(Quote from "Civil Disobedience" by Henry David Thoreau / Image courtesy of of Celine Choi)
Cleveland Charter High School

Opinion: Our civic duties do not end with the election cycle

After a grueling week of constant news and nail-biting, on Saturday, Nov. 7, America woke up to the announcement that Former Vice President and Democratic Nominee Joe Biden was now the President Elect and on his way to becoming the 46th President of the United States. In celebration, people came together on the streets to dance and sing, cars honked as they passed by the crowds, and the American flag was waved with pride as Lady Liberty smiled down on Americans once again. 

The American people have voted and their voices have been heard. However, as the climatic thrill of the election dials down and people are still habitually turning on and off their TV for news updates, many Americans are asking “what happens now?” 

A record-breaking number of votes were cast this election and thousands of people volunteered as poll workers to uphold our democratic system yet, our civic responsibilities as citizens do not end with the election cycle.

The people have been able to bring the White House back into a sense of normalcy however having a president who believes in unity, who will condemn white supremacy, and advocates for science and truth is the bare minimum. America is still divided, systemic racism has yet to be dismantled, and COVID-19 has reached over 10 million cases. Our country is far from being perfect. 

According to CNN exit polls, 68% of Americans voted for Joe Biden mainly in opposition to Donald Trump, meaning the majority of people decided to settle. The singular goal of the American people was to vote out President Donald Trump even if that consisted of voting in a politician whose policies and views do not necessarily align with one’s own. Although we can settle on what we are having for dinner or on what to wear for the day, we cannot “settle” when it comes to who leads our country. We cannot “settle” when human life hangs in the balance and when people’s rights have the potential of being endangered. 

What happens now is that the American people must continue to be critical of their government and put into practice their civic duty beyond voting whether that be through protest, petition, or even discourse.

The United States’ greatest checks and balances system is not Congress and it is not the Supreme Court, it is the people. We must use our ability of free speech and our ability to question and protest against the government to the fullest extent. As we enter a new chapter of American history with a new president in office, we must recognize the power that we the people hold and how we can use it to better our country.

Criticizing the government and refusing to blindly follow what we are presented with is not “unpatriotic.” In fact, deciding to stay idle when injustices are being done is equivalent to rooting for the failure of our country and is ultimately counterproductive.

Throughout history, positive change was ignited by the people. We each hold the power to improve our nation not just for ourselves but for all of the United States and, considering the hegemony of the country, the world as a whole. The future of this country does not lie in the hands of the President, it lies in ours.