Key Issues Don't Disappear at Elections End

Daily Bruin, November 10, 2008

"We should follow current events and ask questions even after the results of Nov. 4th have rolled in..."

The Daily Bruin

By Millie Tran

Thousands of people campaigned tirelessly for their respective candidate, and one campaign saw the product of its hard work materialize with Obama winning the presidency. But the grueling months of campaigning are over. The political jargon from pundits is over. The passion and drive to get someone elected has reached its climax, and we are left in a state of complacency.

If you didn’t follow the presidential race, you may have missed one of the most exciting elections in America’s history, but that’s OK. It’s never too late to follow current events. In fact, today or tomorrow would be an opportune time. The issues haven’t disappeared: The economy is still unstable, the health-care problem is still looming, the war is ongoing and a bevy of other pertinent issues are still hovering just below the surface. Now that we’ve voted and received an answer as to whom we believe can best tackle the issues facing our nation, we shouldn’t accept the answer passively.

The relationship between questions and answers is a difficult one. In 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was the answer. It brought a formal end to World War I on the provision that Germany and its allies pay reparations, disarm and accept almost full responsibility for the start of the war. The Treaty of Versailles may have been the answer, but it didn’t address the question – who would keep Germany from rising again as a military power? Then again, maybe that wasn’t even the question. At a time when the world was in such an upheaval, the treaty was unable to build a lasting peace. Thus, Germany rearmed and as history goes, a second world war.

The question of climate change saw its answer in the Kyoto Protocol. It categorized countries into Annex 1, or industrialized countries, and Non-Annex 1 countries. These classifications determined how different countries would be responsible for tackling the problem. While this answered the question of categorization and responsibility, questions of fairness remained.

In following current events, the mere act of observing facts and being cognizant of what is happening has the power to change the way we view the question.

Current events aren’t limited to just international relations or election season though. Following the news used to be a daunting task for me, not because I was uninterested, but because I felt that I didn’t have the whole history of a story yet, that I couldn’t put what I just read into context and make it relevant. I’ve come to realize that I don’t have to know every intricate detail of oil and the history of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to understand that gas prices surged this summer. Knowing the history is important, but it is not imperative and shouldn’t discourage people from following the news.

The context doesn’t need to be built from point A of the time line to point B. You can build your knowledge from somewhere in the middle and slowly fill in the gaps – your own little grassroots endeavor to be an informed citizen. You can begin to form context and make it relevant with the more you know.

Look at what is happening around you. Hopefully the initial immersion will spark a curiosity that leads you to explore the finer details of history. We cannot assume to derive answers merely through osmosis – it is an active process of inquiry and constant reevaluation. So the election is over. Know the answer, but keep reading and keep following, because the questions continually change. It’s never too late, because the question can never really be answered.

Millie Tran is a sophomore at UCLA and involved with Model United Nations at UCLA. She is also the Multimedia Editor at the Burkle Center for International Relations.

Published: Monday, November 10, 2008