I spent most of my spring break debating. Our team attended tournaments in Louisiana and Arkansas and though we had a fantastic time, it seems like after every tournament I walk away feeling just a little bit depressed and angry. Not because a good time has come to an end, not because I hate long drives in cramped cars, and not even because even I lose occasionally.
Much of what we debate has to do with very important issues that our country faces today and will face in the future. Things like politics, economics, international relations and the like are frequent topic choices and, needless to say, things that I relish talking about. What troubles me are the people that judge these rounds.
Our debate style is geared toward communicating with the public– average, everyday folks. Joe Six-pack, if you will. And though most of the judges are good, smart people, I remain continually disappointed in those who simply don’t get it. When I look at the reasons why I lose a round (or even when I win) I too often see completely bizarre reasons and blatant misunderstandings of the round debate that this person just spent the last 30 minutes of their life watching; the debate about issues that affect that person’s life even after they finish judging.
Too often these reasons are so obscure or meaningless that I get angrybut not angry at that one specific person. Rather, I get angry at what seems to be a wave of apathy sweeping our country. I feel that too many people simply don’t care about what happens in the world simply because they think that it doesn’t affect them.
The reality is that our world is a complicated place and we might not always see how things are connected at the first glance. But that doesn’t mean that we should just assume that what we see on the surface is the full breadth of the issue, especially when it comes to things like economics that affect every way that we live our lives.
What has happened to the America that always questioned our leaders, that always strove to be free in every aspect, that fought against the ignorance of big government? What happened to the America that never settled for anything less than the best in every aspect? What happened to the America that used to give a damn?
Don’t get me wrong, I know that this doesn’t apply to everyone. I also know that the amount of apathy in this country I love isn’t exactly shrinking.
Thomas Paine once wrote: “When men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon.” I hope you know what that means, but more importantly, I hope that if you don’t, you at least care enough to make an effort to find out, because I assure you it means more than you probably know.