A Lesson From the Passion of Argentines

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With the presidential election so heavily in the news, I find myself reflecting on my participation in politics. As part of the millennial generation, I am expected to be highly active in politics and have a lot of opinions towards our leaders and the future of government. However, I must sadly admit that I know very little. I follow politics as far as what is posted on social media and news article highlights/titles. The more people I have talked with, the more common I have found this, especially among college students.

    I recently studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The political system in Argentina is quite different than what we are used to here. Argentina has gone through a lot of political unrest in the past 60+ years. Recently, they had 6 different presidents in under 2 weeks. It is a type of unstable system that I can’t even fathom here in the United States. However, the passion Argentines feel towards politics is something I have also never experienced in the United States.

    From ages 18-70, you are required by law to vote in the elections. People from 16-18 and 70+ are also optionally allowed to vote. The most recent presidential election had an 81% voter turnout rate. The last Presidential election in the United States was not near as successful, with a 57% voter turnout rate. I started wondering to myself, in a country with such an unstable political system, why is there so much more passion than in a country that prides itself on democracy/voting and a system that is more stable?

    After studying in Argentina with my chosen focus on politics, I tried to answer this question and see how I could apply it to my view and participation on politics in the states. Overall, I took away three main reasons that this may be the case and to keep in mind in participating in politics in my own country.

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    First, Argentines have the viewpoint that if they do not vote they are letting their country down. It was stated that if you do not vote or are not educated enough, you are the only one to blame for the government in power that gets to sit at the “Pink House”. Argentines take full responsibility for who they elect and their active participation. To bring this to the states, voting shouldn't be simply seen as a right, which I feel is often time taken for granted, but it should be recognized as a privilege and a way to enact change. People constantly say their vote doesn’t matter or it is the best of two evils, but every vote does matter. 

    Second, the passion Argentines have in general affects their politics in a positive way. Argentines live very passionate lives. They love what they do and love to talk about what they are interested in. People in Argentina are not uncomfortable by political discussions/political graffiti street art or seen as rude for sharing their stance and viewpoints. In the US, politics are a touchy subject. I believe it is important to get over the stigma of talking about politics as being negative. With more discussion, people will be able to see viewpoints they might not have and grow from educational and passionate discussions with others.

    Lastly, and in my opinion the most important reason, the education on politics. Argentina places a heavy emphasis on their education around elections and politics. In the US, it is up to the citizens to be intellectually curious on politics and elections. In Argentina, it is almost impossible not to know everything about the elections and discuss them openly in gatherings around the city, work or classrooms. I believe education needs to have a bigger emphasis in the United States. With educated citizens, voting rights rise.

    Overall, it was interesting to see how another culture has similarities and differences in relation to a generally common topic. As this election season continues, I urge you to think like the Argentines in relation to passion, education and responsibility towards your voting. We are the future generation and we can make a change. We just need to be willing to put in the work and not be tainted by the media and negative view on politics and voting that has arose in our country over the years.

-Cindy Love