An Important Lesson from Politics


The first time I got into a political argument with someone was about a week before the 2008 United States presidential elections. I was seven years old.
My elementary school, Harker, conducted a school-wide “mock election,” in which each of the students, aging from wee kindergarteners to the over-zealous fifth graders, were to write down on a tiny slip of paper the name of the presidential candidate they would vote for if they were of age.
Being in second grade at the time meant I probably didn’t know the two main candidates’ first names, much less their views on important issues such as immigration or unemployment. And yet there I sat during third period Language Arts, not even old enough to know how to write “election” in cursive, but still expected to choose who I thought was the right leader for my country.
As you probably expected, I wasn’t the only naive student in the room. None of my fellow second-grade peers had any idea what it actually meant to vote someone into office, so we did what all young children do when they’re not sure how to answer a question: we said whatever we’d been hearing around the house.
In my case, that was the day that I found out that my best friend, Alycia’s, parents had different political views than mine. Today, this is something I would never dare to bring up in conversation, but at the ripe age of seven, I thought this was a perfectly appropriate topic to discuss with Alycia.
It took about ten minutes of back and forth exchanges of, “My parents say our candidate is gonna win,” and “Well, your candidate is stupid,” until Alycia and I mutually decided that we should drop the subject, and we raced off to the playground like nothing had ever happened. How I wish that we could still be that easygoing when it comes to discussing politics nowadays.
Almost one month ago, Republican nominee and now President-Elect Donald Trump won over 306 electoral college votes in the 2016 Presidential Elections. Living in a state as liberal as California meant that the world around me erupted into chaos at this news.
I remember reading a tweet from a high school Muslim girl who said that during a trip to the supermarket several hours after the news was announced, a fellow student came up to her, ripped off her hijab and said, “You can’t wear
this anymore.”
The day after the elections, #NotMyPresident took each of my social media platforms by storm as I read post after post written by teenagers with liberal parents who had taken it upon themselves to spit upon Trump’s win. Naturally, there were also several children of Trump supporters who felt the need to rebut, which subsequently led to massive fights all over the web.
Soon after, a shocking event happened that hit particularly close to home. A fellow Bay Area student named Jade Armenio was attacked at Woodside High School for posting on social media about Trump’s victory. According to ABC News, Armenio was approached by a peer who accused her of hating Mexicans, and proceeded to hit Armenio, throwing her on the ground and pulling out her earrings and hair. Armenio’s parents said that they had advised Armenio not to put her political views on social media, but that despite their daughter’s actions, she did not deserve to be hit.
Upon hearing the news of Armenio’s attack, numerous people have told me that “she deserved it.” It is heartbreaking to me that just by expressing our own or our families’ beliefs, we can be hurt so horribly. Yet, this is the world we live in today: a world where some of my parents’ most crucial advice for me in the past few years has been to always know when to stay silent, because any word left unspoken is priceless.
I’m the prime example of a classic Californian; I’m a firm believer that everyone should have the right to go about life as they please, and am not afraid to talk your ear off if you dare disagree. But, these days, I’ve grown a lot more reserved when it comes to discussing political beliefs, and I advise my peers to do the same.
There are always going to be those brave people who will put themselves on the line for the sake of doing what they believe is right, but in times like these, safety has become the primary concern. If there’s one skill we all need to have in this world full of ever-growing controversies, it’s to know how to
shut our mouths.