“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” -Desmond Tutu
I have come to learn that no one is ever really neutral. There is always an unspoken decision, an allegiance to one side or the other. In times like these, silence may be the most dangerous action of all. When you are young, you learn about bullying. You are taught that if you see someone being bullied and you don’t step in to help them, you are just as bad as the bully. Being an “innocent bystander” does not really make you innocent. It was an easy enough lesson in grade school, so why do people as adults cling so tightly to their neutrality when times are tough? Why are people silent when injustice is staring them right in the face? We see claims of neutrality most when we are faced with “uncomfortable” topics. People care about women’s rights but won’t outwardly say that they’re feminists. They disagree with police murdering black children but quickly dismiss the Black Lives Matter movement. They see families ripped apart by mass deportation but keep their mouths shut when friends or relatives dehumanize the “illegals." In choosing to be silent, they choose to side with the oppressors. Even worse are the people with no opinion at all. The ones who scoff when friends speak passionately about politics. They “don’t like the divisiveness” of politics, and yet they contribute to it every time they turn off the news and refuse to acknowledge the issues plaguing our country. Even if you don’t hear the sound, the tree has still fallen in the woods. Even when you turn off the television, even when you unfollow people who tweet about current events, even when you scroll past news articles, children are still murdered, rights are still taken away, and those things you try so hard to avoid stillhappen. And now, you are responsible when they happen again. The disinterest of the American people in their own futures is astounding, especially when we see how it compares to other countries. The US trails behind countries like Belgium (87% voter turnout) and Sweden (83%) with a measly 54% of eligible voters showing up to the polls (via Washington Post, 2016). A big part of this has to do with the mindset that individual votes don’t actually make a difference. I’ve heard this excuse time and time again when people say that they won’t vote, and honestly, it’s frustrating, especially when we saw that disproven by the slim margins with which Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders each won different elections in the Democratic Primaries. Truthfully, as Americans, we have the honor and responsibility of participating in our democracy by voting, and so many people have taken that for granted. At a time when the sanctity of our democracy is at stake, neutrality is not beneficial to anyone. This is not the time for silence. This is not the place for apathetic rants about how “votes don’t really matter anyway” or how you don’t really think politics directly affect you. The fact of the matter is, the decisions of this administration may not affect you personally, but they do affect your friends and your coworkers and the members of your community. Choosing to be apathetic doesn’t make you a hero, it makes you part of the problem.