(I wrote this before my first primary election. I just had to express what I was feeling.)
On this day of my first (and possibly last) election on US soil, I feel compelled to say something about the current political climate of our country. As a millennial and soon-to-be American expat, I think my opinions might prove interesting, if not entertaining to some.
I’ve heard the stereotypes before: entitled, naïve, whiney. Millennials have been called a lot of names, but the one thing that I think describes us all is our stubbornness. You tell us one thing, and we’ll do the opposite. You tell us it can’t happen, and we’ll make it happen. Despite the name-calling, I’d say we’re a hardy bunch- especially when it comes to issues we believe in. Sure, a lot of our activism is limited to social media hashtags, but there is a lot more to our activism than just that.
In light of the recent shutdown of a Donald Trump rally, I can clearly point to a difference between typical “hashtag activism” and what happened at that rally. That group of protestors, exercising their right to free speech, was extremely brave. The hateful rhetoric and violence at Trump rallies is widely known, and yet they went and stood up for what they thought was right; they faced some scary circumstances head-on and, arguably, won. These people, in my opinion, are the epitome of what it means to be a millennial. In all honesty, I’m not sure if I would’ve had the guts to stand with them at that rally. I am in absolute awe of their courage.
That’s not to say that hashtag activism- or what I’m doing, for that matter- is any less important. I could just be saying that to make myself feel better, but I do believe that activism through the Internet has its place and significance, too.
As a future expat, I’m actually terrified- horrified- by what I am seeing this election season. As an American going abroad, I will be an ambassador for my country. I know I will be a positive image for the United States while abroad, but I can’t say as much for our presidential candidates. I know that every election has its circus- just look at the Gore/Bush voting fiasco- but this is taking the joke way too far. When a presidential candidate starts spewing discriminatory and racist things like:
“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” (South Carolina rally, December 2015)
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they’re telling us what we’re getting” (Candidacy announcement, June 2015)
“Laziness is a trait in the blacks…” (in a tell-all book by former Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino President, John R. Donnell)
“Negotiating with Japan, negotiating with China, when these people walk into the room, they don’t say, ‘Oh hello, how’s the weather? So beautiful outside, isn’t it lovely? How are the Yankees doing? Oh, they’re doing wonderful, great.’ They say, ‘We want deal!’” (in a mock [read: offensive] Asian accent, August 2015)
we’re in big trouble. (Trump is just the most obvious. Sadly, the list goes on…)
America has surely become troubled when a presidential candidate says things like that and, instead of having people be turned off by his offensive comments, actually gains followers for his xenophobic, racist views. I’m extremely worried for the safety and reputation of our country with thousands flocking to someone blatantly playing upon their deepest, darkest racist desires. With thousands flocking to someone encouraging them to act upon those sometimes-violent racist tendencies, I fear it will set us back centuries, erasing all of the progress we’ve made as a society.
This past century has seen so much progress: Civil Rights in the 1960s, gay rights in the 1980s until today, with gender identity rights now on the forefront. Instead of promoting more progress, I see politicians trying to take the country back to the 1940s and 50s- submissive women at home with the kids, not being able to access safe abortions; people of color and those who identify as LGBTQ persecuted in a society that doesn’t understand them; the social class gap expanding so that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. And they do all of this for personal power and greed. This is not the America I want; this is not the America I need. I need an America I can be proud of. And I’m deeply afraid of what is to come if this mad circus doesn’t stop.
That’s why I am voting. Not only is it our civic duty as an American citizen, but it is also the most direct method to influence the way our country works. Essentially, it’s an act of protest against the other candidates. So hashtag, blog, protest all you want, but unless you vote, it’s all meaningless.