There are two types of people: Those who are bystanders and those who take initiative when witnessing something they disagree with. As Americans, we often pick and choose when to be a bystander and when to speak up. Why talk if you don’t share the popular opinion, right?
Our society was founded on doctrine that believes one does not need to follow the popular opinion, it lives on the very idea that there is more than one side to a story. Most stories of activists and heroes we grow up learning about are those of the ‘underdog,’ who questions norms and are the change they want to see in the world. Where has this mindset gone?
With every new story unfolding globally, Americans tend to lean into what the general consensus is. We stopped valuing the idea of multiple points of view simply because it takes too much time. We became comfortable with trusting the first source we came across.
This comfort is more than just “comfort”. It is an underlying sign of privilege. While we sit on our beds scrolling through our phones, real people struggle to get their stories told for some sense of justice. Lives are being destroyed in all corners of the world, and we choose to look in the other direction because it is “too sensitive” or “not my place”. To those excuses, I raise you this. If not you, then who?
Politics needs people speaking up. It needs to have a debate, to have multiple voices in a conversation. If not, we end up with a society ruled by the few who are clever enough to say whatever makes them popular. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not live in a world where those who scramble to say whatever gets them elected are at the top of the totem pole, because at that point they’re not even brave enough to speak their own truths.
Former President Jimmy Carter puts it best: “Silence can be as deadly as violence.” Saying nothing is synonymous with saying it’s okay. Where would we be if leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Susan B. Anthony deemed their own causes as too sensitive? And more importantly, where would we be if the millions of people who supported them agreed?
There is an infinite amount of power in numbers, and the day-to-day people who helped each social movement come to fruition are often overlooked when recalling the stories of change. If everyone decides that someone else will get to it, nobody will get to it. This mindset is detrimental to change and the Achilles heel of politics.
Of course, along with most things, expressing yourself should come with some caveats. If what you have to say is truly the “right” thing, then you shouldn’t need to use anything short of respect when addressing it with others. If you have a genuine argument, then you should be able to find genuine facts to back it up.
I’ll leave you with this. Next time you come across a political topic that scares you, face that fear. Stop hiding behind the blanket of not being affected. The only reason why these topics are considered sensitive is because we make them sensitive by tip-toeing around them. Rip off the band-aid of ignorance and join the conversation.