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Commentary: Apathy in America is a growing plague

President Barack Obama gave the address at the OSU Spring Commencement 2013 ceremony on May 5 at Ohio Stadium. Obama's speech largely focused on citizenship and the need to increase voter awareness.

Shelby Lum / Photo editor

America is broken and nobody seems to want to fix it.

Crossing the aisle has been replaced by finger pointing. Stubbornness and greed now take the place of
compromise and compassion.

American citizens are quick to blame the government and the politicians that make it run. Politicians
pass the blame torch across party lines, arguing amongst each other until sooner or later people seem to
forget who is at fault. Everyone wants someone to blame, but nobody wants to blame themselves.

It is time to set the record straight and identify the people at fault for our country’s problems: the
American people.

The American citizens who believe the government is to blame for the country’s problems have a type
of selective amnesia, seeming to forget who elected these government officials in the first place – themselves.

Apathy is becoming an American plague. Most citizens today are worried less about the state of our
union, and more about the entertainment options at our disposal in
the modern age.

People just do not seem to care anymore. Want proof?

In the recent 2012 presidential election, about 58 percent of all eligible voters in the US chose
to vote, according to a George Mason University study.

Compare that to the turnouts of the previous two elections in 2008 and 2004 which were slightly above 60
percent and the trend becomes very clear.

Fifty-eight percent of a group making the decisions for 100 percent of the people is bound
to cause some issues. It is no shock to me that when 58 percent of voters in this country elect
officials to represent the interests of an entire nation, the views of the collective American interests can
become distorted.

If many Americans see our representatives as incompetent and only looking out for their individual
interests, then why do about four of 10 eligible voters choose not to make their voice heard?

The answer again is apathy. People love to complain about all the things that are wrong in our country,
but if American is broken, what steps are being taken to try and fix it?

Instead of becoming more proactive, many Americans have chosen to play hot potato with their responsibilities as a
citizen, thinking someone else will swoop in to save the day and solve their problems.

This attitude of passing off problems for the next person to solve is the exact reason why a number of
incompetent politicians continue to get elected. Forty-two percent of American voters chose to pass
their responsibility to the others to decide for them, forgetting to take into account that politicians do
not always get elected for the right reasons.

Too many political candidates today woo their audiences with empty rhetoric, candid grins and
public appearances. Flattered voters give these candidates their votes and it is not until sometime later that the
voters realize the people they elected to help this country actually are only worried about their own
special interests and keeping their political careers afloat.

The sense of entitlement that many Americans possess only further increases the general apathy
toward serious issues.

Much of the American population sees the United States as the best country in the world. This belief
contributes to American apathy because it leads to a particular line of logic: if America is the best country in the world, it will get through any problems.

Sure America’s military power is one of the best in the world, but are we really the best country? What
criteria determines which nation is the best?

Is it our self-reliance and sustainability? It cannot possibly be that, because the United States owes the
second-most money to foreign countries than any other nation on the planet, according to the CIA.

What about America’s intelligence and education system? Are these the things that make us the best?
If that was the determining factor, the best country on the planet would be Finland. The United States, on the other
hand, ranks 17th in the world in education attainment, according to a Pearson report.

Reality becomes starker the more areas one looks at.

America is debt-ridden, lagging behind other world powers in areas like education, environmental
protection and technological innovation.

About four of 10 eligible voters do not care enough
about the country’s direction to go out and vote every two years. The two American legislative bodies are so divided that achieving any legislation in a timely manner is virtually unheard of, no matter how much the
public complains. Many of our politicians pursue their own personal interests instead of the interests
of their constituents, but  as constituents become more apathetic, the number of people holding
these politicians accountable dwindles.

The life expectancy of our population ranks 51st in the world and
to top it all off, we are the sixth most obese nation in the world with a staggering obesity rate of about one out of
every three citizens, according to the CIA.

The American people need a reality check.

It is time to stop telling ourselves that we are the best just because that’s what it seems most other American citizens believe. Saying we are the best does not make it true, and while Americans have rested on their self-
inflated beliefs of superiority, other countries around the globe are racing past us.

It takes more than 58 percent of our population to steer this country in the right direction, and if
the apathy held by many Americans does not begin to diminish, the United States is never going to catch
up.

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