Some conversations are too much

Every time you think you have our society figured out, it throws a curveball at you.

Oliver Hinson

Few moments in my life have shook me to my core, but I will always remember them. The ones that immediately come to mind are my great-grandfather’s death from cancer and watching the video of George Floyd’s death for the first time. Not only did these events fill me with sadness, but they both made me realize that there will always be evil in this world. This is a hard reality for a child to accept, but it is ultimately an important one. The sooner you realize it, the sooner you can start to combat it. The unfortunate part of this lesson, though, is that it is learned many times. Every time you think you understand life, it throws something completely different your way. I think that’s what happened to me last Monday.

     Everything was normal about the day until I entered the school. I found some of my friends, set down my bags, and the discourse immediately started. Somehow, my peers had found something new in politics to argue about. The kids that I hang out with have completely different political opinions than me, and usually, that’s okay. I’ve learned that in this day and age, sacrificing some of your values in the name of friendship is a valuable choice to make. Most of the time, it’s pretty easy to shrug off what they say; they might have different economic viewpoints, or they might hate a person that I’ve grown to love. What they said on this day, though, was something I did not expect to hear.

    “Women can’t be politicians,” they said. Every single one of them. They all believed it. They had a firm credence that women weren’t fit to be politicians, simply because of their biological sex. For almost 5 minutes, they tried to explain their views to me, but enough was enough. I walked away from the group; I could not continue to stand there and watch my conscience rot away. Now, I know, I previously said that it was sometimes important to sacrifice your beliefs in order to maintain friendship, but there’s another clause to that rule, and it holds far more gravity; at some point, your values outweigh your desires. Only you get to decide what that point is. For me, blatant sexism crosses that line, and my decision confirmed it. Unfortunately, though, there is still more darkness in this story. 

     It wasn’t too long before I found another group of people that I knew, and so I made my way over to them and told my story. I spared no details, and they all looked at me with blank stares until I had finished my anecdote. At that point, they looked me dead in the eye and confirmed the dreadful truth: they wholeheartedly agreed with my previous group. They, too, believed that women had no place in politics, and any assertion to the contrary earned the label of “liberal snowflake.” So I repeated the process, and if that wasn’t enough, it happened a third time, with a third group. Some might say I had the worst luck in the world that day, but the truth is far sadder. Sexism still pervades our world today in ways we never thought to be possible. 

     Perhaps it’s because I’m a man, and I don’t necessarily have to deal with the ways it affects our society, but I thought that the belief that a person is unable to carry out a task simply because of their gender was only found in isolated occurrences, like news segments or far-right rallies. It shook me to my core to realize that women, even in our high school, have to deal with the realization that the guy across the hall from them likely doesn’t trust them to be in charge of anything, let alone a country. It made me even more sad to know that these prejudiced behaviors are learned; these people are influenced by those around them, and there’s enough evil influence in this world to keep these opinions going strong. That’s one of the reasons that makes combatting this problem incredibly difficult; your positive influence on someone can always be outweighed by negative influence.

     The other reason that this problem is hard to tackle is its invisibility. For the most part, it’s hard to tell what someone’s opinions are just by looking at them, and you can coexist with them for years without  knowing what they think about something. With a visible problem, you can identify the source and exterminate it at the root. Right now, I have the opportunity to treat this problem as visible, by releasing the identities of the people in these groups, but I won’t, because it would be wrong of me. We could name and shame these people all we want, but at the end of the day, that will only cause a bigger problem. By treating this problem as visible, we give people the opportunity to “fix” it, and act like it has been solved, when in reality, it will permeate our lives again in the future. Right now, I want people to face reality. There is still evil in this world. Evil is like dust: it seems invisible until you shine light on it. When we are confronted by an ugly, horrific, invisible evil, we are given two choices: forget everything and run or face everything and rise. I hope we make the right choice.