My life has often been a series of realizing what I should have said an hour too late. Perhaps this is why I write — and revise — instead of competing with Georgetown’s debate team. I have always tried to keep my biases and political opinions to a minimum, particularly on social media, as I continue to consider a future career in journalism. In all honesty, though, I never truly felt articulate or authoritative enough to give my two cents on a public debate without my arguments being obliterated by those around me.
It can be uncomfortable and frightening to be vocal, even when you are passionate about something. I do not particularly enjoy conflict; I hate feeling short on figures and talking points, and I cannot stand being wrong. All in all, this means that I have often been the one at the dinner table or discussion sections who simply sits and listens. For a long time, it has felt like there was a part of me that desperately wanted to participate during these moments but was fearful to express my opinions aloud. Those days are gone, though. They simply have to be.
Since the shock of the 2016 presidential election and the rollout of President Donald Trump’s legislative agenda in the months that followed, people have had few qualms about publicizing their anger, frustrations and fears — especially on social media. I have lost count of the times I have seen “I don’t normally post about politics but…” on my Facebook feed. People who had never before pushed political content began sharing their views on the current state of affairs, as well as what they intended to do in response.
Social media has long been a place for people to broadcast their ideas, yet now these various platforms have created open spaces for people to constructively share their opinions, experiences and plans for action — all while reaching mass audiences and staying in sync with the news cycle. Social media is the ultimate tool for mobilization; the post-Nov. 8, 2016 world clearly demonstrates that.
The historic Women’s March in January is one of the strongest examples of this phenomenon. The march started as a Facebook event with just a handful of attendees, but it ultimately drew as many as 4 million participants in the United States alone, thanks to massive social media outreach. Writers, activists and organizers, such as Lauren Duca, DeRay Mckesson and Julissa Arce, have emerged as leaders of the movement and consequently garnered thousands of followers.
People like this felt empowered to share their unadulterated thoughts, whether it was via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, op-eds or blog posts, even while knowing that many disagreed with them. As we entered the Trump administration, this online community of resistance was being built by thoughtful, intelligent and – most importantly – unapologetically opinionated people.
Our convictions compel us to fight. Opinions, whether they are posted online or written in Sharpie on a poster board, are essential to the resistance movement in the age of Trump. Our opinions empower us to march, to sit in, to write, to call and to even put our bodies in harm’s way, as the late Heather Heyer so courageously did in Charlottesville, Va., last month.
Through their enthusiasm, established credibility and frequent posts, these voices motivate others to show up in defense of women’s rights and civil rights, among countless other issues. It is the efforts of figures like these, as well all of the people who answer their calls to actions, who overturned Trump’s first Muslim travel ban, who killed the Senate’s last plan to strip over 15 million people of health insurance, and who remain at the forefront of resistance efforts every single day.
On Nov. 9, the day after the election, Vox published the audio of Hillary Clinton’s 1969 commencement address from Wellesley College. I will never forget listening to that speech while my roommates and I sat in complete silence around our living room, doing our absolute best to keep from crying. “Fear is always with us,” she said. “But we just don’t have time for it. Not now.” If ever there was a time to overcome the fear of being opinionated, it is right now.
Taylor Harding is a senior in the College. Contributing a Verse appears online every other Monday.