Sumra: If the last year has taught us anything, it’s to listen and engage

Eish Sumra, Columnist

My most distinct memory from Election Day 2016 is standing outside a bar in Paris, stumbling around crying snowflake tears.

This time last year, I sat in beautiful parks around a foreign city observing people who didn’t seem to care about the epic shift taking place across the pond. What I most poignantly remember during this period of intense confusion is sending aggressive messages to family members in our group chat. I derided them, slightly too much, as I knew some of them didn’t partake in the recent Brexit vote.

As misguided as my comments were, I stand by the sentiment that if you don’t vote and listen to others, you don’t get to have a say in political issues. There is great uncertainty these days; it often seems as if you can split the world into three emotional camps: apathy, vague concern and commitment. That middle camp is one that many Northwestern students seem to fit in. After the noise of the election, it seems like we are losing the desire to be advocates, supporters or just engaged citizens. Given the turmoil of politics around the world, just having an opinion isn’t enough. We must engage with others and, more importantly, in local political events.

One way to engage is to follow the Illinois gubernatorial race. The choices couldn’t be clearer in the Democratic primary among big money, family dynasty and grassroots progressivism. Engaging in this race — which will affect our lives as students almost as much as the presidency — is of the utmost importance. This is no time for cavalier ignorance. If you were angered by the recent presidential election, look to your local senate and house races to make a difference. These races are often ignored, despite being the most impactful for communities and offering a platform to make the loudest statements.

For an example, just look at Virginia. This past week, Virginians elected the first transgender and Latina legislators to their House of Delegates. Across the country, Sikh and black politicians won mayoral races. Local politics saw a surge of diverse candidates that can be replicated in Evanston and Illinois in the midterms next year.

When you leave NU, many of you will be thrown into paths that stray very little from your natural environment. Whether you become a doctor, a banker, a consultant, a lawyer, you will run the risk of becoming surrounded by people similar to you. This will get you nowhere. It’s easy to have opinions when issues are being thrown at you from the noise of Washington, but by listening, engaging and fighting closer to home, change can come quicker and in ways that benefit the whole community.

Just because America has a president the vast majority of students dislike doesn’t mean you go to sleep for four years. In fact, it means the opposite. You act.

Eish Sumra is a Medill senior. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.