I believe in pro-choice, anti-war, and didn’t object to the public humiliation of Rush Limbaugh. I believe George Bush is the Worst Thing to Ever Happen to America, and the decision to invade Iraq is as irresponsible as is it ignorant. I believe Michael Jordan has had a greater influence on children than any other person in America. I believe hypocrisy is the greatest sin one can inflict besides violence, and lying has become as commonplace as dishonest politicians. I believe opinions are healthy and necessary.
I have held campaign signs at election time since I was six, and the sign seemed as big and powerful as a sail. With gloved hands to protect as much against the splinters as the cold, I stood with my parents and sister. Our family has always believed in taking a stand. When I was ten, my mother ran and got elected to town meeting. I was eleven when she won a seat on school committee. Our house has always been full of campaign literature. NPR is always on, and the New York Times and Boston Globe are read and recycled daily. Mother Jones, The Nation, The Economist, The Atlantic, Harper’s and The New Yorker breed their own slippery piles. While I don’t always read the myriad journals, I am an enthusiastic reader of books, ranging from mysteries to The Odyssey.
And, while I’m a product of their politics, I am my own person. They are vegetarians; I eat meat daily. They never played school sports; I was recently named Athlete of the Week in my local newspaper. In football, I broke the school record in touchdown receptions, and in basketball I have won numerous awards. I love to feel my heart racing in the heat of competition, with two seconds left and the ball in my hands. I believe in the excitement of school pride, the roar of the crowd, pep rallies, lights, the marching band, the fans and teammates joining together, of being part of something bigger than the individual.
But, I also believe in the importance of self, of knowing when being part of a crowd can be harmful.
I don’t understand, say, my peers who drink themselves to the point of being sick. Every weekend.
My father talks about a vast, right-wing conspiracy, and while I don’t know if I subscribe to that, I did wake up every morning in November 2000 wondering and worrying who would be president. I believe the classes I take at college will help me be a more critical thinker. I hope to write for the student newspaper. I also want to join the different clubs available to students. I’m eager to learn all the things I wished I could have studied in high school.
Recently, I overheard a woman talk about the “trend” for college students to study in Ghana during their junior years. She said (contemptuously) “twenty year olds think they can save the world.”
I believe when you’re twenty you should try.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.