I’m a 24-Year-Old Woman and Today I Voted in My First General Election

Politics has never been my thing. In the past I would tell myself that my vote didn’t count for anything, that one vote wouldn’t really make a difference. I didn’t think that choosing not to vote made me any less American, any less patriotic. I told myself that I could love this country without casting my choice for president.

When President Obama was sworn into office in 2009, I found myself wishing that I could’ve voted then. It was a historic election, one that excited the nation, and I wanted to be part of it. But I wasn’t eligible to vote then, and I felt as though I had missed out on a great opportunity.

This year, we have another historic election, for entirely different reasons. This year, I didn’t need to think twice about whether or not I would be voting. I knew, as most of us did, that this was a pivotal moment in American history. I knew that this year, it was no longer just about politics. There was much more at stake than a Democratic or Republican victory, and I knew that I had a responsibility—not as an American citizen, but as a human being—to go to the ballot and exercise my democratic right to vote.

Even for those of us who don’t like to get involved in the messy political discussions that dominate dinner conversations at this time of the year—even we recognize that we are playing an active role in the writing of American history. One day ten, twenty years from now, our children will read about this election in their history books, and they’ll ask us what we did. Who we voted for. If we made a difference. Even though we know it’s not as easy as separating one candidate from the other, that politics is a whole lot of gray and not so much black and white—we still need to make a choice. Whatever that choice may be, it’s crucial that we each get ourselves to the ballot.

In this election, we’re voting for more than president of the United States of America. We are voting for freedom, for the very foundations of liberty that this great nation is built upon. We should not have to be in this position, but we are. Our freedoms are being threatened by someone who could be our next commander-in-chief, our lives threatened by someone who calls himself a leader. We are a democratic republic and yet this is our reality in 2016.

We have a candidate who is running for the highest office in the land, someone who could very well lead the free world, and he wants to take away our right to exercise basic rights. Our freedom of speech, our freedom of religion, our freedom to enter this country as immigrants—all these things could be taken away from us. Is it not our duty, then, our burden, to make sure that we do something to prevent that from happening? Our lives will be affected. Our families. Our children. Who else will defend them if we don’t? Who else will fight a fight that is ours to see through?

Go out and vote. Vote Democrat. Vote Green Party. Write in your own suggestion and vote for your mother. But vote.

It’s no longer just a right. It’s an obligation.

For Whom Shall I Cry

Tonight I cry tears for every man, woman and child who has suffered at the hands of oppression and injustice. I cry for the children in Syria, the mothers in Ghaza, the family and friends grieving in Ferguson.

But I also shed my tears for the oppressors, the wielders of swords who press their blades against their victims’ necks and take pleasure in hearing their dying pleas. I cry for them because they are lost, and I wonder where we went wrong to have let such people slip through the cracks.

We live in a world where science and technology continue to grow at such a pace that it seems as though we might actually have a chance to become advanced creatures, both in the way we think and how we learn to adapt to these new groundbreaking inventions.

The number of amazing feats doctors, artists, engineers, designers and scientists alike have been able to accomplish is a rapidly growing phenomenon that I personally doubt will slow down any time soon.

And yet

And yet, in the midst of all these wonderful discoveries, these glorious designs and intricate blueprints that are a product of the creative imagination, we find the black holes preventing us from reaching our true potential as human beings.

Alas, sometimes the apple we thought was ripe and ready for picking turns out to be the one with the most rotten of cores. Tell me, am I the only one who finds it hard to believe that among us there are still those who choose to believe that they are, in fact, better than others? That they are entitled to certain things? That they can determine their rank and file in society by obliterating any and all things or people standing in their way? I refuse to believe that there are people who are inherently bad. After all, it isn’t the apple’s fault that it became rotten.

However, in light of recent events, my optimistic view of humanity has been shredded, the scattered remains of what were once innocent thoughts now nothing more than a bittersweet memory floating like ashes over the image of Michael Brown.

Words mean nothing. Would words have helped young Michael, had he pleaded for his life in the soft undertones of someone who knows the odds are against them? Would words have made a difference if Michael had screamed against the injustice that had chosen him because of a history that bound him just as chains had bound his ancestors before him? Words are the trivial leftovers of our raw emotions, our pathetic attempts to express something that can never be captured after it has already occurred. Words are nothing more than the aftermaths of moments, and yet I find that I have no other way of showing my pain, my desperation. My horror.

So if words do not carry weight, then let my heavy heart be a testament to the pain I feel

I did not know you, Mike Brown, but I know your story. Because you are not the first, nor will you be the last. So long as we keep advancing with our sciences, our engineering, our space programs and nuclear weapons…so long as we continue to educate ourselves about the future, and ignore the past, we will soon realize that we’re really only going backwards

Morals. Responsibility. Decency. Modesty. Leadership. Honesty. Compassion. Empathy. Strength.

Let these be the characteristics we nurture within ourselves, so that there is no room in our hearts for evil to worm its way in and fester like a growing tumor. Let us allow our minds and hearts alike to be fruitful with knowledge, knowledge that goes beyond the classroom. Knowledge of ourselves. For if we do not understand who we truly are as individuals, how can we learn to appreciate and respect someone else for who they are?