BY OCTAVIAN ROBINSON
I am political because I care. I don’t care for partisanship. I don’t care for politicians. I don’t care for politics for politics’ sake.
This is what I care about: people. Children. My friends. My deaf brethren. My fellow human beings. The creatures that inhabit this planet’s rivers, land, and air.
I also care about social justice. Equality. Opportunity. First-class citizenship for all regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, class, disability, religion, et al.
I, too, care about my hard earned paycheck. For every penny squeezed out of my hard earned money that goes towards taxes, I damn well want to know how it’s spent. I want to make sure that my hard earned money doesn’t fund hate or oppression. And if it does, I want to be ready to react.
As a scholar of history, history has taught me that we must care. We must learn lessons from history if we want to be an open, progressive, egalitarian society where every single individual is empowered to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. History has taught us time and time again that our civil liberties suffer the moment citizens drop their guard, are uninformed about politics, and relax their vigilance against the powers of big business and government. The poor and the powerless also suffer. The underclasses—including deaf people—suffer. I cherish my rights to free speech, free press, free assembly, trial by a jury of my peers, protection from unreasonable searches and seizures, and all the other rights outlined in our Constitution and subsequent legislation.
The moment we stop watching, reading, writing, speaking, voting, and especially when we stop caring, is the moment that our hard-earned rights and privileges of citizenship are stripped from us. Not in one sudden, swift move but rather in a gradual and piecemeal process.
Most importantly, as a deaf person, as a historian of the American Deaf Community, I am keenly familiar with the struggles that our deaf predecessors have experienced since the 19th century in order to provide deaf people with first-class citizenship.
Citizenship was something they treasured above all. Deaf leaders argued that deaf people’s education, economic opportunities, home ownership, and the very fabric of the deaf community depended on active, vigorous political participation that began with the pen and the ballot. With that, they achieved so much for future generations of deaf people. I care about their achievements. I want to guard and further those achievements for the sake of my deaf brethren and for future generations of deaf people.
If we want to guarantee our own happiness and future as well as the well-being of future generations of our children and the American Deaf community, we must care.
We may be wrong. We may be confused about issues. About who to vote for or what each party truly stands for. But political participation begins with one simple step: caring. For politics affects everything in our waking lives: from the air we breathe to the food we eat to the gas that fuels our cars and gets us to work to our evening entertainment on the television to the very beds we sleep on. How can one not care?
I am political because I care.
ABOUT OCTAVIAN ROBINSON
Octavian Robinson graduated from Gallaudet and is currently a Ph.D candidate at Ohio State. He lives in Ohio with his Weimaraner and three angry felines.