to be the President of the country that you live in. I can only cross my fingers and hope that, everyone in Wisconsin at least, has learned their lesson; to not unleash another “Scott Walker” on the rest of the country. Please.

Lauren Simenson is a student at UW-River Falls.