Opinion: Political activism inspires positive change

Katie Lew, Photo Editor

Art by Katie Lew

I’m not really into politics.”

I vividly remember these words coming out of my mouth, on multiple occasions up until freshman year, telling people I wasn’t interested in such boring matters. I believed that politics was an adult subject that didn’t concern me. But I have since realized that this statement supports a destructive “ignorance is bliss” mindset. 

Desensitized from the horrors of our society after seeing posts and articles of countless injustices online, I was unable to view them as truly real. These tragedies only existed in the confinement of my phone screen. I would feel hopeless and frustrated only until I put my phone down and distracted myself, escaping these problems that some can never run away from. It was only when I discovered my closest friend had been experiencing severe racism for a long time that I began to realize the depth of these problems. The reality of these issues felt so distant from my own life that learning these problems are in the community so close to me served as the catalyst for my interest in politics. 

By definition, politics are the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area. It is what dictates our lives, no matter who we are. It is impossible to say politics doesn’t affect you. 

As I begin to witness the effects of politics occur more frequently in my life, little by little, I try my best to accurately inform myself of issues I hear or see online or from others. Either by asking a friend or looking it up on Google, I look further into the details so that I can come to my own conclusion. Though, I felt that being politically aware, though a great start, wasn’t enough. Through my research, I learned that being politically active is beneficial for those around you and even more so for yourself.

I’m 16 years old, meaning I will soon be eligible to vote. It is crucial for voters and soon-to-be voters like me to be politically aware so that we can be informed and independent voters rather than blindly following the masses or the ideologies that trap us online. This goes for all elections. Although it may be easy to bandwagon with the majority or get swept up in compelling conspiracy theories that may seem credible. Massive amounts of misinformation lies on the internet as well. Anyone can encounter misinformation anywhere and it is easy to confuse what is true and what is fake. Misinformation can spread from peers as well, as they may have been sucked into believing false information. Relying on your own research proves to be more trustworthy and assists with avoiding fake news. Being able to formulate your own opinion from your own research will also allow you to develop and strengthen your personal and political beliefs.

With many social movements developing in society, we are a part of the generation who will have to live through and with these societal changes. We can shape our future to how we want it to be by being informed and participating in our democracy. I started by following political figures I tended to agree with and other informational pages that posted political infographics on social media. These social media accounts often discuss various political topics in aesthetically clean and organized structures to provide information or opinion clearly. Venturing outside the bounds of Instagram, I subscribed to a couple news publications and watched YouTube videos that showed dialogue between two groups of supposedly opposite sides of a situation. I try to watch these videos with an unbiased mindset in order to seriously consider the new perspectives the video presents. By truly listening to multiple perspectives, you open your mind to understanding and communicating with those who hold different beliefs. These simple actions enabled me to be more aware of our political climate and recent events, which is more than enough for a first step.

By being politically aware, you can understand why people support particular candidates, believe the ideologies they hold, and how certain backgrounds may shape the party preference of the individual. With this understanding, we can communicate and express our opinions with clarity.

I often hear from those who aren’t politically active that they feel as though they have no power or voice in the political world, so why bother? By being informed and active, we are taking advantage of the power and rights we do have to inspire change and exercise our voices as active citizens of the country. 

Take Emma Gonzales and Greta Thunberg, for example. These two inspired many through their passionate speeches on what they believed, leading to mass attention and discussion to the issues of gun control and climate change. Through their speeches, these girls inspired walk-outs, protests, and other forms of activism speaking out about these issues. They are perfect evidence to show the capability of the younger generation on social issues and politics.

I, by no means, am an expert in politics. As I gradually learned more about politics and introduced myself to perspectives different from my own, I found myself reevaluating my values and beliefs on several occasions. During classes or discussions with other people, I found myself unaware of the existence of many topics. I even find myself struggling to find reliable news sources to stay politically aware. The only method I knew how to stay up to date was to ask Google and so I took this as an opportunity to find other ways of being politically aware and active.

Despite a surge of attention on social issues and politics in the past few months, especially from the younger generation, it is important to keep in mind that being political is not a trend. Social movements are not trends. These are all ongoing issues that people are advocating for, risking their lives for. 

It is incredible how involved and aware of the world people have become; our recent actions and our voices have shown the true power we hold as a people. The drastic increase in involvement and attention, though relatively recent, has made a huge difference in the progression of our society already. By forcing attention on previously overlooked issues, action is being taken to improve these complications. People are moving to solve our problems and becoming more aware of what we have yet to solve. So it is urgent to continue to educate ourselves, to speak up about our concerns, and to involve ourselves with our communities and countries.