There were two kinds of people in the year 2017: Those who spoke and those who didn't

TIDINGS FILE PHOTO - Philip Chan There were two kinds of people in 2017: Those who spoke and those who didn't. 

Silence often seems ideal when it comes to politics. It's become common sense to avoid the topic at school, work or the dinner table. Nobody wants to be gutted for sharing their opinion on a sensitive issue, and others believe their words have no impact.

I heard that a lot last year: "I can't do anything about it."

The U.S. was hit by neo-Nazis, mass shootings, hurricanes and even threats of nuclear war, making it hard for an individual to feel empowered. 

The year 2017 may have been a tough year to speak out, but when Americans did, it reminded me of the power of speech and action. 

The first of these instances followed President Donald Trump's inauguration. In response to offensive comments Trump had made about women, four million people joined women's marches around the country, making it the largest single-day demonstration in recorded U.S. history, according to the Washington Post. Although Trump had won the presidency, the American people who disagreed with him still made their voices heard peacefully. 

During the latter part of the year, there was the unusual special election race between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones for the Alabama Senate seat. Moore became a controversial figure for a number of reasons, namely allegations that he had initiated sexual contact with teenage girls when he was in his 30s.

The race was tight; polls showed a good chance that, despite the allegations, Moore would still win. However, the final result was 49.9 percent to 48.4 percent. Jones won.

Jones won thanks to high African-American turnout. Among whites, Jones received about twice the support that Barrack Obama garnered in 2012, 30 percent compared to 15 percent, according to NPR. 

Alabama now has its first democratic senator in 25 years instead of a pedophile. The voters' voices made a difference. 

Not only did people speak out against their government last year, but they also fought sexual harassment. 

Numerous high-profile men including Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey and Al Franken were accused of sexual misconduct near the end of the year. 

The victims spoke out and demanded justice and the perpetrators suffered the consequences. Many of these men lost their jobs. Words and the truth have power. 

To be fair, speaking out is not as easy as it sounds. When dealing with sexual misconduct, the victims are often dismissed as liars. How can they have justice if no one believes them? How do we know if a vote or a protest will make a difference? Will writing 500 words change the world?

Well, we won't know if we don't try. We still have to stand up for what we believe. Progress is slow and uncertain, but that doesn't diminish its worth. 

That is my greatest hope for 2018: We will continue to speak truth to power. Today, there are powerful men who violate our civil liberties, but we must listen to each other and remember that our voices are powerful in fighting injustice.

Last year showed us that our words and our actions can make a difference. This year is an opportunity for us to prove it.

Philip Chan is a junior at West Linn High School.

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