By Maxine Arnheiter
When I was 11 years old, my school held a rally during the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
I remember staying up late with my babysitter, making a flashy, patriotically colored sign for Obama. I misspelled the word “forward” and had to scrape off the glitter of the extra “r.”
It was the first election I was old enough to half-way comprehend, and I was thrumming with excitement. I was passionately for Obama, mostly because like other kids, I had adopted my parents’ views.
My father had spent the year campaigning for Obama in our conservative Florida town.
He went door-to-door asking people to vote, and many times faced threats and insults, once being chased away by a broom-wielding Romney supporter. I was more than ready to make my own contribution.
Now, at 16, I am starting to live through the results of another election.
People in America today are scared.
My political views have evolved in the past four years, sparking thought-provoking arguments at the family dinner table about gender equality.
It’s not only the election of Donald Trump but the current state of the world that makes me wonder what lies ahead.
Fear is a powerful force, and this past year has demonstrated as much.
People in America today are scared, not only of those far away, but even of their next-door neighbors.
We have seen this throughout history. The ancient Mesopotamians feared the volatile flooding of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers as signs of their gods’ wrath.
The Cold War era was defined by fear of Communist aggression, the “red scare.”
Will future historians see the coming four years in the same terms?
I came out of that election with a spark, a little flame.
For the first time, Americans have chosen as their president a man who has neither political nor military experience. We have undeniably made strides towards a more progressive America, but I am scared for how the party soon to take office will try to reverse them.
It is said that every period has its “one thing” that defines it in the eyes of future historians.
A century from now, when people look back to Trump-era politics, I hope they will learn lessons from what can happen when citizens vote out of fear.
Holding my home-made sign in glittery fingers, a seventh-grade girl, I took to the school courtyard, waving my message at anyone who would look, yelling my throat sore.
It was my political debut. I fought with the other children in my grade, pushing my opinions to the point of tears.
Where I developed this fiery passion, I’m not sure. I do know that I came out of that election with a spark, a little flame that kindled my love for politics and horror of injustice.
And this, I hope, is how future politicians will see my generation, a small flame that lit up an entire world.
I hope we will be remembered, not only for the unjust nature of our society, but for our fight against it.
(The views are the author’s.)
Maxine Arnheiter is spending her penultimate year of high school studying at the School Year Abroad program in Rennes, France. Her home is in the U.S. state of Florida, and she aspires to become a (good) politician or an (okay) writer.