Apathy is the Fuel that Leads to Fires that Burn Down Progress

By Hannah Argento-McCurdy (University of Oregon, Honors College Undergraduate)

The last two days have gone by in a blur for me. The six weeks leading up to the election I had the privilege of interning for my local Democratic Party office in Eugene, Oregon. I worked alongside some of the greatest and most passionate people I had ever met. They truly inspired me. The disappointment I feel because of Tuesday’s results not only reflects my personal investment and the investment of the people I worked with, but the disappointment I feel with the state of the my country. We ask ourselves how this could happen? How can we allow a racist, sexist, xenophobic demagogue to be the face of our country’s government? 

Last night on my college campus, in a blue state nevertheless, students were captured on camera in blackface. Two weeks ago a Professor at our law school was put on administrative leave until the school determines her level of guilt for wearing blackface at a Halloween Party. This is an abomination. I feel so ashamed to live with or near people who think this is a permissible way to treat each other. I wanted so desperately to believe that the progress made in the last eight years would be recognized by voters. Instead, I am left in utter disappointment. We live in a country where our hatred of women, immigrants, and people of color remains more ubiquitous than ever. In my country, it is not unique for men to be pardoned for the rape and assault of women. We even elect them to be our Presidents. 

As a nation, the message we sent to women Tuesday night is that our bodies do not belong to us. They belong to the government. They belong to people who violated them. The misogyny exhibited by our President Elect is evidently acceptable to about half of the United States. As a woman, as a human, I find this atrociously unacceptable. I struggle swallowing the fact that I have to watch a man who openly bragged about sexual assault try and lead our country. I look at his face and I think of my friends and family who experienced sexual violence and abuse. It sickens me. I think of my little sister. She’s eight. During this transformative period in her life where she is beginning to see what it is like to grow up as a woman in this world, she sees this person as our “leader.” It scares me that she will think this is acceptable behavior for women to be objectified and seen as vehicles for male enjoyment. When I was just a little bit older than my sister, I saw the first black president become elected. Now she will watch a man who assigns a woman worth based on his opinion of her body deliver an inaugural address. 

In addition to his treatment of women, people of color, and members of the LGBT community, Mr. Trump rejects the notion of climate change. In my opinion, this is the most pressing matter. We cannot strive to fix the social inequalities and tensions in our country if we don’t have a viable, healthy planet to live in once it’s gone. Social progress means nothing if we have no earth to enjoy it on. Out of love for your country and love for your neighbor, put forth your time and effort into conservation and protecting our planet and its resources. The most effective way to combat climate change extends beyond your personal responsibility to recycle and take short showers. It means collective, unified action. If our government will not endorse such behavior, it is the responsibility of its citizens to do so. 

Let this be a wake up call to our country to escape the bubble of privilege a majority of our country enjoys. Let this be a wake up call to young people who did not feel that their vote mattered. Let this be a wake up call for white America to reflect on our privilege. My personal rights will likely not be infringed upon with a Trump presidency. I live in a white, upper middle class, liberal bubble. Therefore I feel it is my duty and my obligation to stand up for and stand with my friends, neighbors, and fellow American’s whose liberty and freedom are threatened by this new establishment. It is time to be constructive and compassionate in our action. To not take action, to not speak out, to not stand up is to accept the state of the U.S. Do not wallow in the sadness invoked by the election. Moving away will solve no problems. Stay, vote, fight for your beliefs. Do not abandon your home when it needs you the most. Use your grief and anger to take action. I hope to see people getting off of their computers and phones, and finding a platform other than Twitter or Facebook to express their discontent. Involve yourself through volunteering or even educating yourself on organizations whose values align with your own. Apathy is the fuel that leads to fires that burn down progress. The youth of our country cannot afford to be complacent in matters of injustice.