We hear it time and time again “These are unprecedented times”
From a worldwide global pandemic uprooting the life of everyone around the globe or a racial reckoning bringing us all to the table in this fight for justice, we are all standing at the intersection between reflection and action. With our lives in this unfamiliar and uncomfortable limbo, we are all left wondering what’s next. What will our institutions transform into? How do we amplify the voices of those that have been marginalized? How do we change unjust systems? For me, the question that encompasses all of the above is – How do we save our democracy?
This might seem like a grand task but it is nonetheless imminent. We are living in a time where our rights are on the line, participation is being attacked, and our institutions are being challenged under the lens of justice. Embedded in all of these things is an underlying theme that, in my mind, is the largest threat to our democracy: an erosion of empathy. This translates into an inability to understand the lived experience of another human being. It is this lack of empathy that keeps politics a field of continued gridlock and our country one of rampant polarization.
As I’ve begun college, I’ve done a lot of soul searching in thinking about my role and how we as individuals can build democracy and work towards a future where all voices are not just heard, but amplified. Here is my personal recipe for democracy building but our future depends on each of us crafting our own recipe. Democracy might mean different things to each of us but as long as we each keep fighting and pushing the boundaries of the status quo, our democracy will come out stronger than ever before. Here is my democracy starter pack:
- Lean Into Discomfort: In order for us to heal the wounds our country is suffering from, we must indulge in what might be outwardly scary. By having difficult dialogues and continuing to ask the questions that need to be asked, we begin to understand why people believe what they believe. This discomfort also comes in the form of accountability. While it might seem a barrier or challenge, it is our responsibility to continue holding our elected officials accountable by calling and emailing their offices and ensuring they know where our priorities lie.
- Mobilize: Democracy is fortified by dynamic new ideas on how we empower each other. Whether the idea comes as a STEM breakthrough or civil rights mobilizing, we need to keep the action at the forefront. Activating our communities can come in various forms: attending demonstrations, starting new initiatives, organizing service projects, or educating people on an issue. Whatever it is you care about, find the voids of action and fill them to create supernovas of change.
- Vote: You have likely heard a lot about this one considering the moment we are living in, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it. We are living through one of the most important elections in history. In order to bring decency and goodness back to our politics, it is up to us to participate in the presidential election but equally as important, participate in down-ballot elections and ballot measures that have extremely tangible impacts. Remember to vote and do what you can to ensure your community knows how to vote as well.
My friends often make fun of me for sounding like a broken record but with my whole being, I believe that empathy can save the world and naturally, our democracy. As long as we keep focusing on finding, channeling, and acting upon inherent human goodness, we will steer our ship into the new direction of democracy more inclusive and empowering than we have ever seen before.