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"I'm pro-Kerry!" "Are you kidding me? I'm pro-Bush!"

How often, especially in recent weeks, have we heard this argument, whether at school, at home, or when talking with friends? Well, to tell you the truth, I'm neither -- I'm not pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-tax cuts and not even pro-war. You see, what I am is pro-talk. Yes, you read it correctly. I'm pro-talk, and that's the bottom line.

In American society today, we tend to think blindly. We will support a political issue just because someone says it is right, without even thinking about it. If John McCain supports it, then so do I! If John Kerry is against it, then I most certainly am against it, too!

But you see, there is a fundamental flaw here. Just because someone supports a certain political viewpoint, why should you? We need to think things over ourselves, figuring how the issue will affect us. A blind acceptance of someone else's ideas is not only foolish, but it is a mismanagement of our civic duties granted to us by the Constitution. It is our duty as American citizens to stay informed about the latest political issues. If we do not, how else can we make informed, educated decisions about which officials to elect?

Unfortunately, many of us take this duty lightly. In the 2000 election, only 50.7 percent of the voting-age population exercised their right to vote. That's just over half of those eligible!

With so much else to worry about each day, how can we possibly find the time to go out and vote, let alone research and form an opinion about important issues? This is where my point comes in. You don't have to be a political expert to participate in this process. All you need is a mouth, a voice and the ability to speak English, which, I hope, most of us have. When we talk about political issues, we become more informed. We are forced to express our opinions in logical words, and we listen to others and hear things from their perspective. Their thoughts may require you to re-examine your own viewpoints. It's a win-win situation.

So, if you haven't already, start talking about the issues. If you agree with the war in Iraq, say so, but be able to defend your position. If someone else chastises your opinion, listen to them! You might just learn something from their ideas. We can learn so much from each other. However, this will not happen unless you open your mouth and speak.

Say that you hate Bush, say that you hate Kerry. But whatever you do, keep on talking.

Michael Blake is a junior at Canisius High School.