I have not been to a single march in the last two years. I have not walked out, died in, or protested in any active way. Come any activism I agree with, I post about it online, share articles, and lay in bed all day doing nothing (nothing except endlessly reflecting on why I don’t participate–a circle type of argument with myself where nothing is resolved). For once, in the wake of the March for Our Lives, I’m taking my disillusionment to writing to try and explain myself, and put words to what I selfishly hope is a common set of feelings.
I am the most liberal person in my family. I have recently started actually engaging in arguments with my older siblings and relatives, standing up for what I believe to be right, making my case in eloquent and knowledgeable ways. I have opinions I’m willing and comfortable to express for the first time in my life. Hell, I’m a declared Journalism major (despite my better judgement). With all this though, with every time I’m put in the position to defend my point, I have a surge of anxiety-nearing-on-panic. Even recounting an argument I’ve had to a friend leaves my body shaking, my heart racing, my hands getting clammy. My reaction to confrontation has improved, sure, I used to start crying the second someone disagreed with or got mad at me(a response I hated, due to growing up being called a crybaby, being told I was whining because something wasn’t exactly how I wanted it–I hated reinforcing that stereotype about me or about girls or about youngest siblings or about my generation). The panic response to confrontation puts me in a difficult spot when I’m in the midst of a political revolution, largely lead by members of my generation. The cycle begins. I hear about a march (or anything really), I want to participate, I text someone about coming with me, they say yes and I’m faced with the fact that I’ll actually be going, I think about actually going, I panic at the thought of confrontation or explaining myself to family, I go back and forth between “fuck them and their less ‘woke’ opinions, I believe in this” and “I can’t distance myself from my family, can’t put myself out there like that”, I cancel, I stay home and hate how complacent I am, I sit in self loathing as I passively post or repost about whatever is going on, I say I’ll go to the next time.
This cycle is backed by many things: anxiety, depression, family dynamics, fear of being singled out, fear of reinforcing stereotypes, and fear of the future if we fail. But, to a point, this cycle is backed by excuses. Valid, contextual, or understandable excuses, maybe, but excuses for complacency nonetheless. The reality is that today, my generation cannot afford complacency. We cannot allow things to continue how they are, can’t sit back and let the next generation deal with it, as past generations have. It may mean we’re called snowflakes: more sensitive than any other group of people. We may alienate our families or friends: those who do not understand the need to do better for everyone and not just ourselves. We may face confrontation by people who don’t see our way: people don’t want to accept the fact that they are wrong and have been wrong. Even writing out all these possibilities leave me with the same panicky feeling I get when I argue with my brothers–the same feeling I get when I think about going to a march–but it’s no longer an option to let that stop me.
We were taught in middle school about the bystander effect. The notion that people are less likely to help a person in need if there are others around; someone else will help, I don’t have to. My generation, by and large, has taken that to heart. We stand up when others don’t, we make a difference. Moving forward, I’m finally going to be an active part of that We.