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Caring: The first step towards change

By ALEXANDRA TIRADO

As a foreigner living in the United States and actively participating in its culture, I think I can say this with some confidence: U.S., you’re quirky as hell. Don’t get me wrong though America, you are a wonderful country. Even in this age and time, the U.S. still remains a socially responsible country in many ways, like marriage equality and freedom of speech, and is still regarded as the land of opportunities. A land of opportunities that indulges in tide pod eating, whose president throws Twitter tantrums and that likes to be called America even though the rest of America keeps reminding you that America is the continent you’re part of, not your actual name.

I guess one could say you’re kind of like a rad version Lady Bird, but with more of a gun fetish. Yet, even with all of this in mind, when the time came to take action and participate in the March For Our Lives march to end gun violence, I was there. Not because I love marches (okay, maybe protests do remind me of home a little) but because I care. And I think you should, too.

Coming from Venezuela, I am no stranger to social issues. We were one of the most developed countries in Latin America in the 90s, but now we are a masked dictatorship with a president that has been accused of being involved in the drug trade and that gives free houses to people that throw mangos at him at rallies (not even kidding, look it up). So, when people tell me about disliking their government or any particular policy, believe me, I get them.

And when people tell me they don’t read the news because they get depressed at how much hatred is flying around I definitely see where they are coming from. Here is the thing, though: not looking at the news because it makes you uncomfortable is like knowing your partner cheats on you but not acknowledging their infidelity because it might be too painful. See it or not, it is still happening, and whether or not you want to accept it, you are still getting screwed over. Painful as it might be, you should care.

Here is when it gets complicated, though. What if your partner and you are fine but you see a picture of your friend’s partner with a lover on Instagram? Should you tell them? Is it even your place to tell them? I realize the cheating partner metaphor is getting ridiculous yes, and yes you should care if people are getting screwed over because of a system that you are a part of. It happens often with minority groups that people within the same groups have to stand up for each other. That makes everything very unfair. If the general public doesn’t stand up beside them, there is a good chance that whatever they are fighting for will be lost.

You don’t have to be gay, black, or hispanic to care about gay, black, and hispanic issues. You just have to not be afraid to exercise a little empathy and stand up beside them. So, next time you see a person of color getting unfairly shot dead by a police officer or a mother crying for the death of her child at school on a newspaper or website, don’t be so quick to turn the page to avoid actually feeling something. Instead, feel something and then do something.

One thing I can say about witnessing all of these movements though, is that  the people who do stand up and speak out are inspiring beyond words. To hear the Parkland survivors stand up to gun violence and to see so many people trying to make a change is truly heartwarming. Every country and every society has its flaws, but it is up to the people in them to step up and fix them. A lot of people speak badly about the younger generations in the U.S., about how they are lazy and entitled. I don’t think that way. I think a good part of this generation does something that many generations before them did not: they care.

I come from a country where our personal opinions are used to take away our most fundamental rights and where freedom of speech is a thing of the past. Here, we still have that privilege, and people should take advantage of it to the best of their abilities. And it doesn’t matter if what you care about is not what other people care about. If you care about animal rights, gun regulation, marijuana legalization, anything really, then there is no better time to act on it than now. No action is ever too small in the face of change and there is no greater action than that which was sparked from empathy and passion. So, if you still don’t, please care. And by the way U.S., don’t listen to Trump–you never stopped being great.

Alexandra Tirado can be reached at alexandra.tirado@theminaretonline.com

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