Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Monday, May 21, 2018

Resistance and the civic responsibility that comes with it

Resistance and the civic responsibility that comes with it

Just a few months ago, I sat on Capitol Hill and answered phones. I listened to mothers and fathers plead and bargain with me. I heard the anger of the people in Cape Cod as they rushed to spill out all they needed to, overwhelmed with the opportunity of a listening ear on the other end of their call.

I heard their fear as they demanded the blocking of presidential appointees and their desperation as they bargained for the descheduling of life-saving drugs. I cried; I held my tongue and I always ended with “I will make sure that your comments are passed along.”

But each message that I scribbled down was accompanied by a feeling of annoyance; didn’t they know that their message would be lost within the depths of our database? I assumed that calling Capitol Hill was something that political fanatics or your “Uncle Joe” did to pass the time. I assumed these calls would be met with apathy. It was not until I heard people pleading for their lives and saw the urgency in the people around me that I understood that there was more at stake.

In school, we are taught about the Bill of Rights. We are taught about the government and the basic facets of its innerworkings. However, in my pre-college education, I was never taught of the importance or the impact of my basic civic responsibilities. Many people whom I grew up with had already decided that voting was a “bonus,” rather than a privilege and a duty, before they even had the chance to participate in an election.

Now, basic civic responsibilities are seen as an act of resistance. My social media is filled with calls to action, such as calling one’s senator and staying informed. This idea has been described by those critically analyzing the movements and acts of resistance currently occurring, such as Washington Post columnist Alyssa Rosenberg. She emphasizes the danger of equating civic responsibility by making the point that only engaging in civic responsibility during radical political climates will brand these actions as radical instead of a privilege and a duty.

This is not to downplay the importance of calling your representatives and getting out the vote, but rather to emphasize the debilitating political apathy that has taken hold of our country and only been awakened a moment too late. Much of this energy surrounding political mobilization is because white people finally have some skin in the game. Our privilege now stands to be challenged as no one is safe in the Trump administration.

My fellow white ladies, we marched because for the first time in a long time we had to. Our bodies, our experiences with abuse and our humanity has been questioned and invalidated by our president. However, do not forget that our sisters and femmes of color and of other religions and sexual identities have never had the privilege to stop marching. Never stop marching.

It is not enough to share a Facebook status, confining your political discourse to the four walls of your computer screen. Your money speaks volumes. Donate to organizations that fight for civil liberties and the support of marginalized communities, such as the ACLU. If you have no money to give then lend your support by showing up for protests, not just once but every time people gather to speak out against injustices.

However, perhaps the most important aspect of showing solidarity in this current political climate is to treat people as humans when everyone else seeks to take that humanity away from them. Be kind, be empathetic and be aware.

In order to resist, we must change our lifestyles, now and four, eight, twelve and sixteen years from now.

Julia Gagnon is a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs and a columnist for The Eagle.

jgagnon@theeagleonline.com


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