Qu: Stand Up, Speak Out

Those who encourage silence or sit back are failing their country.

by Dorothy Qu | 2/7/17 12:25am

My head hurts and the endless stream of ridiculous news on the KAF television screens does not help — there is no escape, as there are two, one on either end of the room. Oh, the struggles of an Ivy League sophomore government major. I spend my days writing hackneyed emails to congressmen that are probably barely skimmed by their aides, attempt to survive my commitments and classes and stay constantly drugged up on Dayquil to combat the most recent bout of flu. I do the bare minimum politically, yet I feel incredibly tired. I know that many of you may feel the same but refuse to admit it because you do very little to advocate for your political views, too. Still, I would like to address the immovable, heavy weight some of you may carry with you.

This is not an invitation to drown in self-pity. I’ve seen two major types of responses to the recent political and emotional upheaval and little real action. The first type is total purposeful ignorance: “I’m just so tired of this stuff. I hate it. Don’t mention anything political to me for a few weeks.” The second type is composed of weak attempts to find a “high ground:” “Hey, let’s just remember that we’re all Americans here. See, we have something in common! Don’t be so divisive.” I find the first response to be immature, the second unbearably condescending.

It is perfectly acceptable to need a break from politics. However, to remove it from your life completely is the equivalent to turning a blind eye to the atrocities being committed across the country. Similarly, you should not use politics as a means of elevating your own sense of self-importance. We all have the right to react to events that impact us all, our country and our loved ones. Insisting that we all “calm down” is not only detrimental to progress and discussion but patronizing. But condescension is easy to slip into. I find myself bordering on its threshold now. I’m pretending I know how to be less bratty than those who tell us to “calm down.” But maybe I do know what I’m talking about.

So what should you do to achieve the bare minimum requirements of democratic citizenship? You cannot praise America for being a democracy while failing to do your own research and take part in constructive discussions. If you can afford it, take breaks. Last night, I had the privilege to hear many talented individuals perform in the Dartmouth Idol semifinals. You may have seen me jumping up and down and screaming as my friends hit the stage. Yes, there are places where politics don’t particularly belong. However, your scope of compassion should not be limited to delegating awareness and action to politicians and activists. Acknowledging the potential danger Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos poses to our education system is not “divisive.” At some point, we have to take a stand on these issues that affect us.

So I say this: grow a backbone. Do not sit on the fence and think yourself better than others and do not pretend that your voice does not matter. This is a very formative time in modern American history, and we need your perspective — one in a myriad pool of diverse, engaged voices — more than ever. Everyone is tired, everyone needs a break and everyone needs time for private life. But trust me: you will feel far less tired if you actually type out an email, pick up a pen or call your congressperson. That weight you feel — and we are privileged that our burden is light compared to those who are more harshly affected by the new order of government — will be lessened very considerably. So whatever you believe — right-wing, left-wing, center — get involved. Even if this article affects just one person, I will have done my job. Maintain your private life, but remember that our democratic institutions and political system impact us all, and it’s your duty to be a part of that, now more than ever.