Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Speak Up


John Mayer's song Waiting on the World to Change came out at just the right time to really speak to me. It was 2006, I had just graduated high school, and I was looking forward to becoming an adult with real power over my life, which seemed woefully out of my control.

I had been politically frustrated since 2001, when 9/11 had shocked me into paying attention to the the political world around me. I was old enough to start to understand the effects of political decisions on my life, but too young to have a say, and by 2006, I was frustrated with an American political landscape in which we fought two seemingly endless wars against the idea of terrorism and domestically failed to come together, even in the face of Hurricane Katrina.

I had been spiritually adrift for years and my frustration with the world at large only made me more skeptical of God.

My universe literally changed when scientists announced that Pluto was not a planet after all. My beloved Cubs could not change their terrible luck and ended the 2006 season in last place in the National League.

In August, when Waiting on the World to Change was released, I was saying my last goodbyes to my high school friends and packing for college. As an 18-year-old college-bound woman, I stood on the edge of adulthood. I looked into a future that was set on a political trajectory that I did not like, but that was, nonetheless, full of promise, because, as John Mayer pointed out, it would soon be our generation's turn to try our hand at running things. College and adulthood would bring with it a chance to have some real power in my own life. All I had to do was wait a little while longer for the world to change.

It's been seven years and many things have changed. Personally, I have graduated college, held two full-time jobs, lived in three different cities, converted to Judaism, and gotten married. When I actually take the time to reflect on them, my personal accomplishments bring me real joy and fulfillment. From time to time, I feel like a real adult who has intelligent things to say and relevant life experiences.

The world around me has changed too. Some of those changes give me real hope that I live in a good and reasonable world. My first presidential election saw young voter turnout increase in numbers that surprised analysts and I thought that maybe my generation wouldn't have to wait that long to start making a difference. Encouragingly, the Affordable Care Act was passed to make strides toward real needed health care reform, Don't Ask Don't Tell was repealed, and support has swelled for gay rights, and during the last GOP primary, candidate Jon Huntsman warned Republicans against becoming the "anti-science party." I am also heartened by the possibility of Hillary running for president again in 2016 and becoming the first female president.

Despite all this, the world is not changing fast enough. The last seven years has also given rise to the Tea Party and a dangerously antagonistic Congress that seems intent not on moving forward as a nation but on stopping anything constructive from actually getting done. As I write this, Senator Ted Cruz is going into his 10th hour of continuous railing against the Affordable Care Act. It is the second time that the Tea Party has tried to use the nation's budget as a negotiating tool to change laws that they do not have the power to change in the way they were meant to. We have seen more mass shootings than I care to count anymore. After each successive Tuscon, Aurora, Sandy Hook, and Navy Yard, we are left less and less time to mourn before the screaming matches and blame games begin, all of which lead us nowhere. These things and so much more frustrate me and I am tired of waiting on the world to change. I have run out of patience for the unreasonable people on all sides. If we continue to wait for our turn, I'm afraid we will inherit a world so completely screwed up that we won't be able to fix it at all.

At the same time, underneath my frustration, I try to remind myself that loudness does not equal political support. If there really is a silent majority out there of sane people, please, for the love of God, speak up now. At this point, I don't even care what you have to say as long as it is logical and you can argue it without resorting to the negativity that pervades current discourse. I will work on finding my voice and gaining the confidence to speak my mind and I can only hope that others will do the same.