I’ve had a difficult time writing this, of figuring out exactly how I want to address this.
It’s not that I’m fearful of backlash, of unfollows, of the inevitable negative reactions I will receive from those with different opinions. If you’re looking for someone who will post their outfits and makeup and stay away from anything deeper than that, you’re really already in the wrong place. There have been and will be plenty of days with light, fluffy posts to supplement this and any future posts of this nature, but this is not that day. If I didn’t use my platform to speak my mind and spread awareness, what a waste that would be. It’s not the potential backlash that made me uncertain. It’s that I needed to regain my composure, take a breath, and approach this in a way that wouldn’t alienate anyone who has an open heart. Because that’s one of our big issues that we’re currently facing — that feeling of being a stranger in a strange land. Our country is divided, and we need to stand together.
I expected and hoped for a very different outcome, but here we are. Trump is the President-elect. Some of you are celebrating, whether silently or with gusto. Some of you are mourning, confused, or angry (or all three). Some fear for what the next four years will bring, not just in legislature, but in the day to day interactions with neighbors who now feel like strangers. And some of you — a lot of you — didn’t even bother to vote. You didn’t vote.
Out of approximately 231.5 million eligible voters, about half didn’t exercise their right to vote in this election. Within that vast percentage, there are undoubtedly legitimate excuses, voter suppression, and confusion with voter ID laws, etc. But with a percentage that large, I have to believe they’re the exception, not the rule. So this is what I’m choosing to address, one lonely malady in a never-ending sea of concerns: apathy, and why it is unacceptable.
Maybe you felt your vote wouldn’t count. Maybe you hated both candidates. Maybe you didn’t want to wait in a long line. Maybe you thought you knew which way your state would go, and you felt safe in staying home. Whatever your reasoning, I’m calling nonsense. There was more at stake than just the presidency, and this election proved that the electoral map is much more unpredictable than we thought. But I’m not just here to lecture and ask you to vote in four years. I’m not just here to ask you to vote in the midterms (which are also so important) in two years. You should do both of those, absolutely. What I ask of you is to care. Let me clarify, because I don’t think the problem is true apathy, but more of a shrug of the shoulders, hands thrown in the air, what-difference-will-it-make way of thinking. I want you to care enough to want to do actually do something, to make a change, big or small…and then actually do that something.
I’m asking all of you — not just those who didn’t vote, but everyone reading this, because it can span all parties and outliers — please care more. Do more. Love more. Open up a meaningful dialogue with someone who is completely different from you. Be an active, vocal ally to people of color, to the LGBTQ community, to women, to those with a different faith. Get out of your comfort zone. Volunteer. Create a movement. Use your voice. At this point, casting a ballot is simply not enough.
If you’re sad/confused/angry/resentful right now, that doesn’t make you a sore loser. It makes you passionate about what you believe in! Don’t lose that passion. Let it give you the momentum you need to start making a change. We can’t wait until the next election; the days between our votes are just as important. It’s not time to get over it, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. If you want change, you make change. Nothing ever changed because the discontent gave up and got over it. We need champions, and I want those champions to be all of us. If you want to see what a direct impact can look like, volunteer at a local shelter or charity you believe in. Donate your time, talents, knowledge, and voice to those who need you.
Volunteering is available in many forms: mentoring students, serving meals, donating your professional services (graphic or web design, clerical work, marketing, etc.), fundraising, cleanup, helping the homeless get back on their feet, teaching classes, helping women enter the workplace (polishing their resumés, mock interviews). My little sister, a firefighter with a background in ballet, would serve hot meals in a cafeteria one day, teach a dance class for children in need the next. Volunteering is not just one role, it can be many. Bringing joy to someone’s life can be incredibly impactful. The next step is to find your role and fill it. And if it doesn’t exist, create it. DoSomething.org is full of ideas to get you started, even from the comfort of your home). Gather your friends and make a pact to volunteer, start a fundraiser, spread awareness. There are volunteer networks that make it so easy to search for opportunities.
For national volunteer opportunities, Volunteer Match is a great resource, searchable by location and interest. It’s also a great place to seek out volunteers for your own nonprofit, school, hospice or hospital. A basic account is free — you can sign up, post your listing, and hear back from interested volunteers.
For NYC volunteer opportunities, I like New York Cares. You just attend a quick orientation (they even have digital orientations, though they fill up quickly) and then you can search volunteer opportunities. Most of these are drop in, which means you don’t have to commit to more than that session, so it is great for people who have hectic schedules but want to squeeze in their volunteer time whenever possible. You can filter the volunteer opportunities by your interests, location, and when you are free. It even tells you if it’s group or family friendly, or fitting for new volunteers. To give you an idea of some current volunteer opportunities, click here.
Your dollar can also make a difference, especially when your voice is attached to it. Utilize your social media platforms to support the causes you’re passionate about, and encourage others to do the same. Here are a few organizations I’d like to highlight, which I actively support:
American Civil Liberties Union: There are individuals who think it’s okay to treat people as lesser beings because of their skin color, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. The ACLU has been a defender of civil rights for almost a century.
Planned Parenthood: I’m proudly pro-choice, and I realize that many of you are not. Defunding and demonizing Planned Parenthood because of a stance on a woman’s right to choose will affect millions of Americans. A mere 3% of their services in 2014 were abortion-related (you can access their annual report here), and as reader Joy pointed out, federal funding is not used for those services. Planned Parenthood provides contraception, sexual education and counseling, vasectomies, STD testing and treatment, cancer screenings and prevention, general women’s health services, prenatal services, and adoption referrals. When I was a young college student with barely enough income to pay my bills and buy my books, Planned Parenthood provided me with my annual exam and birth control pills, not just for pregnancy prevention but for endometriosis, free of charge. They often work on a sliding scale, and won’t turn away someone because they can’t afford care. If you’re staunchly anti-choice, I’m not asking you to support them, but I am asking you to consider all that they do for women and men who so greatly need them, and stop demonizing their practices.
American Foundation For Suicide Prevention: Less than a year ago, we unexpectedly lost our friend Charlene. She dedicated her life to science and research, to curing illness and saving lives, and the world lost one of its most brilliant minds when she left us. Election day was her and her twin’s (my dear friend Holly) birthday, and it would mean so much to me if you would donate in her name, Charlene W. Even if it’s just $1. If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), and share that number with anyone you suspect may need it.
Sanctuary For Families: Sanctuary For Families provides shelter, counseling, crisis intervention, economic empowerment, and other services to victims of domestic violence, gender violence, and sex trafficking. As someone who grew up in an abusive household, I can tell you firsthand how complicated and terrifying it can be to get out of such a horrible situation, and how difficult it can be to get back on your feet, mentally, emotionally, and financially.
Please feel free to share your favorite organizations, local volunteer network, stories of your own volunteer efforts, and pledges in the comments. Take care, and remember:
“Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world’s estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences.” -Susan B. Anthony