Two Roads Diverged

When Elise asked me to write an article for this site, I wanted to decline. “I’m not really a very political person,” I said, and I thought it was true. I’m not involved in any political movement, or issue, and I don’t completely understand how our government works, much less the world. She replied, “A lot of people say that.” And that was also true.

Then I read Elise’s most recent article about Malala Yousafzai and the links to other sources about that brave young woman. And I cared. The real truth is, if you have an opinion, if you care about something at all, you are political. The oh-so-credible dictionary.com defines political as “pertaining to or involving the state or its government, or citizens.” So essentially, any opinion you have about the government must be political. In the US, most issues can be related to the government. Unemployment. Genetic modification. Gay rights. Climate change. Our government is tangled up in most
everything we could possibly care about.

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Think about it. If you vote, or if you could, what issues would affect your choice of candidate? What is important to you? What do you believe is right?

It turns out I’m actually a very political person. I’m full of opinions, and I’m guessing you are too.

So what do I do with my newfound knowledge? There are two roads here, here in this shady woods of popular opinion and overwhelming media that all American youth must pass through. One is well-trodden, full of young people like the person I was about two hours ago, positive that they don’t have a political thought in their body. The other is slightly overgrown with weeds, which have sprung up since our Vietnam days, but still passable. Which will I pick? Well, I’m going to channel my inner Robert Frost and stay informed, and read about current events, and form my own educated opinions. And I won’t stop there. One thing our generation is often criticized on is our lack of action. Now, I don’t plan on staging any protests, or sending hundreds of letters to Mark Kirk in the immediate future. But I will participate. When my friends discuss eating disorders, or my classmates debate fracking, or my parents argue about abortion, I will join in. I will get involved by talking about it. Sometimes, we are afraid to provoke others with our opinions, which makes it seem like we have none at all. But the first step to changing the world is acknowledging there’s a problem, and the second step is imagining a solution. Third, the easiest part, though it seems the hardest, is making it happen. When we can discuss politics, we can affect them, because we inform others about what’s going on and they start to care, to form their own opinions. To be political. And the chain goes on. The weeds are trampled down on that road that was once less traveled. That’s when the protests start, and the letters flood in. When you know what you care about, and you know the facts, and you have a friend or two on the road beside you, it’s time to take action. It can be small, it can be local, but it will have an effect. I would wish you luck, but that won’t make a difference. Instead, I will be one of those friends walking beside you.

Victoria Sundell, age 17, is a junior at New Trier high school and is a contributor to Youth Political Engagement 

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