The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

Everything by Ezra: be civically engaged


Don’t tell me you’re not a political person. That’s impossible. We live in an inherently political world. Everything around us, our school buildings and curricula, our sidewalks, bike paths and roads, our air quality, our groceries, our shopping, our taxes, our workplaces and everything in between, are dictated by politics.

If you have any preferences or ideas about how any of these things should be, you’re a political person. If you are anything other than absolutely neutral towards everything around you, you are a political person.

All too often, I hear people tell me that they “don’t do politics.” They say that “politics are too messy, too divisive.” And all too often, I hear those same people complaining about the world around them. You can’t have it both ways.

For better or for worse, we live within many systems: school systems, transit systems, food systems, economic systems, medical systems, law enforcement systems and more.

We live inside of good systems like the one that provides free breakfast and lunch to all K-12 students in Massachusetts. We live within systems that have their ups and downs, like The T and the Eisenhower Interstate System. And we also live within racist, misogynistic, homophobic, gender-binary, environmentally destructive and oppressive systems.

All of these systems can be changed. Every one of these systems, no matter how long they’ve been around or how deep their roots are, were invented and constructed by humans. Because these systems were made by humans, humans can also unmake them.

We all have a responsibility to change things that we see as unfair. We live in a democracy, a form of government that is founded on the ideas of civic engagement, debate, and advocacy. If we’re not taking full advantage of our democracy, what are we doing?

If we all wanted to “stay out of politics,” we would live in an oligarchy or a dictatorship. We would leave the decision-making up to those who are interested in it and we would accept that our fates are in their hands.

I for one, am not okay with leaving my fate and the fate of the world I live in solely in the hands of others. I think that’s true of most people, especially high schoolers.

If we want to have control of the world around us, every single one of us has a responsibility to be civically engaged, especially on issues that matter to us. These issues can be as simple as “I don’t want to wait in line for 30 minutes to get a sandwich in the cafeteria.” Get in touch with food service workers and with school administration, and figure out how to break up the line. Maybe it involves creating a third lunch shift, or a second window at the deli counter.

It is relatively pointless to stand around complaining when there’s something you can do about it.

Many issues are specific to Brookline and can only be addressed through local action, but other issues are nationwide or global. These issues, like racism and climate change, can be really intimidating to start to tackle. But there are a few things I know.

First: We need to start somewhere. If we wait around for the perfect way to get started, we’re never going to get anywhere because the perfect time will never come. We just need to do it. If no one else will, why not you?

Second: Nation-wide and global problems are present at a local level and can be addressed through local action. In fact, when we do something in Brookline, we’re showing the rest of the world that change is possible. Most state-level change starts with one town, then two, until eventually it makes its way into the entire state. Local action is the first step to large-scale change.

Third: You should know that you are wanted in politics. In my experience, school administrators, district leadership, local, state, and federal legislators are thrilled when students get involved. They will help you through the process. You just need to reach out to them with an idea, a passion and a will to make a change. You need to take the initiative to get the ball rolling.

Reach out to the teacher who you think has an unfair grading policy. Reach out to food service staff if you think lunch lines are too long. Reach out to school administrators if you think that queer writers aren’t fairly represented in the English curriculum. Reach out to your elected officials if you want to see more bike infrastructure or more affordable housing in the town. Just reach out.

Our entire nation is founded on the principle that “We The People” hold the power and the government obtains its power through us, with our consent. Even if we can’t yet legally vote, we are “The People.” We are powerful when we want to be. The question is whether or not we want to sit around and complain, or if we want to wield our power.

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