Just because I disagree doesn’t mean I’m wrong

Youth does not equal ignorance

Hana Helfand, Editor-in-Chief

To be completely honest — I didn’t choose to care about politics or the world. Growing up, I hated watching the news. I thought it was superficial and complicated and, quite frankly, too boring to hold my interest. But slowly, as I started to learn more about the world through school, media and life, I realized how much everything in the world related to politics in one way or another. 

For example, I was scrolling through my phone one day, listening to my dad and aunt talk about how New York City is becoming more dangerous because more people are using marijuana. Perhaps it’s because I live in a state where marijuana has been legalized, but I chimed in absentmindedly: “But weed isn’t that dangerous.” 

They each gave me a funny look — kind of like the way people look at a dog that tries to sit at the dinner table: “How cute. It’s trying to be a person.” 

This struck me as odd — especially considering that I’ve had conversations with my dad about politics and civil rights issues in the past, and we were generally in agreement. He’d say something about how the world will be “my problem” one day, so it’s good that I’m paying attention to what goes on it. But it also threw me off because I’m 17 years old. Half of my friends voted in the 2020 election. I am, in fact, a person. 

I elaborated, “Well, weed doesn’t suddenly make someone a delinquent. It doesn’t have the same adverse effects as other drugs, and it can actually be helpful if used in a certain way. It’s only really dangerous if you’re trying to do something while under the influence.”

They quickly sputtered in response: “But it’s the principle.” 

The conversation quickly delved into economics and morals. If I tried to retort, they’d give each other a look — “how cute” — before talking about how I don’t know how the real world works. And while I’ve only ever had one paying job, and the majority of my political knowledge comes from my addiction to scrolling through news articles — they didn’t just discount my opinions because of my limited “experience.”

They discounted my opinions because I disagreed with them. Because I’m younger than them. Because those two factors together must automatically equate to “ignorance” and “not knowing what I’m talking about.” 

I wrote an article a few months ago about how not everything needs to be politicized, but I think it’s safe to say that we’re far beyond the point of no return. Aside from the all too ironic fall of democracy as we know it, politics have invaded every aspect of daily life. 

Our own principal even emailed students and parents to expect (respectful) political discussions in social studies classes — in which case, yes, it was literally the “principle” inciting these discussions. Teenagers are expected to know about politics and the world, but if they try to exhibit their knowledge, they’re dismissed. 

We’re not stupid because we’re young.

We’re not wrong because we disagree. 

We’re not “cute” because we care. 

And we shouldn’t be discarded from the political conversation just because we can’t vote yet. 

Our opinions arguably matter more because yes, the world WILL be our problem one day, and we’re just trying our best to solve it as quickly as possible. I’d even go so far as to say we might know more about the world because of the interconnected nature of the internet. We don’t have to physically pick up a newspaper to stay informed — and trust me, we ARE informed. 

I still do hate politics, but I’m not obtuse enough to think they don’t matter. But if politics should matter to me, then I think my voice should matter in the world of politics.