Students should perform civic duties, uphold informed beliefs

With domestic strife, including the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol and increasing party polarization, extremist narratives continue to divide America, and the idea of autocracy is slowly becoming a reality. The concept we constantly deem alien to our pristine democracy will come for us, if we don’t take action.

To address these issues, we must explore the role individual communities play in shaping each facet of our government.

Your power as a citizen to maintain or reform existing institutions extends beyond the polling booth and into relatively mundane habits like reading the news. Being aware starts with steps as simple as signing up for a variety of publications with different audiences. For local news, consider reading Palo Alto Online, which is accessible through the PAUSD ID portal. For national news, sign up for The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, both of which are free for PAUSD students, or the Washington Post. As for international news, try reading the BBC, which covers news in different countries.

Routine tasks such as keeping up with the world around you can counter information asymmetry, or misinformation, while also informing your personal and political decisions. It can also help us form and maintain relationships, become more grounded in reality and increase empathy.

Beyond reading the news and voting, go to congressional town halls and advocate for reform. Topics like police budgets, education and healthcare can be addressed by local governments in addition to the federal government. By speaking on these issues at a district level and providing individual input, you can contribute to the government taking a less bureaucratic stance on these topics. When fulfilling Paly’s community service requirement, get involved with local organizations that resonate with your values and interests.

Most of us live in a bubble that does not reflect the rest of the U.S. The Bay Area is a more privileged microcosm of U.S. society, so we have the resources and capabilities to inspire reform. However, we tend to wield that sword in the opposite direction, since most of us can afford to shut the news off and claim that politics don’t affect us.

Except it does affect us, now more than ever. Our politics are moving in retrograde, and we live in an era where government mistrust and suffocating party extremism prevail.

At this time, we must define our intrinsic values, stand firm in our well-informed beliefs and perform our civic duties so we aren’t swept away by the rolling tides of each party.