October 11, 2018

AHMAD | For the Love of God, VOTE!

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I don’t mean to get political…but this country’s current administration is made up of a bunch heartless monsters and unqualified fear-mongers. Great, now that I’ve got that out of my system, we can continue.

On election night two years ago, as Trump’s numbers were climbing, I was on Skype call with a very worried friend of mine who was frantically refreshing the polls every five minutes. I clearly remember saying to her, “trust me, there is no way he’s going to win,” and I believed it. I was so confident, in fact, that I went to bed early that evening without even waiting for the final results. The next morning, I woke up at 6:30 a.m., fumbled around to find my phone and sleepily Googled “who won the election?” Needless to say, I didn’t need coffee that morning to help me wake up.

Every day since then, I feel like I’ve woken up in a nightmare.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. In fact, several times throughout the past couple of years I’ve thought about how privileged I am to go to school at a safe, and for the most part, tolerant, campus. But I’ve also realized how much more I think about, read about, educate myself about, and care about politics.  I hate to be the “I didn’t even pay attention to the news before Trump” person, because that’s not really something to be proud of. Sure, ignorance is bliss but it’s still ignorance.

Unfortunately however, I must admit that I am that person. I used to read the news the way most people watch the trailers before a movie: you’re kind of interested, but you moreso just want it to be over so you can move on to something more appealing.  Now, I open Twitter or the CNN app or turn on the TV dreading reading about whatever fresh political horror awaits me. It honestly feels like a sick game of roulette.

*cue game show music*

Welcome back to the news, ladies and gentlemen! What’ll it be this time? A school shooting? Another police brutality case? Some slimy, toad-looking Republican trying to defund Planned Parenthood or start a Holocaust-style registry for minorities? What about a sexual predator being confirmed to the Supreme Court?! Find out in the next episode of This Country Is Hell!

I promise I’m not trying to be pessimistic; it’s just crazy how much more bad news there seems to be when you actually reading it every day. Time and time again, I’ve found it unbelievably frustrating that so many political leaders find it so easy to disregard people’s humanity because of their race, religion, gender and/or sexual orientation.  Time and time again, I’ve felt helpless and genuinely fearful about decisions made my people in this administration. Time and time again, I have wanted to just give up hope and accept that this is our reality and we should just make the best of it.

But other times…it’s different. Other times, I’ve called/texted/written to my senators and congressmen, signed petitions, attended protests, had heated debates with people I disagree with. Other times, I’ve watched people march against gun violence and rally for women’s rights, celebrate pride, refuse to back down in the face of injustice and feel inspired.

Just this past weekend, I went home to Dallas and when I was driving through my neighborhood I counted five “Vote for Beto” lawn signs on my street alone. I was delighted when I heard Taylor Swift urged her fans to register to vote and even more delighted when I read that some actually did. I was pleasantly surprised when my dad walked into the living room and asked the family “we’re all registered to vote, right?” — something he has never asked before.

Perhaps these are all small things to extract so much hope from, but they are not insignificant. Many people have pointed out that there has always been just as much “bad stuff” happening in this country, that there is nothing new about the news and that people are just outraged because they’re actually aware of current events now. And I agree with that. I also agree that people have always been angry about politics. But I think the difference is that now, they’re ready to do something about it.

I’m paraphrasing Obama when I say this, but since the beginning of time, the sun has seen tragedies, injustices, failures and catastrophes and yet, it still rises every day.

So can we.

Faiza Ahmad is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. The Fifth Column runs every other Wednesday this semester. She can be reached at fahmad@cornellsun.com.