When I was in high school, I understood politics had an effect on everyone, including me. Despite that, I didn’t start taking an interest in politics until I started college. Before anyone says anything, I want it to be known that I wasn’t “brainwashed by liberal professors” or whatever nonsense conservative parents worry about these days. My teachers had nothing to do with my decision to learn about politics.
Before college, I had friends who were very invested in politics, so I managed to learn a little bit from them. They weren’t exactly trying to teach me about politics; they would talk about it, I would nod and smile as though I understood, and I would manage to pick up on a few things during the conversation. I wasn’t one of the teenagers who got their news fix from Tumblr or Twitter or anything. I didn’t need to be. I had my friends, ready every afternoon to update me on the latest decisions the government made.
When gay marriage was legalized, I celebrated with my friends. When Trump was elected, I mourned with my friends for the future of our country that had been lost. When he was impeached, we were back to celebrating; this time, a little muted, knowing that it wouldn’t really change anything.
Trump didn’t get me into politics. I knew that having Hillary Clinton as President would be bad, but I knew Trump would be worse. And that’s all I really knew. I was aware that he was homophobic, racist, an awful politician and a worse person, but I didn’t really comprehend the gravity of the situation at the time. As time went on, however, I began to understand.
The election of Trump has affected me in ways I cannot describe. I don’t mean that in a dramatic way. I truly can’t think of anything specific. All I know is that somehow, some kind of way, it has impacted me and my future.
Many of my friends can’t say the same thing.
Too many of my friends can name multiple ways in which the election of Trump has negatively impacted their lives, for instance, by revoking transgender healthcare protections. Too many strangers can name multiple ways in which Trump’s election has ruined their lives and the lives of their families with the changes he’s made to the country’s immigration policies. Too many people I don’t know, but whose faces I see in the news and online, can’t do anything anymore because of the way he’s handled the coronavirus pandemic thus far.
You might be wondering why, four years later, I’m suddenly speaking out against his election. It’s because I care about others. Even though Trump’s election doesn’t feel like it directly impacts me, I know that it directly impacts others, such as the Native Americans of the country who are losing their sacred burial grounds. It negatively impacts them. It hurts them in ways I can’t even begin to imagine. As a living person who experiences this thing called “empathy,” I cannot stand by while people I don’t know, but people nonetheless, are harmed by a completely preventable thing.
People like to talk about world peace and love. Those same people immediately turn around and only advocate for the causes that directly affect them. They say that African Americans need to “get over the whole slavery thing,” yet still moan and complain about Hamilton’s non-white cast, or the current trend of calling argumentative women “Karens.” They ignore the plights of others, and instead of feeling their gut wrench every time they see another death on their newsfeed, they roll their eyes and complain about having to wear a mask.
World peace cannot exist without empathy. World peace is unachievable without people caring about others. If you are unwilling to learn about the struggles of people different than you, you don’t want world peace. You want the idea of it. Actual world peace requires everyone to learn about the struggles that people different from themselves are facing. Actual world peace requires everyone to care.
Four years ago, Donald Trump was elected, and I said nothing. I felt that my lack of political knowledge invalidated my opinions. This year is different. This year, I am knowledgeable. This year, I am speaking up. This year, we have seen the effects of a Trump presidency, such as 1,500 children being lost. Electing Trump again would be equal to taking an exam as you hold the answers in your hands yet failing anyway.
Four years ago, I didn’t care about politics because I didn’t think they affected me. This year, I care about politics because I know they affect others. I care about politics because I know that I can help, even if it’s just by donating and educating. If the suffering of other people isn’t a good enough reason for you to get involved, to try to help, to get angry at the government and the world that allowed it to come to this, I don’t have anything else to say to you. I don’t have time to yell at a brick wall. I’m too busy actually making a difference.