OPINION: High school students need to be more involved now, not later

Protesters march in a March 2018 demonstration against gun violence. The poster featured here is adorned with the faces of activists made famous through the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas shooting in Florida of 2018. Photo courtesy of Tristan Loper & Wikimedia Commons.

Every student at East has had to take Civics or AP US Government and Politics and knows that each citizen has a responsibility to fulfill their civic duty, which is obeying the law, serving on a jury, paying taxes and voting. 

And students and adults will do just that. 

But that isn’t enough, especially not now at this crucial time. By ignoring this opportunity as a mass percentage of the population, we are actively being a part of the problems that plague this world. 

The world’s lungs are on fire. Brazil is still recovering from the flames that destroyed countless ecosystems and lives. California is still burning despite preventative measures taken. With over 8000 acres burnt, even the rich and the famous haven’t been able to escape the impending dooms of dry land and windy weather. Fuel to the fire, is the impending climate doom as Trump just pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords. 

We could have been there, on the streets, striking, protesting and calling. Finding any way possible to make our voices heard, creating the change necessary for us to prosper. 

Not only that, there are 30 conflicts going on between countries around the world. Syria is one of the largest currently, with multiple countries involved and deaths reaching 470,000 officially, but many estimate much more. As one of the largest ongoing humanitarian crises, with the Syrian military targeting schools, hospitals and public centers plus the illegal use of chemical weapons, definite change has yet to be seen in a conflict that has been going on for years. Large populations are suffering from famine, disease and dehydration. Over 70 million people are fleeing oppression and conflict.  

We could have been there, striking, protesting, calling.

Global warming and climate change is unstoppable at the current rate. An upcoming economic crisis.Terrorism, Nationalism, Sexism, Racism, Classism and pretty much every terrible -ism that is out there is still ever-so-present in society.  

We are there, yet we let it go too far too often.

For example, nearly 75 years after World War 2 ended, Jewish people are still facing antisemitism and attacks against them, especially with Nazi far right groups finding holds in social media and a split society. The gender disparity in income is still evident. Racism and discriminatory practices are still embedded into our laws, voting and other societal practices.

We all know about it. We all go to class and learn more about the issues that are imminent.

The voices that are in our government do not adequately represent all of their constituents. The average age of senators, including newly elected is 61.8 years old, and for representatives it is 57.8 years old. They represent about 22% of the population in their age ranges. While I am not an ageist, I know that the younger generations are missing in our politics. 

Yet we have learned that you only need to be 25 to run for representative, 30 for the senate and 18 to vote. Everything else in between has no age requirement. Every single person is able to pick up a phone, protest, stand up for people. 

Ignorance suddenly became bliss in one of the most tumultuous times in our world’s history.

But where are we?

I have talked to students, and friends of all ages but most of them are gone, caught up in the world of highschool and not about the repercussions of ignorance. They don’t understand how policy and government affects everything they do. 

“We are just in high school,” they say. 

“It won’t affect us.” 

What you eat, where you sleep, how much money your parents make, where you live, your education, access to medical care. Each policy and law we have defines those, without them or if corrupted this entire highschool life we see through rose colored glasses will suddenly become cracked, blurry and blinding.

An example of how this can be so detrimental to a person’s life, is a video that was published by the NGO called “The Most Shocking A Second A Day”. It was circulated around, especially during times of mass immigration by asylum seekers from countries plagued with war, like Syria and Yemen.  It shows a brittish girl, living her life easily: celebrating her birthday, going to school, riding her bike outside, being with her family. But suddenly things start to change, the news radio is on with her father listening intently, then her whole family together watching, her parents yelling about staying or leaving and then bombing, fleeing and insinuated death.  This video not only shows the importance of the need to support that crisis, but also how ignorance and good thing can change very rapidly. And it was done portraying a girl in London, one of the most developed and powerful we in the world, which is purposefully done to show that any person or family could be or has been affected.

We should not be waiting until the worst happens, as portrayed in that video, to demand change. We should see the problems and flaws, and demand it now. We should look at ourselves as humans, and see we need to be better. 

For those who choose not to be involved due to a feeling that it doesn’t impact them, I plead that we learn this is not true.  It can and it will. 

We need to be there, before we can no longer.

“Ignorance suddenly became bliss in one of the most tumultuous times in our world’s history.”

You can vote. Talk to your friends, tell them to vote. But vote in every single election, not just the controversial presidential election of the year. 

You can speak. While talking about life’s frivelties is fun, don’t forget to tell your friends about some of the daily news. Talking to more people with more opinions will diversify your beliefs and allow for conversation on movements that need more traction. Learning about your friends core belief systems will enrich your friendships too!

You can act. Call your politicians and tell them they aren’t adequately representing you. Create movements and rally people you know and don’t, to show what needs to be done. Stand up for those who are being oppressed. 

It’s that simple, you are able, you can do it. 

Ashlyn Pearson is a columnist for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

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