ALI: A different kind of apathy

If I wake up today and I find out Obama hasn’t won, my biggest worry will not be what will happen to health care, or how taxation will change, or whether Romney will continue to find more women in binders to offend. Nope, my biggest worry will be that if Obama hasn’t won, my suitemates and roommate will have a collective aneurysm and internally combust, and I will have no one to room with next year.

Lesser mortals come home and complain about their p-sets (me), but not my suitemates. They like to come home and complain about some idiot in Entryway X of College Y and his Romney-Ryan laptop sticker. Some people sit and calculate their GPA — my suitemates calculate the votes needed to make swing states, well, swing. I spent one evening just watching my suitemate throw popcorn at the TV screen every single time Romney opened his mouth to speak. When I wanted to grab the attention of my other suitemate, all I need to do was whisper “Paul Ryan tax cuts,” and she became as alert as any good Democrat could be. Meanwhile my roommate tacked not one, but two Obama-Biden posters in our room, including one in Spanish. “Estamos Unidos” is now the last thing I read before going to sleep.

These are the girls I live with, and I am completely grateful for that. It’s comforting to know that at two in the morning, your suitemate will be jumping up and down because she single handedly registered 42 people to vote. There’s just one problem: I can’t vote. I’m not from this country. My passport is a different color.

And so set in the apathy. This wasn’t the apathy that people have complained about: the why-did-more-of-us-show-up-in-2008 variety. This was the peculiar, almost snobbish apathy of international kids who have no connection to this country at all — except, of course, for the fact that we’re at Yale. We didn’t skip class to campaign, and we didn’t tear Linda McMahon stickers off signposts (another thing my suitemates did in their spare time).

And this apathy is beginning to irritate me. For some, this “I don’t care” attitude morphed into a “I don’t know” attitude, but the last thing anyone should remain uninformed about is a presidential election in one of the most, if not the most, important countries when it comes to foreign policy.

And the election results will affect international students, too, right down to whether or not you can receive an I-20 student visa and how long it’s valid.

One international kid told me: “Why should I care about American politics? It’s not like they care about politics in other countries.”

I’ll tell you why. Because I’m sorry if you’re from a little island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, or a random Middle Eastern country churning out oil or a South Asian country with nuclear arms — no matter how important a player your country is in their region, its foreign policy doesn’t count for anything. The decisions their Congress or Senate or Parliament make are incomparable to the kind of decisions that the U.S. Congress and president will make. That my suitemate’s vote — the same lovable p-set-enduring, lunch-buddy suitemate — potentially decided how much aid my country will receive in the coming years is almost surreal. But it’s true, and it happened right in front of me. For anyone to argue otherwise that international students really shouldn’t care is ridiculous.

The election is over, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still be aware. Know your far-left liberals from your moderate Democrats, and your McMahons from your Murphys. Don’t be apathetic, even if you couldn’t vote. Because the people who did vote, on some distant level, voted for you, too. And that, more than anything, is the real worry.

Meiryum Ali is a freshman in Pierson Col- lege. Contact her at meiryum.ali@yale.edu .

This piece is part of the News’ Election Results Forum. Click here to read more.

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