Speak Now: Thoughts On Taylor Swift Breaking Her Political Silence

Speak Now: Thoughts On Taylor Swift Breaking Her Political Silence

Hopefully Taylor's words can show some light in this darkness

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I truly became a Taylor Swift fan in middle school, after discovering her catalog in seventh grade, on the website Grooveshark, a precursor to Spotify. As a child, I had enjoyed classic Swift songs like "Teardrops on My Guitar" but as a growing tween who was, for the first time, experiencing romantic attraction to guys, I began to relate to these songs on a deeper level, realizing that Taylor Swift had put all of my strong, confusing, exhilarating emotions into words.

As a superstar constantly under the glare of the media, Taylor Swift has had to deal with more than her fair share of criticism and ridicule. Yet there's one criticism that's persisted which I consider legitimate: She has, throughout her career, largely remained silent on political issues. When she was just a country star, this made sense. While country music has historically been tied to the Republican Party, the genre has been largely apolitical in recent years. So in this particular context, Swift's silence was understandable.

But as Swift moved towards pop, growing her fan base to include millions of people around the world, her silence became even more glaring. Around the time of the release of 1989, Taylor was arguably the biggest pop star in America; and yet she refused to comment on pressing issues. Her song "Welcome to New York" had one line referencing gay relationships but despite the characterization of the media, the song was hardly a queer anthem. She didn't endorse gay marriage until a celebratory tweet right after the Supreme Court's decision. She called herself a feminist but was accused of being a white feminist. During the 2016 election, she notably refrained from supporting Hillary or criticizing Trump, who had bragged about sexually assaulting women.

Even with her album Reputation, where she borrows from rap and hip-hop, historically black genres, she didn't support the Black Lives Matter movement. I understood her silence; she wanted to appeal to both liberals and conservatives and from a business standpoint, this made sense. I was willing to defend her from critics, arguing that Taylor's music spoke to the universal human emotion of wanting to be loved, something which transcended partisan politics. Liberals and conservative could disagree on everything else, but at least they could agree that Taylor's songs were amazing. Yet it was disappointing to see someone with so much influence refuse to use their platform to advocate for the betterment of others, particularly marginalized groups.

So I was happily surprised to see Taylor's Instagram post endorsing two Democratic candidates in Tennessee. Not only was it nice to see her standing up for gay rights, acknowledging systemic racism, and proving her feminist bona fides by slamming Marsha Blackburn's opposition to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Violence Against Women Act; her comments were actually helpful. After her post, there has been a significant increase in voter registration. Additionally, the Senate race in Tennessee is a tossup. I doubt that an endorsement of Hillary would have swayed white working class voters in the Midwest, but Swift's endorsement of former Governor Phil Bredesen could actually increase voter turnout among millennials to help him win.

Conservatives were quick to dismiss Swift's comments. Trump said that he liked her music 25% less now. Mike Huckabee, the former governor of my home state of Arkansas, mocked Swift on Twitter saying that 13-year-olds can't vote. Once again, old white men underestimate the power of young people to enact change. Even if you aren't 18 yet, you can still be politically active in other ways. When I was 14, I joined the Young Democrats and canvassed for several candidates. When I was 16, I phone banked for Hillary's campaign. Clearly, voting is not the only avenue for political involvement.

Yet for Swifties above the age of 18, voting is vitally important. Countless studies show that 18 to 24-year-olds have low voter turnout rates, and these are even lower for midterm elections. And that's why Taylor's post is so powerful- it has actually motivated young people to get more involved. In these midterms, we have the opportunity to put a check on Trump's power. If young people actually turn out to vote, we can make a difference.

So hopefully, in these turbulent times, when our politics is so divisive and depressing, Taylor's words can be a light in the dark, reminding young people that our votes and our voices matter.

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As A Victim Of Sexual Abuse, Painting '#MeToo' On A WWII Statue Is Taking The Movement TOO Far

There is a line you should never cross and that is it.

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The famous picture of the sailor kissing a woman was taken right on V-J Day, when Japan surrendered to the U.S. in World War II. For decades it was seen as a representation of how excited and relieved everyone was at the end of the war.

The picture touched the hearts of thousands as you could feel the overwhelming amounts of joy that came from the snap of the camera. While the woman in the picture died back in 2016 due to a struggle with pneumonia, the sailor just recently died on Feb. 17, 2019 at the age of 95.

Most people saw it as both a heartbreak and heartwarming that the couple that was once photographed were now together.

Other people saw differently.

