The past few months have been a time of questioning and feeling powerless. It began when I read the story of 200 young girls in Nigeria who were kidnapped and held hostage. A movement called #bringbackourgirls was started, and the internet exploded with people posting concerns, demanding action, and praying that the girls not be forgotten. I quickly jumped on board. I chose and committed to praying for not only all the girls, but for one young girl named Naomi. I changed my profile picture on facebook to the logo for the movement. I signed a petition and tweeted about the girls.
Last week, I changed my profile picture back to my own picture. As I did it, sadness filled my heart knowing that we are approaching 100 days, and the girls are still being held captive. Did all my efforts mean nothing? Is it useless to try to effect change? I hope not. Yet, I wonder if it is enough. Could I have done or do more? What would that look like?
I am thinking about the answer to questions like these as I take classes this summer. In the first semester class, we watched Half the Sky documentary about the lives of women and girls around the world who are abused, treated as slaves, sold as property, and mutilated. We saw sex trafficking here in our own country, as well as around the world. We discovered girls being denied access to education just because they are girls. We also watched a documentary about the conditions of people around the world living without proper sanitation or access to clean water. We looked at poverty at home and globally.
This semester we are talking about social problems and solutions. In one of our discussion posts, I wrote about the use of the internet and social media to effect change. I know these movements bring issues to light and help unite people around a common cause, but are they enough? My professor asked a difficult question, and I am trying to find an answer within myself. She called using social media, etc. “armchair activism”. She asked “What do you think it might take to get people off the computer and into the streets?”.
It seems like a radical idea, doesn’t it? Yet, isn’t that how change has taken place in our country since the beginning? Please understand that I am not talking about violence or overthrowing the government, but I am talking about finding ways to have a voice that will make a difference. Social media can have an impact; a study last year showed that people were more likely to vote if their friend’s post about voting. Many people learn about politics and politicians on the internet. Social media has been helpful in creating movements that do make a difference.
Take Molly Katchpole. She was 22, working two jobs, and struggling to make ends meet. When Bank of America announced a new $5/month banking fee, she thought it was unfair and decided to do something about it. She used Change.org to start a petition, shared the effort with her friends, and got 300,000 petition signatures, which pressured Bank of America to scrap plans to institute the fee. http://techchange.org/2013/07/02/social-movements-and-social-media-spark-a-movement-change-the-world/
Let’s talk about voting. Do you vote? Do you know that America has one of the lowest percentages of voter turnout for countries that allow voting? Among the 58% of people that did vote in the last election, how many actually took time to research and learn about those for whom they voted? Do you know that according to the constitution the only requirements for running for the House of Representatives are being 25 years old, have been a U.S. citizen for at least seven years, and live in the state they represent? Of course, I understand that you need to find backers with money, etc. in order to win. Or do you?
I am asking questions because I want to do something. I work in a field where I talk with so many people who are facing issues that are far too common in our country. I look at statistics about our county or read stories in news, and I hear people say, “That is so sad or so horrible. Why doesn’t someone do something?” It reminds me of a couple of quotes that seem appropriate right now.
“I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.” Lily Tomlin
“Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it.” “Well, why don’t you ask Him?” “Because I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.” (Anonymous) -a quote from A Hole in the Gospel, by Richard Stearn, President of World Vision.
Do think it is important to do something about things going on in our world? A student in my class said that he believed people either feel helpless or just don’t care.- Do you feel helpless? What do you think you can do to effect change?