This title is not meant to trivialize mental illness; I’m deadly serious. The issues that we have taken on in this class are by no means lighthearted- campaign finance, homelessness, abortion, LGBTQ rights, immigration, the impending doom of a possible Donald Trump presidency and the 2016 election, etc. Every weekend, we listen to a different podcast about the week’s current events, and while interesting; these 50-minute slices of political opinion do nothing to relieve stress and anxiety from my junior-year brain. So, what follows is my personal guide to surviving a government class during an election year while maintaining your sanity.
- Surround yourself with friends.
Cliché, I know, but I don’t mean friends just as in your buddy buddy pal-type person. I mean people that challenge you, support you, make you think, argue, and research. One of the most rewarding parts of taking a government class has been engaging with my peers, even though I don’t always think they’re right, and vice versa. Having been born and raised in arguably the most liberal county in the country, and attending one of the most liberal high schools in the state, I often find myself in agreement with the opinions of those around me, but through this class I have learned not to be bothered by a little conflict, and even to enjoy it. If you’re going to make it through election 2016, you’re going to need some perspective.
- Trevor Noah is the antidote.
If you’ve never watched the Daily Show with Trevor Noah (or its previous form, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart), I suggest starting now. Political satire is my safe place, where I can curl up into a little ball and be entertained while ignoring the actual implications of what’s being discussed. Avoidance? Yes. Necessary? Definitely. Humor has been a way to connect people for hundreds of years, and political satire is no different. Although some argue that comedy shows trivialize politics and champions cynicism, you can’t argue with the facts: in 2013, “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report” were the two most watched late night programs for viewers aged 18-49. So despite the disadvantages satirizing real life politics might have, it’s still how a lot of people get their news, myself included. Let’s face it: if you can’t laugh about it, you have to cry about it.
- After watching Trevor Noah, get off your couch and do something about it.
The third part of this class, after government and politics, is citizenship. And citizenship is perhaps the most important, because after learning about the sad, frightening, and unbelievable workings of our government and politics, you need to do your part as a citizen so you don’t wallow in your own despair at the broken system that governs our lives. I do this by registering to vote, or by encouraging my family and friends to. It can be as simple as reading the news and starting a conversation about what you learned. Or you could write a blog post reflecting on the government and politics of our nation. (Cough). Even though our democracy may be on bullet train to Crazy Town, the United States was once a government for the people, by the people, and if we’re going to survive the 2016 apocalypse elections, we, the people, need to take some of that back.
Don’t give up fellow Americans- I will make it through this government class with my sanity in tact, and hopefully my political knowledge somewhat enriched. And so can you! The beauty of this guide is that it is applicable not only to Michael Gwaltney’s government, politics, and citizenship class, but to political life in general. So remember: challenge yourself, laugh at yourself, and get involved. Then you might just survive.