I have always considered myself to be politically inept. I cowered from the news, avoided conversations about the upcoming election and ignorantly exempted myself from one of America’s greatest rights: the right to vote. I discounted the magnitude of my passion for our country and the potent impact of my voice. As the election season has progressed (or regressed to our subpar selection of presumptive candidates), and recent incidents plaguing our country have illuminated the key issues (in my still-somewhat-unaware political opinion) on which the presidential candidates should focus their impending policy changes, I’ve invested more time into investigating the issues I care about. Though I don’t know what the solutions are (or if the candidates are capable of implementing effective plans), the recent devastations of our country prove that change is vital for the United States -- ”The land of the free, home of the brave” -- to pump a confident vivacity into its citizens. The U.S. is a country that I’m proud of, but my faith in our policy makers is diminishing.
My anxiety has always inhibited me from confronting our country’s issues. I naively thought that if I didn’t watch the news (the endless reel of death tallies), I could push reality out of my mind and essentially feel safe. I was wrong. After every terrorist attack, every mass shooting, every rape case to make headlines, it is impossible -- and ignorant -- to pretend “it’s all good.” I would lay awake at night for hours after hearing about one of these calamities -- as I’m sure many people would -- and I would physically, and perhaps selfishly, fear for my own life. I wouldn’t be able to stave off the influx of images of bodies, murderers and chaos that was fracturing our fragile earth. Since I ignored daily headlines and fixated on the most severe, Googling well into the early morning with little to no background knowledge on the subject, I became paralyzed with my anxiety. And finally, after years of succumbing to my panic attacks and constant anxiety, I came to the conclusion that “knowledge is power.” It was time to learn where I stood on today’s current events, and to quite simply, learn about today’s current events.
Starting from zero, I’ve barely made a dent in accumulating the information I now yearn for. However, I now have informed opinions on pressing matters, rather than regurgitating out my parents’ or friends’ political views. My stances zig-zag across party lines; my political opinions are direct reflections of my personal ideals, which fail to conform with one party or another. What fuels my opinion is my fear: my fear of mourning the loss of more Americans; my fear of grieving for the people suffering in other countries with no government protecting them; but most of all, my fear of feeling unsafe in my home. So, maybe my opinions are founded on a conceited desire to quell my personal fears. But if we all employ empathy and fear for the world, fear for humanity itself, our inherent selfish views will encompass a desire for a better global society.
Knowledge is power, and conforming to the democratic ideals our nation was built on, we all have a right to knowledge and power. Don’t let your fears inhibit your political participation -- don’t be afraid your vote won’t make a difference, and don’t be afraid to be informed about the darkness of our world. By embracing our fears, we overcome them; by knowing what scares us, we know how to defeat it. Let your fears amplify your political voice -- let them illuminate the path to change, the path to confidence.