In light of the recent election, political activism has become more and more entrenched in modern American culture. In a time when America is more politically divided than ever, it seems like every week, new marches and protests are being held to combat the latest controversy under the Trump administration.
Violent protests initially born out of political activism have made headlines over the past year, especially at college campuses. And though most of these reports have implied that the violence was perpetrated by liberals, it has actually been the work of people from both sides of the political spectrum. For example, though a majority protests at Berkeley this year have been non-violent, the few that have gotten physical include the protests of anarchists on Feb. 1 after Milo Yiannopoulos was invited as a speaker and those of Trump supporters on April 15. No one particular political ideology is to blame for violence; extremism of any kind can make situations dangerous.
People seem hesitant to label themselves as “political activists,” not wanting to be grouped with rioters that often take to violence. However, there is power in branding oneself as an activist, as political activism is our strongest form of self-expression. Since the birth of our country, citizens have been encouraged to take an active role in policy-making by voicing their opinions on new legislation to help the government better shape future policies that will benefit the people. And in the past, political activism has definitely been effective. It was only through movements carried out by brave and dedicated individuals that we were able to achieve universal suffrage and further civil rights.
And as useful as they can be for raising awareness for a topic, rallies themselves do not create change in laws of government policies. Instead, it is activism that most influences those in power. This may be accomplished economically, through the boycott or purchase of certain products, or through lobbying, where interest groups communicate directly with political activists to raise their awareness on whatever issues they hope to see addressed in future policy.
But the most powerful tool that people have is often the one that is most neglected— voting. The beauty of a democracy is that representatives and those in higher power must, on some level, appease a large portion of the population. If a problem is significant enough, representatives can be forced to solve it, if only to preserve their own chances of reelection.
So, if you see a political problem that you want solved, don’t be afraid to get active, make noise about it and encourage us all to face it head on.