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


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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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.

It won't.

Wait, what?

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town.

Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open-minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community.

I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK.

What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives.

What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all.

Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back: same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same-sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others.

As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being.

My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the Bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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Sociolinguistics Series: Part 50

Language is a powerful tool.


It's part 50--halfway to 100! I'm so glad to still be here writing! In this section, we will talk about Dr. Shikaki's findings on how Palestinians view the state of Israel.

25 years ago, 85% of Palestinians supported a two-state solution. 10 years ago, this number decreased to 70%. Dr. Shikaki believes this was due to an increase in the prominence of Islamism in Palestinian society during the second intifada; Islamists were opposed to the two-state solution. In the most recent survey, the December 2018 one, only 43% of Palestinians supported the two state solution.

In 2000, American President Bill Clinton met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PA Chairman Yasser Arafat at the Camp David Summit to come up with a solution to the conflict. It ended without an agreement, but in December of 2000, Clinton once again proposed a resolution: the Clinton Parameters.

The content of the Parameters basically allowed Israel to annex settlements while Palestine to take 94-96% of the West Bank, as well as Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. There were other guidelines regarding territory, refugees, security, and the end of the conflict. Essentially, the West Bank would have been split up by Israeli roads and settlements--which is kind of the reality today.

Both the Israeli government and Arafat accepted the terms with reservations, and Arafat wrote to Clinton a letter asking for clarifications on the terms. Clinton and Dennis Ross, an envoy of the Parameters, publicized that Arafat had refused to accept the terms; they painted Palestinians in a negative light, saying that Israel wanted to accept the peace negotiations but Palestine did not.

American Lawyer Robert Malley was at the Camp David Summit and oversaw parts of the Clinton Parameters. In 2001, he said that three myths had come out of the failure of both negotiations, and that these three myths were dangerous to any future peace processes if people kept believing in them.

These myths are as follows: "Camp David was an ideal test of Mr. Arafat's intentions," "Israel's offer met most if not all of the Palestinians' legitimate aspirations," and "The Palestinians made no concession of their own."

He said that these three statements were not true but very heavily publicized by America and Israel after the negotiations failed; rather, there is more nuance to each of these issues, and America and Israel have just as much responsibility in the failure of the Summit and Parameters as Palestine did. Malley wrote, "If peace is to be achieved, the parties cannot afford to tolerate the growing acceptance of these myths as reality."

Anyway, what does this have to do with Dr. Shikaki? He polled Palestinians not only on the their attitudes to the two-state solution, but the Clinton Parameters as well. 25 years ago, there was 60% support for the Clinton Parameters by Palestinians, but the June 2018 poll showed that the number had gone down to 37%.

The last ten years shows a significant decrease in public support for both the two-state solution and the Clinton Parameters, and it could be a result of disagreeing with specific parts of the proposals (such as how the Temple Mount/Dome of the Rock or Jerusalem is delegated).

I did some further digging when I got home, and I found this data from the UN Division for Palestinian Rights website:

"A 25 December [2000] published poll found that 48% of the 501 Israelis questioned were opposed to the proposals; 57% would object to Palestinian control of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound; 72% were against even a limited return of Palestinian refugees to Israel. A 29 December published poll found that 56% of the Israelis would oppose a peace agreement reached on the basis of the Parameters."

This shows that though public media--especially Western media--may have painted the Palestinian government as the villain (and Israel and America as the "victims"), the proposals accepted by either government had varied support among its people.

The Israeli civilian population did not want to accept the Clinton Parameters because of the way certain things would be resolved; their reservations lie with the Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa Mosque because the Temple Mount, which is the holiest site in the world for Jews, would have been given to Palestine, while Jews would have control of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount (which is the status quo).

In addition, there was a section in the Clinton Parameters that dealt with the right of return for Palestinians, where there would be a certain number of Palestinian refugees who settled in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while other Palestinians either would become citizens of their host countries, move to a third-party country, or settle back into the land that is Israel Proper (with permission from the Israeli government, of course); many Israelis did not support this.

That was the public opinion years ago. Today, there is even less support for these proposals. Dr. Shikaki outlined three issues as reasons for a decrease in support of compromise, which we will cover in the next section. Stay tuned!

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