About two years ago, I was out to breakfast with my grandparents and my brother when the conversation turned political. At the time, I didn’t know much about politics, and I knew even less about how to be involved. I was old enough to vote, but I didn’t understand just how important voting could be. During that conversation, I told my grandparents and my brother that I was “apolitical,” even though that wasn’t really the case; I definitely had political values, it was just the term I felt most justified my — much to my chagrin today — rather apathetic attitude toward national politics at the time. (The more shameful and pretentious reason I had the term on my mind in the first place was because I read it in Infinite Jest and wanted it to apply to me).
Later that day, my brother turned to me and told me that he didn’t approve of me calling myself “apolitical.” He said he didn’t want me to feel apolitical, and he also didn’t believe it applied. At the time, I wasn’t so sure. It felt, I don’t know, easier, I guess, just to say that I didn’t really care about politics. I told him he was right, that “apolitical” wasn’t quite the right word, but I still was having trouble feeling like I could make that switch. I didn’t feel like I could connect enough to the political conversation, that I was close enough to the issues.
And then the presidential election happened.
And then the hits just kept coming and coming and coming: shootings; riots; wrongful arrests; murders that should have been routine traffic stops; children separated from parents just trying to find a better life, wrongfully punished by people who have never known anything but nationwide decisions being made that could effectively invalidate millions of identities people have struggled hard to achieve. Just days ago, a peaceful ceremony celebrating the birth of a Jewish child in Pittsburgh was made hellish by gunfire, costing the lives of good, innocent people, people who share my faith and spirituality, my own culture as a Jew, and our collective history of anti-Semitic and systematic violence. The list is long and desolate, and each new point is another reminder to me that I can no longer be “apolitical.”
Ultimately, there is no room for “apolitical” in today’s national conversation. There is barely even room for “moderate” nowadays. But if “apolitical” 18-year-old me came up to “very political” 20-year-old me and told me what he told my grandparents that day at breakfast, I’m quite sure I’d slap him because he would be saying something that I cannot abide by in this world: one where the capacity of minority groups, who face tremendous and systematic oppression from people who look just like me, just to survive is threatened daily. It cannot abide.
You may think that your vote is one of millions, that it is just a drop in the bucket, but drops of water have filled oceans. I was a signature gatherer for a few different statewide propositions this summer, one of thousands across Colorado. We were aiming for 100,000 or more signatures and I probably only got about 0.5 percent of those signatures, but the fact is that my efforts and the work of thousands of other individuals, other drops in the bucket, landed those propositions on the ballot.
I overheard someone saying that they didn’t want to go to the clerk and recorder’s office to fix their ballot, that it wouldn’t matter because their vote was just one of many. That language is not the way in which to speak about our most fundamental duty as citizens of this nation, a nation that is in dire need of work. Your vote is not just one of many; your vote is another step toward changing the tide of our political climate. Your vote is going to push things in the direction that they must surely go. You are not just one face in the crowd, you are contributing to a nationwide fight for change when you drop your ballot into the ballot box. Your voice could make the difference, so it must not go unheard.
I do not ever want to hear anyone tell me they are “apolitical,” and I sure as hell will never use the term to describe myself again. There is far too much at stake to be apathetic, and we as a nation, a nation of individuals, must recognize that when each of us steps forward and speaks, we as a nation grow louder together.