There is a statue made of the picture that resides in Sarasota, Florida. Police found early Tuesday morning of Feb. 19, two days after the sailor's death, that someone had spray-painted #MeToo on the statue's leg in bright red.

As a woman, I strongly encourage those who have been sexually assaulted/abused in any way shape or form, to voice themselves in the best way they can. To have the opportunity to voice what they went through without being afraid. As a woman who has also been a victim of sexual assault and has been quiet for many years...

This act of vandalism makes me sick.

While the woman that was kissed by the sailor was purely kissed on impulse, she had stated in an interview with 'The New York Times' that, "It wasn't a romantic event. It was just an event of 'thank God the war is over.'"

People were celebrating and, as a sailor, that man was so over the moon about the war being over that he found the nearest woman to celebrate with.

While I don't condone that situation, I understand both the reason behind it as well as the meaning behind the photo. I understand that, while it wasn't an intended kiss, it was a way of showcasing relief. To stick #MeToo on a statue of a representation of freedom is not the right way to bring awareness of sexual abuse.

It gives those the wrong idea of why the #MeToo movement was started. It started as a way for victims of sexual abuse to share their stories. To share with the world that they are not alone.

It helped me realize I wasn't alone.

But the movement, soon after it started, became a fad that turned wrong. People were using it in the wrong context and started using it negatively instead of as an outlet for women and men to share their horrific experiences of sexual assault.

That statue has been up for years. To wait until the sailor passed away was not only rude but entirely disrespectful. The family of that sailor is currently in mourning. On top of it, it's taking away from the meaning behind the photo/statue. World War II was one of the darkest, scariest events in — not just our American history — but the world's as well.

Sexual abuse is a touchy matter, I encourage everyone to stand up for what's right. But to vandalize a statue of one of the most relieving days in America's history is an act that was unnecessary and doesn't get the point of #MeToo across in the way it should. If anything, it's giving people a reason not to listen. To protest and bring attention to something, you want to gather the right attention.

This was not gathering the right attention.

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The Polar Bears Invaded, What Do We Care?

After all this is on the other side of the world, it can't possibly impact us.

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On February 10th, news started circulating about something pretty unheard of; some near 50 polar bears have made their way into the small Russian town of Novaya Zemlya. These bears have been reported roaming around the streets, and to people like us, this seems rather bizarre, and to some degrees fascinating. Florida is the polar opposite of the type of climate these animals live in, and so the majority of us have never seen a polar bear anywhere except maybe in a zoo. Taking this into consideration, it makes sense why we'd see the whole situation this way. After all, how cool would it be to be able to look out your window and see these guys walking around? How many people could say that they've experienced that? Probably not too many!

When you look into the details of this situation though, it becomes evident that this is actually a major nuisance and concern for the people affected. People have reported being scared to leave their homes, or send their kids to school because of the looming threats of these bears and their aggression, and there have been issues reported with the polar bears wandering into human residences. A state of emergency had to be called because of the safety hazard that they pose, and also because there is no known way to get rid of them. They've lost their fear of humans, and consequently, they no longer responded to things like guns being fired off, or alarms sounding.

This situation is a major issue, and as a conservation enthusiast, I believe it is one that everyone should be concerned with. Yes, even those of us who live over 6,000 miles away from Russia, and have no possible way of being impacted by the event itself.

When these polar bears wandered into this town, they began scavenging for food. If it were only one or two bears it could be said that maybe they just weren't fit enough to adequately hunt, but when these animals are arriving in the masses it's a major testament to the condition of the environment. The habitat that these bears live in is no longer able to sustain them, and considering the species is already endangered, that means that their habitat is in a terrible state. Some will argue that their habitat decline is due to climate change, and those who don't believe in climate change will protest against that.

I say forget whether or not you believe climate change is real or not; the fact that the environment can no longer sustain a shrinking population is problematic enough, without pointing fingers at a cause. The state of the world is changing, and it's not going to stop with impacting just the polar bears.

People tend to underestimate the importance of environmental issues. We don't really care about things until they're knocking at our front door and interfering with how we go about life. People ignored the fact that the ice stretches polar bears need to hunt have been shrinking, and now an entire town is having their livelihood completely disrupted because of it, for some continuous unknown amount of time. I say that people need to care about this because this could've been any community that is near a rural area. This could've happened much closer to home, with any species of animal that is facing environmental pressures. People need to take this event and learn from it. We need to stop turning cheek to environmental issues until they're hurting us. We need to start taking care of problems as they're presented and stop making taking care of the world we live on such a debate. It was polar bears this time, and unless we act it's only a matter of time before it's something else, and maybe it's us and our neighbors staying inside, too scared to go out.

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