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Notre Dame has an apathy problem

| Wednesday, August 28, 2019

There is a plague on campus. It’s a disease that Notre Dame has struggled with for decades, and it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. It seeps into the Notre Dame consciousness, slowly conquers the whole system and wreaks its havoc. No, I’m not talking about leggings.

I’m talking about apathy. Pure, unadulterated apathy. I don’t mean Notre Dame students don’t care about anything, but they don’t care about much, and they certainly don’t seem to care about much that occurs outside Our Lady’s University. 

I get it — the news is at best boring and at worst horrifying. It’s no one’s idea of fun to watch the world burn live on CNN, but it’s unbelievably important that we do. We live in a political system that only works when we participate, and we can only participate with the passion and intelligence that Notre Dame fosters when we are informed. How is it that some of the best and brightest in the country are completely unaware of the political landscape in this country? How is it that a Catholic institution, which claims to mold the minds of the next generation with integrity and morality, allows its students to graduate without the slightest clue of the world they’re graduating into? 

I’m not just ranting and raving here — I’ve seen this ignorance on full display. I know people who had never heard the name Robert Mueller until a month ago. I’ve spoken to someone from Texas who didn’t know what the DREAM Act was. A few of my friends have never voted in a local election in their lives because they didn’t know who the candidates were. 

These are real issues and to remain ignorant about them just because it doesn’t interest you is dangerous. It allows you to remain complacent. I promise, there is something in the news that you care about. Maybe it isn’t taxes or healthcare or immigration reform, but there is something out there that affects you, and it is being debated and decided on right now by people in D.C. without your knowledge. I don’t know how to convince you that this is a problem if you don’t already think so. 

Take something near and dear to Notre Dame students. It’s no secret that a sizable portion of the student body is pro-life, but you would not believe the amount of students who have no concept of how the outside world sees the issue. There are many students on this campus who believe they hold the majority opinion when it comes to reproductive rights. According to NBC News, 71% of Americans do not want Roe v. Wade overturned. Does that automatically make the pro-life position untenable? No, but it certainly means it’s going to take a lot more than symbolic plastic roses on the quad and a “Womb to Tomb Dance” (an actual thing that happened on this campus that, try as I might, I have never been able to forget). How will you change minds if you don’t know how people are thinking?

This isn’t just a matter of principle either. The stakes are high, and they’re only getting higher. There were recent Supreme Court cases on gerrymandering, census questions and the death penalty. There are upcoming Supreme Court cases on antitrust laws, LGBTQ workplace discrimination and First Amendment retaliation claims. These cases have implications that could affect the rest of our lives. Or consider other pressing issues, like the fact that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and we have yet to do anything to protect ourselves in 2020. Or the fact that the U.S. just pulled out of the Iran Nuclear Deal. Or the fact that the president told minority American women in Congress to “go back where they came from.” I don’t care what topics or news stories grab your attention, but find some that do and educate yourself because no one else is going to do it for you.

When we allow ignorance to run rampant, it has real-world consequences. Why was the Trump administration allowed to put literal children in cages on our southern border? They didn’t ask the people, they didn’t send out a survey, they didn’t vote on it — they just did it. They banked on our ignorance and our complacency. They knew they could do it because not enough people would notice until it was too late, and they were right. When we stop bothering to glance outside our own bubble every once in a while, we stop caring. And when we stop caring, people suffer. So for the love of God, Notre Dame, care about something, read something, and then we can start doing something.

Mary Szromba is a senior majoring in philosophy and political science, and she’s never been wrong about anything in her entire life. Questions, comments and anonymous love letters can be directed to [email protected] or @_murrrrrr on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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