Write Your Voice
Currently, I’m sitting in downtown Seattle in a coffee shop that’s playing slow Bowie songs to its total of maybe 6 customers. It’s still dark outside, cold, and the last hours of President Obama’s time in office.
I was never very interested in politics and government until this past year when political hyper-sensitivy moved like thick smoke through every city street in the USA. We’re all inhaling and exhaling it. We’re all affected. We’re all exhausted. A part of what brought me to the need to write this was a reaction to the political state of the USA, but there’s so much more that goes into this.
2016 was a year of upheaval, change, darkness, and resilience. It was also the year I got engaged, became vegan, quit my steady job, and decided to make some major personal life changes. One of those changes impacts how I want to communicate and interact with others: a commitment to write my voice. I believe you should commit, too.
2016 Was The Year so Many of us Realized Silence Wasn’t Working.
I had a number of conversations, mostly with women my own age (mid-to-late 20s), about our lifelong devotion to silence: when walking on the street and someone calls at us, when overhearing sexist comments, when being skipped over for leadership roles, to be silent. We learned that being agreeable was a positive quality for a lady. I carried these conversations to my fiancé. I’m so thankful for his perspective keeping me grounded and reminding me that men go through their own restrictions: being told to man up, to hide emotions, to be the alpha male at all times, to be the silencers. They learned that having any traditional feminine qualities was a negative quality for a man. I think a lot of us tried to live up to what we thought we were supposed to be even though we knew something wasn’t right with it.
Then police violence against the black community took center stage. Then the shootings at Pulse happened in the city I called home for several years. Then a number of rapists walked away with little more than a slap on the wrist and community service, without needing to register as sex offenders. Then we had politicians and presidential candidates condoning, shrugging off, and participating in sexual harassment towards women. Then the president-elect gathered members of the media and threatened them.
And I think my generation (and beyond) has had more than enough of it at this point. We’re tired of being told who to be, how to act, what should be allowed, and who should matter because that’s just how it’s always been. An article written by Nicolas Cole titled The 1 Word That Gets Every Single Millennial in Trouble expresses a lot of how I feel on this topic. (I highly encourage you to read it once you’re done with my words. Or, now, if you’re impatient. That’s fine too.) I think this resistance heated to its boiling point in 2016 and I’m waiting to see it all erupt in 2017.
Keeping your head down may quell your own uneasiness, but it will never, never, never solve an issue. Silence only allows for two options: delaying facing the issue and allowing the issue to continue.
So What Can a Single Voice do to Change Years of Practice?
Individuals have been changing the course of history for as long as there has been history. If you’re uncertain about what one person can do, what one person’s words can do, here are some reminders.
Charles Darwin: Nearly everyone knows Darwin as the man behind contributions to evolution and whose ideas eventually sparked the term Darwinism that expanded on more than just his own theories. On The Origin of Species was published in 1859 and received a large amount of hostile criticism as the initial reaction. He responded to criticism, edited and re-released his book more than once to address criticism, and forged a path for evolution to become a wider accepted theory. His voice added fuel to a fire that was already burning and made it bright enough for the whole world to see.
Harper Lee: Author of To Kill a Mockingbird, she fearlessly sent her ideas out into society. The book was published in 1960–4 years before The Civil Rights Act of 1964 that outlawed discrimination of race, color, religion, sex or national origin in the USA. This included racial segregation in schools. Harper Lee vocalized criticism of serious issues such as racial prosecution and rape while uplifting the moral compass of Atticus Finch and nodding to the rise of feminism with Scout.
Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward: Yes, this is two people, but each had their own voice. In 1972, these two journalists were assigned to cover a story for The Washington Post about a break-in at the Watergate office complex. The story spiraled into possibly the biggest scandal of USA politics with Bernstein and Woodward on its heels, never giving up or relenting. Eventually, the scandal led to the resignation of President Nixon. The duo were a prime example, in my opinion, of what journalism should be. Not bought out or swayed, but honest and determined to report on the truth.
Why You Should Write Your Voice.
I’m no Darwin or Bernstein. I’m no Lee or Woodward, either. I have a simple blog where I write out my feelings on veganism, travel, and trying to figure out how to navigate this life of mine the best I can. I don’t expect to uncover some grand scandal or introduce a new way of thinking into the world. I also understand that this doesn’t make my words any less important.
Have you ever seen an article’s title that grabbed your attention, so you read it, and were left feeling empowered, motivated, or even — in whatever way you needed it — understood? Saved? That piece you stumbled across that was exactly what you needed to read at the exact right moment. Someone out there took a chance on their own voice, wrote it, and sent it out into the vastness of the internet. And then you found it.
That’s the power of writing: it can change the world or it can change a person’s world. It can motivate others into action.
Another article that brought me to writing this was Ezinne Ukoha’s They Want Writers That Write for People That Don’t Read. I read that and sadly agreed with it. Shortly after I was hit with a feeling of but we’re better than this. We’re better than relying on bullet-pointed lists that skim the surface of the ideas our brother and sisters of humanity want to put out into the world. We need to read and in order to read we need people to write.
So This is The Part Where I Ask You to Join me in Action.
I beg of you. Write how you feel, about anything and everything. Put it out there. It will not only help you understand yourself and your stances more clearly, but there’s a real possibility of it being read by someone who needs to read it.
Whether you’re the winner, loser, or neutral party, your voice matters. You matter.
We’re in an age of what seems to be an excess of information from top 10 lists to fake news. Most of what I see out there is garbage, honestly. Light-hearted pieces about celebrities, what lipstick color are you, who got engaged to who, who divorced who, and lists of things you’ll never believe happened. So write, but write thoughtfully. Intelligently. Write something that takes more than 30 seconds to read all the way through. Write for people who want to read and if you’re not a person who wants to read, make a late resolution to read more. Arm yourself for the upcoming years with information that matters.
We’re also in an age where the incoming USA governing body will most likely condemn, dismiss, harass, and threaten the media. If there was a time to be vigilant and responsive, it’s now.
Write your voice. About science, education, cooking, parenting, illness, coffee, literature, video games, travel, politics, art — whatever it is that moves you. That idea that’s been in the back of your head nagging at you every time you’re driving, taking public transportation, drifting off to sleep, or in the shower. The spark of outrage or passion that flares when you hear a topic or opinion. That idea you keep bringing up to friends, family, and/or coworkers. Build out your ideas, explore them, and write them to complete fruition. We need that. We need to communicate to each other about issues that matter. To find solidarity in a time when it feels like the world is ripping itself apart.
I beg of you to write. I beg of you to read. Silence does not encourage growth. You and your voice are needed.