In my early teenage years, I was remarkably politically active. I subscribed to a number of “action alert” email lists. Every day, I logged in (via a dial-up connection) to learn of injustices in need of resolving. And then, I wrote letters and emails to my legislators, absolutely certain that they’d take note of my eloquent missives and act according to the enlightened advice I gave them.
Ah, the optimism of youth.
Sometime in my teens, after an animal welfare disagreement with a local church, I became disenchanted with politics. If I couldn’t get a small-town minister, a family friend, to listen to my case, I reasoned, what chance did I have changing the world?
And so, as many young adults do, I found myself hoping for change but no longer doing the foot work to make it happen. Often, to assuage my inner 13-year-old, I comforted myself with the idea that engaging in the political realm just made me anxious and confrontational; it was better to spend my energies creating a perfect community in my little circle of friends and family and hoping that its goodness would spread outward.
I would still argue that there’s a lot about that idea that’s true. But, it also seems to me that it’s impossible to seal ourselves away in our own perfect worlds any longer.
We seem to be careening toward war. People without criminal backgrounds are being forcibly removed from the country they’ve called home. White supremacy rallies exist. Health care is in jeopardy. Our public lands are under threat. Ten days ago, a terrorist armed with a machete marched into my alma mater and assaulted non-Republican students.
I can’t be silent anymore. I can’t ignore the injustices all around me, pretending that because I’m okay everything’s okay. I can’t even pretend that I’ll go on being okay. I’m done waiting on the sidelines.