by Emily Schwartz, Managing Editor
photo by Becky Dozortsev
It’s been easy for me to see a post on someone’s Instagram and immediately adopt their opinion. Or, I’ll hear my parents talking about an issue and parrot their words in a political discussion. But I’m left with no opinion that I know is truly mine. Whether it’s a campaign I half-heartedly worked on last summer because a good friend encouraged me to, or this summer’s Boston mayoral campaign in which I chose to support the candidate an organization I work for endorsed, I’ve realized that I don’t know how to form an opinion in a space that begs for one.
As the school year begins again and discussions about Texas’s new abortion and voter suppression laws, climate change and mask-politics are ever prevalent, recent conversations have made me question the sources of my opinions.
There’s a pressure to be right, of course. Before I say anything, I mull it over in my head, to make sure my opinion is fully put-together, politically correct and intellectually sound, and in the end, I don’t speak up as much.
Maybe these feelings are a part of getting older, or maybe they’re a result of growing up a quiet kid. But really, I think my opinions are influenced and based on so many things other than my own experiences and identity.
At home, we discuss politics a lot. So, it can be hard whenever I hear my dad’s perfectly reasonable view about Afghanistan, or Biden’s performance, or even just his opinion on what happened to him on the T that day, to understand that it’s not fact. My environment has impacted so much about me — how I act, how I talk and how I think.
Likewise, where you grow up — where you live, where you go to school — also influences what you think. Take Newton, for example. In this mostly progressive, wealthy city that can sometimes feel like a bubble, it can be hard for our student newspaper to find a single conservative voice willing to be interviewed, which goes to show the homogeneity of thought that exists in our community.
Try the other end of the spectrum — my grandparents live in a tiny rural town in Texas, and I visited them this summer. Everyone from Massachusetts whom I told about the trip warned me to wear a mask. In Texas, they said, people didn’t believe in masks … in the pandemic.
That assurance, which certainly has some truth to it and is rightly cautious, that everyone in Texas is an anti-masker, is exactly the problem. The belief that your opinions have to align with those of where you live proves that it’s widely accepted, even expected, to adopt the belief of your environment.
I want my opinion to be more personal. I want it to be based on my identity, my experiences and the people I choose to surround myself with. But I don’t know who I am yet and how I identify. Am I a person of color? Am I white? Am I Asian enough to experience discrimination? Does that matter? Can I pass as white? But then how do I identify?
If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past year, it’s that your opinion is your voice; it’s your power. However preachy or uppity that sounds, if you believe in what you’re saying whole-heartedly, then you have achieved consistency and power.
My goal as I enter another year of high school is to be proud of what I believe, and the first step in doing so is by recognizing my true beliefs, by questioning the sources of my beliefs.