One of my professors once asked the class, “What’s your advocacy?” Surprisingly, I was stumped. It seemed like such a simple question, but it got me more tongue-tied than I dare admit. Until I broke the question down in my mind and asked myself, “What do you fight for?” The answer came without hesitation: well, everything. Now, wait—before you judge me as holier than thou, let me explain.
Being a quasi-grown-up, I’ve started thinking about the world the way an adult does—and a headache typically results. Marcos getting a hero’s burial, Trump in the Oval Office, Putin buddying up with Assad, and the UK splitting from the EU—it’s as if the world has gone to hell, and we’re none the wiser to stop it. Let’s not forget the war in Syria, extrajudicial killings, and police brutality plaguing our homeland. I could go on and on with this string of nonstop tragedies to the point that I’ll only end up feeling hollow. And “hollow” sums it up quite nicely, because just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it does.
Comments like “faith in humanity lost” or something else along those lines have been spamming the traffic of tragedies on my newsfeed. Truth is, comments like that are pretty much spot-on most times, especially when a dictator’s given a hero’s burial, a misogynist is now the world’s most powerful leader, and that barbaric show of police brutality a few months ago made human rights, in that moment, just words. But before I joined the online torrent of comments “giving up on humanity,” I got a stark reality check. This is hardly the time to lose faith—because if the world is going to shit, then you might as well fight for it.
“…might as well fight for it.”
As often as these “end-of-the-world” news plague our newsfeeds, I’m also reminded that as bad as things can get, there are still those who remember what it means to be human—and to not give up once the going gets tough. Case in point, the White Helmets in Syria, a group of fearless Syrians who run towards destruction to rescue civilians from the rubble, guided by the Quran’s words, “Whoever saves one life, saves all of humanity.” Another hero that comes to mind—albeit fictional—is Madaya Mom, the character of a digital comic by ABC News and Marvel that details the harrowing life of one Syrian mother and her everyday battle to keep her family alive in war-torn Syria. A storyteller of heroes, Molly Crabapple has also led the way for the new generation of artist-journalists drawing at the frontlines of wars to “rip art right out of that ivory tower and bring it back into the mud and the blood and the streets of the world.”
Let’s not forget our own homegrown everyday heroes who do simple things like giving out black ribbons to fellow students to remind us that burying a body won’t bury the truth. These are ordinary people with hearts of gold who understand that even though there are times we can’t prevent the storm from coming, there must never be a time that we let it get us down. As President Obama said moments before Trump was elected, “No matter what happens, the sun will rise in the morning.” And it did—the sky won’t fall once Trump sits in the Oval Office, just as the earth won’t shake once Marcos is buried in its sacred soil.
So, before you all throw an end-of-the-world party, take a moment to consider that even though we can’t prevent terrible things from happening, we should never give up without a fight. The end only begins only when we let it—when we lose faith in humanity that is not yet lost despite this messed up world of ours.
So, might as well fight for it.
To answer my professor’s question a little more surely, my advocacy is this: the advocacy to have an advocacy—to fight for something, anything, especially in this passive generation that’s a little too quick to forget that these problems that make them “lose faith in humanity” will be theirs to inherit one day.
Perhaps being so young, these optimistic thoughts about the world come easy for me. Perhaps when I’m older, and the skepticism sets in, I’ll change my tune. But for now—call me preachy—this a fight I’ll never get bored of or lose faith in.