This I Believe

Sara - Knoxville, Tennessee
Entered on October 17, 2006

There are people who think one thing and are too afraid to be loyal to themselves. They do as they’re told, never once voicing an original thought. For some reason, we have an epidemic of mass proportions on our hands of people unable to say what they truly feel. This is something I know a little bit about.

I am a fifteen year old, northern liberal high-school student living in the ultra-conservative city of Knoxville, Tennessee. This place is as close as you can get to a colony of evangelical republicans without having to apply for sovereignty like an Indian reservation. A town where evolution is deemed the “devil’s work” and being a homosexual is the same as being a murderer. At least six girls are pregnant in school because there is a parental consent law on having an abortion. The growing Hispanic population is viewed with suspicion and hate, but just until someone needs some cheap landscaping done, or hire an illegal nanny for three dollars an hour. Fortunately, I was born a headstrong girl, and have not accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior as of yet, although many have tried.

That description was just to put things in perspective. The people here are mostly good people, just misinformed and unwilling to change. I’m definitely not saying that being a liberal is synonymous with being able to think, far from it. Most people here, however, are just unconsciously afraid to think for themselves. One incident of this inability for original thought stands out in my mind.

In 2004, my eighth grade year, we had to give a speech about who we would support in the upcoming presidential election and why. Being a loyal democrat, I defended John Kerry, although he was not my ideal candidate. By the end of my speech, I had won over at least half the class on the sheer common-sense of my argument. Tax-cuts for people who made 1.2 million a year was particularly a hated one, as I remember. The next day, I had lost almost every one of them. The top two reasons were: “John Kerry hates God,” and “But listen to what my parents said about (insert exaggerated pro-Bush fact here.)” It astounded me. No one had legitimately gone home and thought about it, and came up with their own ideas. They instead chose to listen to their parents and a two-thousand year old book of myths. After that episode, I stopped trying to convert people, knowing my efforts would be wasted by the next day. I started to focus on my beliefs, and stop worrying about what others believe.

In my fifteen years, I’ve been called a baby-killer, tree-hugger, queer-lover, Yankee elitist, I’ve even had a guy tell me he’d send me flowers in hell. Every time I hear things like this, I become more inclined to let no one else do what the one thing my brain was made to do. Think for yourself, this I believe.