Thoughtful Citizens Change the World

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

-Margaret Mead

I am white. Upper middle class. Educated. A professional. All of these qualities afford me a certain, very often unspoken- but understood- privilege. I didn’t earn it, I didn’t ask for it, but it’s there and it’s on me to own that. 

I am also a millennial. And a woman. And a mother. And a liberal. And a feminist. All of these traits and labels bear with them stereotypes. Shallow. Spoiled. Entitled. Out-of-touch. Selfish. Lazy. Emotional. Dramatic.

But they also carry with them specific histories. I was born on the heels of Gen X-ers and grew up with a technology boom. As a millenial, I barely know life without the internet and a lot of the old ways of doing business move too slowly for me. As a woman. I have taken the brunt of wage discrimination. As a mother, I have had to leave my babies at daycare far sooner than I felt was right because I didn’t have sufficient maternity leave. These perspectives have shaped my political views, they’ve shaped my feminism.

I have stood up for myself in my own ways in the past. I have called out the wage discrimination in which I found myself, and I have won. I work hard. I am kind. I am fair. I donate my time and skills. I am a self-proclaimed empath – I deeply feel and hurt with those around me who are hurting. Stories about illness, death, rape, destruction, homelessness, personal and global economic disaster, violence, and war make me weep. The sadness of it all makes my heart ache, and I can’t help but imagine how mind-numbingly terrifying it would be to find myself and my family in the same deplorable situations. What would we do?

All of these things, many which have been ongoing for generations, have recently caused me to pull away from some family and friends I once considered close – who I once considered safe havens for myself and my daughters. As my own opinions become more solidified, as I educate myself, as I stand firmer in what I believe to be right than I ever have before, the tensions between me, my friends, my family, and my Church continue to strain. We move further and further down polarizing lines of thought: and, if I’m honest, I feel I’m moving toward reason, and they…I don’t know where they’re going, but it makes me sad. It makes me sad, and it makes me angry. 

And yet, I march on. 

I believe in stories of people coming together to do the right thing. I believe that “groups of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, and are, indeed, the only thing that have.” I believe that these groups are important, even when people look at us and say “You don’t stand for me.”

But we do. We stand for human decency. We stand for parents who have to leave a baby too early to return to work – mother or father. We stand against racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia. We stand for gender equality. We stand for our daughters and our sons. Even though we disagree, I believe that we all want better for our children – it’s in our nature. We all want to make and leave a better world for our children and grandchildren and great-great-great grandchildren. Deep, deep down we are kind. Deep down we are compassionate. Deep down, the politics fade and we are faced with questions of right and wrong: and most of us want to choose “right.” Peace Sign

I’m sure if my Facebook feeds are filled with marches, protests, and activists, yours may be, too. And while I know some of my friends have posted that these demonstrations don’t pertain to them, I can’t say I agree. I’m not saying they don’t merit critique: but these groups of people, these groups of people out to change and challenge the rhetoric of hatred and fear, they do represent me. They represent me because I feel safe saying that when I came home and announced that I knew for a fact that I was earning far less than my male peers at work, my conservative father did not meet me with a, “That’s just how the world is, honey. Women don’t deserve as much as men for the same work.” NO. He was angry with me. We were ready to knock some doors in and take some names and demand that I be paid what I am worth. We were both proud of me when I finally stood up for myself and got what I had earned.

I have hope in the future. I have hope in raising compassionate children who care about more than politics and fear. I have hope that we will stop tearing each other apart. I have hope that we can stop assuming what is best for others without knowing their individual stories.

And I have this hope because of these collections of people who continue to stand for what they believe is right and just and fair. We all want better – if not for ourselves, then for those we love, and and I’m really thankful for the groups that have stood up to say so in the past, and who are standing up to say so now.  

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