Finding a stand worthy of taking

Kate Bigam

Do you know how many people are being murdered in the Darfur region of Sudan? Do you know what laws exist in your state for immigrants, or which cosmetics corporations test their products on animals? And more importantly – do you care?

I’m currently going into my third week as an intern in Washington, D.C. I was placed into an internship based on an application on which I listed my social action priorities. As I sat in the Hub and filled out my application, I realized that I had no idea what issues mattered most to me politically. I listed the first three things that came to mind – equal rights, women’s reproductive rights and immigration – and hoped for the best.

My internship is at Family Pride, a national organization fighting for family equality for gay and lesbian parents. It’s an issue I chose on blind interest, knowing little about the topic and nothing about the organization. In the past two weeks, though, I’ve learned about laws, legislation, discrimination and activism. I’ve become personally invested, and I’ve begun to develop a stronger sense of my personal values – what I believe in, what I stand for and what I will fight for.

Many of my fellow interns are working with organizations that I can’t seem to muster much interest in. My roommate is working on environmental health; another is involved with the plight of the homeless. These are two issues that I realize the importance of but am unable to generate much personal investment in. I’ve been feeling guilty about this, as if I’m not as socially aware as I ought to be.

The other day, though, I attended Bible study with a young rabbi named Jonathan Greenberg. He led a discussion about what to do when two sides of an argument are at such odds that they can’t even agree to disagree, a problem that’s especially rampant in a city as politically charged as Washington.

“Have a line that is uncrossable,” the rabbi told us. “Stand for something.” His words got me thinking about my problem of not caring about enough issues and, ultimately, which issues I do believe in and care about.

Not everyone can be passionate about everything. There are some subjects that may hold a burning importance for one person but mean very little to another. The problem is this: Many people don’t have any idea what is of burning importance to them.

If you try to care about everything, you will inevitably spread yourself too thin. There won’t be enough of your own interest to go around, and you will end up like I did, feeling generally uninformed and a bit guilty.

Instead, find something you feel passionate about. Ferret out one or two issues you want to know absolutely everything about, then do your research. Form opinions and act on them. You won’t be able to get everyone to care about your cause, but that shouldn’t be the ultimate goal. Instead, aim to make as much of a difference as you possibly can.

In this era, college students especially seem to be politically and socially indifferent on most issues. But as the old saying goes, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

So find what it is that you stand for – and start standing.

Kate Bigam is a senior journalism major and columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].