I’m going to start out with a story you’re probably already sick of hearing after only two days. But I can’t help it.
This weekend, I had the immense privilege to sing with Vampire Weekend at a Bernie Sanders rally—in front of thousands of my fellow students, professors, and members of the Iowa City community. If we thought the days leading up to the performance were nuts (we received our music Wednesday night and spent hours losing our minds in a tiny rehearsal room), we were unprepared for what Saturday would actually be like.
Twelve hours of music is wonderful and terrible. Wonderful, because we had the incredible opportunity to rehearse with Vampire Weekend and perform twice with them. Terrible, because (despite drinking about a gallon and a half of water over the course of the day) twelve hours of singing actually destroys your voice.
Despite feeling like my vocal chords were shredded, it was a blast, more than a blast, to take that stage at the end of the day. It was actually indescribable. There’s a reason people always use electricity to describe the thrill of adrenaline—every nerve ending in my body was alive, and I honestly couldn’t stop smiling. The added bonus of backstage hangout time with Vampire Weekend, the Lucas Brothers, and Josh Hutcherson certainly didn’t hurt, either, not to mention the fact that I shook Bernie Sanders’ hand on stage.
Which brings me to my main point, which is Bernie Sanders. Well, more accurately, the election in general.
I’ve spent a lot of time purposely not talking about the election on social media. Why? Because I hate this time of year. I think politics brings out the some of the ugliest sides of people on social media, and even things that everyone agrees on (“Trump is literal trash”) get repeated so often that they become meaningless. I don’t want to feel anxious about posting my political views on Facebook, so I generally don’t.
I will come forward now and say that I support Bernie Sanders. Even if I hadn’t been performing, I would have gone to the rally on Saturday, because I, like so many others, find him to be an attractive (symbolically) candidate. I know that you may disagree with my choice, but that’s fine. That’s your right.
My point is, barring Trump, I think you should support who you want to support. And you should let me do the same.
During his speech, Bernie left me with a lasting quote: “Democracy is not a spectator sport.” I am not bringing this quote up in support of Bernie. This quote applies to everyone in this country as we approach caucuses and the eventual election. Democracy does not work if you don’t vote. Democracy does not work if you make excuses because you “aren’t a political person.” As Bernie also said in his speech, everyone is a political person. The decisions being made in Washington affect you, so why would you stay silent on who is making those decisions?
I’m speaking specifically to young people, who have historically had a low voter turnout. A growing part of me truly believes that a lot of this has to do with our voices being silenced.
I am officially done with being told that my voice and my opinions don’t matter. I am done with being told that I will grow out of my opinions. I am done with being told that I am not qualified to have a say in a country that continually disenfranchises people who are close to me.
Maybe we will “grow out of our opinions,” whatever the hell that means, but that doesn’t disqualify the opinions that we currently have now. Often I feel that young people don’t participate in politics because they’ve been told that they can’t. They’ve been told that their opinions are invalid, and they’ve been told that they don’t have the experience necessary to make decisions for their future, despite simultaneously receiving orders to choose a college and a career path immediately out of high school.
Do you know why Bernie Sanders gives me hope? Because as I stood on that stage listening to him speak, I could look over the heads of everyone in the crowd, the thousands of young people who took hours out of their Saturday night to experience. I saw young people crying with joy and hope. I saw young people hopeful, and enthusiastic, and validated.
That, among everything else that happened Saturday, was one of the most impactful things I’ve ever seen. Many people argue that young people are disillusioned with politics, but I would beg to differ. This political season has shown me just how vocal, dedicated, and passionate twenty-somethings can be, on both liberal and conservative sides, and it has been so special to watch. Now it’s just a matter of getting those people into the polling booths.
We are all political people. What we need now in this divisive time is some semblance of solidarity—we need to tell each other that our opinions matter, that our voices can make an impact, that voting is one of the few rights that are guaranteed to us.
Young person or old, Democrat or Republican, please listen to what’s happening in the world and listen to each other. Please encourage each other to vote.
Please, don’t be a spectator.