Different people have asked me when I became passionate about social justice issues. Pondering this question, I realized this fire has always been in me, but when I was growing up, it looked more “normal” because I was still developing my own views while largely parroting what I heard and filtering it through my own thoughts. Today, many people in my sphere of influence do not agree with my views and perspective, but I am trying to learn how to interact and communicate in a non-alienating way (not something I’ve always done) while not compromising my stance.
It dawned on me that these facets of my personality and self are a combination of a fire in the core of my being and my mom conscientiously educating me about politics and processes, even placing me in observational situations, at a very young age. Below, I attempt to articulate: when it all began, why I am passionate about social justice issues, and why politics energize me.
When I was young (maybe 4 or 5) my mom took me to a nearby city where former President George H. W. Bush was speaking. It turned out the date was wrong, so we got breakfast instead, but she wanted me to have exposure to a recent former president speaking.
At age 5-6, flipping through a child’s book of different countries and cultures, I saw children sleeping/living in cardboard boxes. It was the first time I knew that not all kids had safe and warm homes to live in. I cried.
During the voting process of whether or not to impeach/remove (can’t remember which) former President Clinton from office, where was I? You guessed it: sitting in front of the television watching a rare government process take place. I was 7/8 years old—and, if I recall, I really wanted to play outside instead. Now, I’m grateful.
When I was nine, my school handed us weekly copies of one of Scholastic Magazine’s student editions. It was during the final months of the 2000 election campaign–the first one of which I have vivid memories. We read and discussed it in school, the lady I carpooled with talked about it driving home, and my opinions were forming–obviously, at the time, in support of former President George W. Bush. That year my mom made scones and tea and we watched the inauguration together.
Since then, I’ve aspired to be the first woman president, debated issues with teachers, scoured candidate’s websites to read their views on important topics, watched presidential debates, attended Virginia’s Model General Assembly statewide gathering for high school students, written for my university’s student newspaper, watched (with pride) the USA’s first black president take the oath of office, served on my university’s student government, studied journalism, worked as a journalist, opened my eyes to look for the deeper issues than what the news reports on the 24-hour cycle, and planned and attended activism and political events.
Social justice has always been a passion of mine—but I didn’t know to call it that. However, it wasn’t until three years ago that I began to realize there were whole realms I didn’t know existed as problems. I didn’t know people of color were still targeted by police. Hate crimes against LGBTQIA seemed almost outside my comprehension—unless the action was specifically done as such. And the “conspiracies” about the motivation behind politicians was still a little much for this young woman who wanted to believe that people were mostly good.
I started dating a guy. He pushed me to see what I hadn’t yet seen. It’s one of the things I love about him—that he wanted my awareness and consciousness to grow. Since then, we’ve shared a passion for many areas: some are more his and others mine. We’ve each supported the other one attending a massive social justice/political event.
I am passionate about social justice issues because all humans are not treated equally. The earth is our home, our life source, and we treat it like the parent who never says no, but who one day decides enough is enough and no longer enables his/her children. Governments of the world are controlled by greedy people, very few of whom genuinely care about the well being of their people, their country, and individuals around the globe. We wage war on strangers in distant lands and justify it in the name of “national security”, while making other borders anything but secure. We kill innocent bystanders and label them “collateral damage” so that we don’t have to dwell on the thousands, perhaps millions, who have died living their lives, hoping to survive.
Politics energize me because it is one way that people (supposedly) have the power to make a difference. However, at this point, powerful families and corporations have control over much of the world’s governments, resources, and other systems. It is important that we conscientiously put people in leadership who will fight for what is best, will critique and make changes, and take down what is not working. The people have a responsibility to make known what they want for their region, country, and world. More than anything, we have to engage in whatever ways possible: in person, by email/phone, social media, writing, speaking, etc. We must make it known what we want and not step down, even when it happens, to ensure it continues. Also, protests are not bad.
Finally, I firmly believe the biblical Proverb that says:
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a sharp word stirs up anger.”
I firmly believe all humans are deserving of dignity.
If we all, government officials from the bottom to the top and citizens, applied these principles to our thoughts, words, and actions, our world would look drastically different—and war with N. Korea might not feel so imminent.