Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Ancient words hold modern truth


Once upon a time, a young man announced, “I’m not voting in the presidential election” in a class full of journalism students.

Chaos ensued.

“What do you mean you’re not voting?”

“How can you say that? Do you think your voice doesn’t matter?”

“I know people who have died for that right.”

“Do you think you’re better than the rest of us?”

I watched as my classmate was ceaselessly attacked by a swarm of journalists, unable to get a word in to defend his position.

Maybe he doesn’t feel partial to one candidate or the other. Maybe he isn’t registered to vote because he doesn’t want to be called for jury duty. Maybe he doesn’t feel informed enough to make an educated decision. Maybe he doesn’t feel his voice will be heard, which, judging by my classmate’s reactions, proves to be legitimate.

No possible explanation seemed satiable for my frustrated classmates. Rather than give him the opportunity to defend his position, they quickly assessed that there was no possible reason a person should not want to vote.

I do agree that voting is an integral part of being a United States citizen. I feel fortunate to accept an opportunity that many people in other parts of the world do not have. I encourage my friends and family to vote.

We vote because we want our voices to be heard. We have a say in who’s going to be elected, which is a pretty powerful idea. But that doesn’t mean I feel harshness towards anyone who chooses not to vote. After all, isn’t that what voting itself is really about; having the choice?

Why should my classmate be hammered with criticism for a choice he decided to make? If I say, “I don’t want to watch ‘The Walking Dead’ tonight,” I don’t expect people to treat me with hostility. Most people understand and respect my decision because it is just that – my decision.

Aristotle once said, “It is the mark of an educated man to entertain an idea without accepting it.” It is an undervalued lesson for my classmates and Americans in general, to listen.

In the age of a 24-hour news cycle, we are prone to immediate news and immediate responses. We are trained to think that Republicans are bad people, that Democrats are just a bunch of dirty hippies, and that the line between right in wrong is clear and anything that we don’t believe is right should be taken as an offense against our personal value system. This kind of behavior is irrational and insignificant; if we are not willing to listen, how should we know how to speak? What to say?

Perhaps it’s because I was raised with two politically diverse parents. One parent cringes as the other sticks the Elizabeth Warren sign firmly on our front lawn.

Or perhaps it’s because I was raised with one older sibling, one younger, one sister and one brother. I have one wild side of the family, and one that is calm and polite.  My mother is sensible and grounded, my father can barely figure out how to turn on the TV without having a small temper tantrum (though I love him for it). I accept all these differences with gratitude, for they have helped me develop the mind that Aristotle so wishes we all could have. I was born a moderator.

Some believe I have no opinions because I like to find good in every choice. Although I see everything in its own realm, this doesn’t mean I have no opinions of my own. I don’t recommend that everyone agree with everybody else, I’m only asking that we consider every idea.

Maybe there’s a reason we still listen to this guy who hasn’t been around since 322 B.C.E.

As we approach this crucial election, let’s take a lesson from Aristotle and entertain our minds.


Katie McKenna is a Collegian columnist; she can be reached at [email protected]


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