After every deadly shooting rampage, Newtown, Connecticut’s horrific massacre being no exception, there are cries for gun control, and even louder cries to not politicize the incident. But don’t let anyone fool you – even the choice to “not politicize” something is, in itself, a political act. In fact, in some ways, not attaching political value to something and forbidding an event from being part of public discourse might be even more political than “politicizing,” as it is an attempt to silence dissent.
Doing or saying nothing is never apolitical. There’s no such thing. It may be easier and ultimately less productive than participating, but it doesn’t remove you from the political system. By withdrawing your own right to state or develop an opinion, you wind up supporting the dominant narrative, becoming complicit with how the powers that be are choosing to run things. Sometimes that’s the right approach and sometimes it’s the wrong one, but it’s always political.
Every time you pay to see a gory movie, that’s political because you’re supporting the notion that violence equals entertainment. Every day that passes where you don’t discuss the ongoing wars with your peers, that’s political because it implies that you don’t care. Every time you use your trendy smart phone manufactured in sweatshops, that’s political because it indicates you value a gizmo over working conditions abroad. All sorts of things that you might never give a second thought to are political. In short, it’s ALL political.
Inaction speaks louder than words. For as many people speak out and try to change things, exponentially more say nothing. When the majority opinion is “no stated opinion” that is a collective approval to give authority on the matter to those who already maintain power. In that sense, “not politicizing” ends up sounding a lot like voting for the incumbents.
A lot of this confusion over what constitutes “politics” stems from the fact that people are turned off by politicians. They don’t like the lies, they don’t like the partisanship, and they don’t like the decisions being made on their behalves. Therefore, they decide that they must not like politics in general, unaware that their entire lives are political. In actuality, disliking politics as usual is all the more reason to speak and live your own political values and truths.
Ultimately, whether or not you want to debate gun control following a tragedy is a personal decision. Just don’t pretend that the choice to refrain is any less political. When you say, “Don’t politicize this,” purposefully or not, what you are effectively saying is, “I prefer business as usual.” You can never be “above” politics, but you can find yourself beneath them.