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Power

What does it mean to use it responsibly?

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Photograph taken by Dr. Amy Plog, PhD, while she was speaking up.

If you are reading this you have power. I do not mean that as a poorly established electricity pun, though that may not be too far off from my point. No, I mean that if you are reading this you are more powerful than you may know. You have access to an electronic device. You have access to electricity with which to charge that device (hence the pun works, right?). You are connected to the internet, have time to read article, and the ability to read an article, but I digress. My question is this: what should you do with this power? I think it is high time we all start using it to speak up, and not for ourselves.

This train of thought has been chugging around in my head for several months now. It left the station after a post-election conversation with my mom. The blatantly racist travel ban had been unveiled, the poorly qualified cabinet selections had been revealed, and my faith in our country had started to wither. It was at the end of a fiery political lamentation session with my family over winter break that I said to my mom,

“I don’t want to stay here. I don’t know if I want to live in this country any longer than I have to.”

This was a revelation to me. I had never considered living anywhere but the United States for the rest of my life, but there I was. I hope I never forget her response. She said to me,

“We have to stay and fight for the people who are not able to leave.”

It caught me off guard. I felt ashamed that my first instinct was to run away and leave behind anyone else who could not. I don’t blame myself any more for that; there is too much to get done to worry about how long it took me to get to work. I will spell this out more clearly than is necessary so that I am sure not one person misses the point: those with power have a responsibility to fight for those without it. I believe that with all my heart. This is a pretty fundamental concept that I know not everyone will agree with me on, and that is ok. I understand the nature of civil discourse. However, what I will not stand for is those who disagree trying to shut down anyone just for using their power for good.

History has shown us countless examples of this: the Dixie Chicks and their comments about George W. Bush, the decision of many NFL players to kneel during the national anthem, these were all met with the same response. Keep your politics out of my singing, out of my sports, out of my magazines, out of my movies. This is nonsensical. Politics is the one thing that affects every single person in this country; we need to talk about it. To me it is more than a free speech issue. Of course a person has the right to speak up in protest, but they have more than that. They have a responsibility.

There are countless black Americans who will never appear on national live television, Muslim Americans who will never go on tour with their band, and Puerto Rican Americans who will never write and star in two Broadway musicals. Who else is going to speak up for them when they are wronged? So far our president is not answering yes to that question. Regardless of who sits in the Oval Office, if people with a big audience never “bring politics into it” then the problems may never get addressed. If you do not think there is an issue worth talking about that is fine, but please do not stand in the way of those who believe there is. Remember that just because it is not affecting you does not mean it is not happening.

So, to bring this back to the more personal level where we began, how does this apply to you dear reader? You have power in your life. There are so many little ways in which you can bring about change. My advice is to first find your “megaphone.” You are listening to mine right now as you read this. Up until this point I have tried to stay politically centered in my editorials, but the time for that has come and gone. Now is the time to use the power I have to speak up. Figure out where you are privileged in life. Even though you may have obstacles to overcome, what power can you use to spread a message? Then ask yourself, who is in need of a louder voice right now? No matter how hard things get, no matter how scared you may be, keep going. If your first instinct is to run to safety that is understandable. But if you can resist that for a single moment, you may be able to get more than just yourself there.

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