Column: You as a student, can make the difference
Two protesters hold up their signs during the Women's March on Washington in downtown Tucson on Jan. 21. One of the best ways for students to become politically engaged is to participate in events like this one.
The most important thing to keep in mind right now is that this is not normal. It’s not normal for any country, especially America, to be run by the people who are currently running it.
With that in mind, we must enact change and do it fast. This is not a sit-around-and-tweet-your-complaints kind of situation. This is a get up, get out and immediately take action kind of situation. While this can seem intimidating, there are actually several relatively simple and straightforward ways to get involved and enact change.
Change needs a grassroots movement; change must start from the ground up. This means first going through local government with the goal of eventually having changes make their way to the federal government. While it’s tempting to just go straight for the big leagues and attack the Trump administration, that’s unlikely to actually advance anything.
Something as low-level as attending a city council meeting can be a great first step for someone who wants to be politically active. Become educated on what is happening locally and see who is an ally. Grassroots movements need to build numbers, and the best way for that to happen is through the unification of different groups who have the same goal—even if it’s for different reasons. Look up lists, which are always publicly accessible, of who voted for what and email to show either your support or dissent on their vote. Email your mayor; email the legislators from your state; email every local government member you can find.
The main point is to make your voice heard. What is the worst that can happen? You get ignored? Ignoring constituents is never in the best interest of a politician; they need support. Especially if they want to move up to federal government, it would look terrible if they do not even have majority support from their hometown. Politicians know this and are most likely going to respond to you. Be persistent. A lack of persistence in our current state of existence will result in mothers being deported away from their children, girls dying from back alley abortions, the rise of white supremacy, the demise of our planet due to global warming, rampant Islamophobia and a Pandora’s box of other devastating consequences.
You don’t have to be the “protesting type” to enact change now. Anyone and everyone can and should be taking action. This is not a normal situation. Even if you have never protested before or never emailed your local government officials before, never attended a city council meeting before or never been politically involved, now is the time.
I have never been political. My first protest was the Women’s March a month ago, and last night, I sent my first ever email to a government official. I’m not writing this column from the perspective of someone who knows how to be political. I’m writing this column from the perspective of a terrified, broken-hearted but inspired American young adult who, for the first time, cannot bear to just stand by and support and admire those who are taking action.
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Protests are not scary; the Women’s March was full of happiness, stranger-to-stranger warmth and an overwhelming sentiment of support and unification. Contacting your local government is not lame or useless because they are there to serve you. You have every right and at this point. You also have an obligation to make your voice heard.
I implore you to care. If you do not care, who will? Apathy has never gotten anyone anywhere. A giant orange wrecking ball is bumbling through the White House, and it is up to you to get in his way and limit the wreckage left in his wake. You don’t have to be Malala and travel the world speaking about your views, planning protests and producing petitions. You can start small. Any little wave you can make will help, and you may not believe it or see it, but the world is a chaotic place and one tiny change in input can drastically change the output. A butterfly flapping its wings in Colorado could cause an earthquake in Singapore. Be the butterfly; flap your wings. It’s okay if it’s just little flaps at first, but you have to flap.
Follow Talya Jaffe on Twitter.