See You in 2018
I’m 16, and soon I will vote.
My political awakening occurred when I was perhaps fourteen years old. The Republican congress had attempted to pass one pro-life bill or another; at this point they begin to blur together. I was angry, and passionate, and I wanted to protect the women in my community and beyond from having to stick coat hangers into their uteri. I railed against the hypocrisy of the white Republican men, their conviction that life is most important but refusal to provide welfare or support. I shouted that limiting abortion access is an attack on poorer women, that pro-life laws disproportionately affect women of color, that these supposed “life-saving” bills were nothing more than thinly veiled sexism and racism. We will not go back, I cried. We will not go back.
At that point, abortion access was the only issue I was concerned with. I had the privilege of being concerned with this issue alone. I had the reassurance that President Obama would veto any threatening legislation and that the left-leaning Supreme Court would protect women, would protect me.
Until now, I had the privilege of believing that the imbalances would work themselves out, that the government is beholden to the will of the people, that in the end, the scales tip toward fairness and equality. My position in this country allowed that. I am lucky. Many are not.
My naïveté has been stripped away. I have seen the ambivalence towards black children sick from lead poisoning in Flint; our President mocking a disabled reporter; the Senate refusing to hold hearings for a rightful Supreme Court nominee; a rapist receiving fewer than three months for his heinous crime; black men and women killed by the very people that are supposed to protect them; a silent world as thousands died in Aleppo; trans men and women discriminated against by their lawmakers; the leader of the free world describing how he sexually assaults women; the promised ban of an entire religion; the pledged deportation of millions of innocent people; the partisan targeting of a presidential candidate by a law enforcement agency; the blatant lying of a White House press secretary. This barely scratches the surface.
Obviously, it is better now that I know. Ignorance has made me complicit in these atrocities. As Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”.
In 2018, I will be able to vote. Millions of determined kids like me will be able to vote. And we are informed, better informed than ever. So, lawmakers, here is your reminder, and your warning.
I will vote. I will not tolerate hypocrisy, I will not tolerate institutionalized racism and sexism, I will not tolerate oppression. I will make sure to help oust any member of Congress or President that attempts to perpetuate an unfair system. I will call, relentlessly. I will not give up, and I will not be silent. You, the legislators, the President, you work for us, for the people, for the Constitution. The wants of your constituents override your personal agenda. Do not forget that you are beholden to the people, that your country is more important than your party, and that voting along party lines to advance your own political career is cowardly, and we will not stand for it.
I’ll see you at midterms.