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viewpoint

What is BridgeND?

| Wednesday, April 20, 2016

“The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time, it is the great economic issue of our time and it is the great political issue of our time.” – Senator Bernie Sanders

While this semester BridgeND focused our entire Viewpoint column on the idea of income inequality, I would have to vehemently disagree with Senator Sanders. Income inequality is not the great issue of our time. So then, what is? Well, it’s not climate change or immigration or foreign policy or health care or any of the other issues we hear about in the news cycle or during presidential debates.

The greatest issue of our time is political apathy.

Why? Because foreign policy and climate change and immigration and income inequality do not matter if no one is talking about them. The most fundamental consequence of representative democracy is that government is a function of its polity — the voice of our nation is, in fact, the voice of us, its citizens. It follows that the relative importance of issues like income inequality, foreign policy and climate change is necessarily contingent on their place in our national discourse. Thus, the extent to which we care enough about an issue to discuss it, to learn more about it, to write our representatives about it or to protest it is the extent to which it matters.

So how does this relate to BridgeND? The goal of BridgeND is to combat political apathy at its roots by providing a forum on campus in which students from across the ideological spectrum can come together in open and rigorous debate concerning the issues that matter to them. BridgeND is not about compromising on your beliefs or moderating them for the sake of political correctness. Rather, it is about being willing to express your beliefs — no matter how extreme left, right, center or other they may be — and being willing to engage in civil dialogue with those who disagree with you.

When BridgeND submitted Mimi Teixeira’s highly controversial column “Is income inequality that bad?” (Jan. 27) and people doubted BridgeND’s claim to political centrism, those people fundamentally misunderstood our core mission. At BridgeND, the question we ask ourselves is not, “How can we develop a solution that Democrats and Republicans can agree on?” but rather, “How can we start a conversation?” Our goal is to combat political apathy by initiating a dialogue about important political issues during our meetings, in The Observer and through various events. Creating these conversations is the necessary first step to solving the myriad of issues that face our nation today, issues for which our generation will be left responsible.

So why am I telling you all of this now as we prepare for finals and summer vacation? The truth is that this column, at its core, is about starting a conversation — a conversation that cannot end here. Political apathy is the greatest moral, social and political issue of our time and it is imperative that we, the students of Notre Dame, do our part to combat it. Issues like income inequality and climate change and immigration are too important to our futures for us to ignore. And we, as students blessed with such an unparalleled spiritual and intellectual community here at Notre Dame, are in too important of a position in our lives to ignore them.

Thus, my challenge to you, the students of Notre Dame, is to carry on the conversation into your dorms, through the dining halls and beyond this beautiful campus as we disperse all over the globe come May. We are all called to this task no matter our major, religion or political affiliation, and it is our duty to our country to respond in kind.

Roge Karma is a sophomore political science major living in Siegfried Hall. He is the President of BridgeND. He can be reached at rkarma@nd.edu

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About BridgeND

BridgeND is a bipartisan student political organization that brings together Democrats, Republicans, and all those in between to discuss public policy issues of national importance. They meet Tuesday nights (starting Sept.8) from 8-9pm in the McNeil room of LaFortune. They can be reached at bridgend@nd.edu or by following them on Twitter @bridge_ND

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