I don’t even know where to begin. I am 15 years old and as I write this, I am sitting with my family, huddled together around our television and I look around and see the fear in their eyes. I sit beside my younger brother, who is wrapped up in my mother’s arms as though her limbs can protect him from the world around us that is threatening our future. We are only children, he and I, and only two of many who are, like us, watching an attack on American democracy (”Trump faces historic second impeachment; McConnell rejects emergency session, making delay until Biden presidency all but certain,” Jan. 13).
We, the youth of America, are witnessing history, but more importantly, we are only witnessing it. We are being forced to stand on the sidelines while our future falls to pieces around us, while our great nation and the vision of freedom imagined by our ancestors is crushed beneath the heel of a dictator with no respect for democracy or our rights as human beings and citizens of the United States, and our aforementioned future morphs into a long era of fixing a nation ripping at the seams because of the mistakes of our elders.
We are watching because we are children who are constantly told that our age means that we lack the judgment to make choices for ourselves and our country, forced to resort to pleading with the adults around us who have a voice and a vote, and the power to shape our nation with those tools that come with adulthood, and to trust that they will deliver our message for us, but we can no longer let this fight be theirs and theirs alone. We can’t just watch anymore. We must act. It is up to us now, the children of America, to speak up, to do all that is in our power to save our future.
Right now, it matters not who is the child of whom, or who has upset whom, or who owes whom, because now we stand as one. We are our country’s, and perhaps our world’s, last hope. I beg of you, whether you are the son of an immigrant or factory worker, the daughter of a lawyer or a stay-at-home mother, or the child of front line workers or teachers, open your eyes. Open them, see the state of our nation and stand beside me as we fight for our freedom.
I, too, am afraid. I am afraid that my words will not be enough, that my voice will be disregarded because of my age, that no one will hear me over the din of the adults around me. I am afraid for my brother, for my little cousins, for my classmates and friends, and for the young people across the nation who I have never met. I fear for my future, my freedom and my life. But even though I am afraid, I remember the words of Nelson Mandela, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” And so, I will put aside my fear, for the sake of all of the others who are afraid.
I may not be fearless, but I know that there is work to be done. And so, I will begin my work.
Eliyah Burg, Baltimore
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