These Remarkable “Teens Against Trump” Essays Show The Power Of The Pen On Politics
In January, The Huffington Post announced a new essay contest, inviting 13-to-19-year-olds to submit essays that explained why they don't want Donald Trump to be president. On Monday, HuffPo announced the winner of their #TeensAgainstTrump contest: 19-year-old Zia T., an English major at Howard University. Her essay, along with several other finalists, were published online. These teens' writings reveal not only their disdain for Trump, but also their hopes for the future and what America means to them.
Zia begins her essay by paying homage to suffragist leaders whose work has enabled people like her — not only a woman, but an African American woman — the right to engage politically, as she prepares to vote for the very first time. Against this backdrop of historical progress, Zia expresses confusion at the rise of Donald Trump:
Looking at the Trump campaign, I have so many questions. How can someone propose to block or ban certain religious and ethnic groups from the country? How can someone mock women and disabled people for their appearances? How can someone say that they could shoot someone in the middle of the street, and lose no support? How can so many people rally behind this type of evil?
Zia says that she fears what type of country would be left for her and subsequent generations if Trump were allowed to lead. But she expresses hope as well, saying that Trump and his supporters are ...
... encouraging people, not only in America, but all over the world, to play more active roles in their government and to get out and vote. We the people have the power to make a difference in this country and it begins at the polls.
Zia concludes her essay with a message of inclusiveness, reflecting the extension of rights and dignity that is central to her idea of what this country should represent:
Do you know what will make America great? Building bridges, not walls. Embracing our neighbors of different religions, cultures, and ethnicities with open arms. Creating opportunities for all Americans. Protecting the environment. Affordable healthcare and education. Open-mindedness. Moving forward. Empathy. Understanding. Hope. That makes America great.
Other finalists in the essay contest echoed Zia's concerns about the xenophobic tone of the Trump campaign. One teen writes that Trump "hopes to appeal to white middle class Americans who feel that they are being deprived of the American dream," astutely observing that Trump plays off the fears and insecurities of white America. Another writes, "this country does not need to be made great again by ignoring the contributions of all people." A third states, "If we elect Donald Trump as our president, we will be condoning this hateful speech."
Along with sharing concerns about Trump's politics, some of the teens point out that he does not possess the kind of skills or experience required to lead a nation. One writer says that electing Trump would turn the U.S. from "a melting pot of cultures and opportunities into a country where we were so desperate for change that we allowed a politically inexperienced businessman to take office." And another writes, "What Donald Trump needs to realize is that America is not his business, and its citizens are not his employees."
Zia's idea that Trump will spur his opponents to get involved politically is supported by the work of these teens. The phenomenon of Trump's candidacy has encouraged these teens — many of whom are too young to vote in November — to reflect on what they think makes a country great, and to use the power of the pen to convey their political ideas to the public. This has been a harsh and frightening introduction to politics for many young people, and these #TeensAgainstTrump, who responded with an increased desire to engage politically, give hope for a strong, progressive counter-movement.