concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character.
No dictionary in the entire world is capable of discriminating right from wrong; the struggle to differentiate the ‘good’ from the ‘bad’ is one I predict will last the test of time. It is impossible to deny the immensity of handling topics concerning the faults and strengths of humanity itself, or the exact process of an individual’s development of morality; these particularly complex circumstances fail to provide simple solutions. Having survived the recent war, also known as the 2016 presidential election, the exposing of the reality of America’s own values held disturbingly shocking results. While this continued to play out, the rest of the country scrambled to determine personal beliefs in such a time of moral uncertainty, an especially challenging feat for young people like myself. However, through the limited experiences of a mere fourteen years of existence, I believe to just have begun comprehending the sheer power of perspective and its ability to shape morals.
Speaking from experience, I believe the rise in technology has pressured teens more than ever before to have stable footing in their morals regarding political occurrences. For the duration of the election, social media had morphed into a frequent platform for discussion, typically leading to argument, for the political views of the student body. As a witness and rare participant in these impassioned exchanges, I often questioned my own morals and how they compared with those of my peers. A fear of succumbing to the emotional need of acceptance by ‘following’ the crowd plagued me in those days, while straying from the general consensus was not an enticing option either. It was difficult to sift through the falsities and truths of the hundreds of statements, to sort them into neat piles of ‘wrong’ and ‘right.’ The constant stream of opinion continued to flow in alternate forms, subtle habits of popular news stations or Instagram snapshots revealing the political parties of favored celebrities being prominent examples. Being inundated with influences of this nature was confusing, as well as draining, and came to be an undeniable factor in the formation of our generation’s morals.
Moments after stepping off, the sleek locomotive behind us whirred into motion and shot off to its next destination. The hustle and bustle inside of Suburban Street Station was absolutely overwhelming. People from every corner of the world, every generation, and every walk of life, it seemed, were present: short, tall, young, old, women, man, black, white, and colors in between all here to attend the Women’s March on Philadelphia. A cloyingly sweet smell of what I identified to be a Dunkin Donuts combined with the musty odor of the underground assaulted my nose. It seemed as if the air was charged with anticipation, the delighted dialogue of various groups echoing off the concrete walls. The incessant dings and buzzes of my iPhone, notifications from social media and text regarding current politics, continually interrupted my train of thought. I then became aware of my mother’s hand guiding my sister and I towards the steps, out the massive glass doors, and into the midday light of Center City, Philadelphia.
I couldn't help but let out a loud gasp when I got a first glimpse of the crowds. “Woah” I heard my sister utter under her breath. Moments later, a Snapchat of the insane mob was already loading onto my personal ‘story’ for all my friends to view. A little less than five blocks ahead, a massive throng of people could be seen waving signs around and marching down the broad streets. The slate gray skies, a prophecy of rain, and whipping winds apparently had zero effect on the participants, as they showed no signs of deterrence. A sense of admiration washed over me as I observed the sea of people and their collective mission: to stand in solidarity of one another, to let their voices be heard in the face of a daunting future. In that moment, an urge to join in in the demonstration hit me with the force of a ton of bricks. Our trio walked through the streets toward the jumble of people, dwarfed in comparison by towering structures, all the while absorbing the cacophony of honks, screeches, and gleeful chatter.
We finally reached the masses and fell in line. It was then that I started to take notice of the plethora of signage surrounding me. Each and everyone was unique, supporting different causes and messages with varying levels of artistic ability. Some showcased unapologetic declarations of feminism, others bashing the latest governmental administration. Statements pertaining to climate change, women’s rights, the LGBTQ+ community and a great deal more presented claims upon claims. Some screamed, others whispered. Vibrant pride flags were seen flowing in the wind, high above our heads, needing no words at all. After watching a group loudly criticize each other’s opinions, my mother whispered to me, “Always remember that it is okay to give a voice to your opinions, but it is never okay to disrespect another person’s regardless of how senseless you believe it to be.” Following that moment, I could almost feel the unconditional love in the air, heavy on my senses as we marched farther; this sense of hope was positively inspiring. It was certainly a beautiful thing for these people to have been gifted the chance to voice their opinions and stand up for their beliefs in a way that they could be heard. Yet, after observing the 100th sign, my head began to spin with an abundance of doubt. What do I stand for? What is right? Or wrong? What would my friends or parents think? Nonetheless, I disregarded these worries for a later time, a time when deep reflection could be had, driven by the wish to live presently and continue on making history.
In a quite literal instance, the Women’s March on Philadelphia of 2017 went on to play an important role in the establishment of my personal principals. Physically laid out for me were the beliefs, views, wishes, and hopes of tens of thousands people; all I had to do was pick and choose the best, right? Long story short, I turned out to be painfully wrong. Each side to every issue provided compelling arguments, arguments I once understood to have no place in making myself. Who was I to decide the fate of transgender people? Of the well being of this earth? This was an experience that put me smack dab in the middle of a national crisis of morality, one that begged for answers from the depths of my very being. It was a powerful and simultaneously frightening feeling to be wholly in charge of the direction of my overall personality, and one that I today consider to be an incredible opportunity.
Eventually, I came to realize that this experience was never about the actual establishment of my political morals, but about what I assimilated on the course of the adventure. Learning to first consider a person’s background or motivation behind their claims before making a potentially negative judgement proved to be a notion that would stick with me; it is something I dwell on nearly every day. Respecting others and their opinions is another vital lesson I have taken to heart, and is one that has truly tested my patience on several occasions. I now find an importance in the act of standing up for my beliefs, unhindered by the criticisms of others who may not agree. Although the journey arduous and perplexing, I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.