Around 1 p.m. on Wednesday, I joined my U.S. History class like any other normal day. We had been learning about World War I; however, that day instead of taking attendance and starting our lesson my teacher asked us, “have any of you seen the news?”
Although I knew today was the day the Congress was going to formalize President-elect Joe Biden’s win, I hadn’t bothered to check the news thinking it wasn’t a big deal. After all, The Electoral College count happens every four years with no issues.
Yet, when my teacher specifically asked us if we had seen the news, something inside told me not to wait until 9 p.m. (when my family sat down together to watch the news) and check now. While I knew we weren’t allowed to use phones during class, my curiosity got the best of me and I quickly opened up Apple News.
To my dismay, it was filled with headlines such as “Woman dies after shooting in U.S. Capitol; D.C. National Guard activated after mob breaches building” and “Inside the Capitol: chaos, violence, mockery as pro-Trump mob occupied Congress.” Riots I thought to myself; this can’t be happening.
For decades, we as Americans have taken pride knowing that our country is a democracy; a country in which we as citizens exercise the right to free speech. Part of being a democracy and electing officials means that a unanimous decision will never be made. When President Reagan won, when President Carter won, when President Obama won was everyone pleased with the result? No, but we never resorted to violence.
The fact that President Trump incited his supporters to, “go to the Capitol” and “fight like hell” against a “stolen” election shows that our country needs immense change and more importantly, a better leader. Under no circumstance is it fit for the president of the United States, an individual who people trust to lead America to a better future, to encourage violence.
Part of living in America entails the right to peaceful protest; however, what we don’t have is the right to turn to violence simply because we did not get the result we desired. The opportunity to participate in a peaceful protest is what sets America apart from every other country; in other countries, almost every protest that starts peacefully quickly turns brutal. Our country is one full of diversity and full of opportunity.
When I visit other countries, I am told by people how much they wish to go to America because it is a place where they believe they can feel safe and exercise their right of speech without fear. What happened on Wednesday is only making us lose this reputation. At a time, when it is so important for us as a country to unite, we are instead dividing. This pandemic has resulted in increased poverty, loss of jobs and so many more issues. We must focus on helping those who were affected by this virus, rather than cause more divisiveness.
From what I have read, for years countries like Russia and China have been waiting for the chance to be called the most powerful country, but our unity and democracy has never let them take this spot from us. These protests only showed the world that we are weak right now and if I, as a 16-year-old can understand that, then I can guarantee you that the rest of the world can, too.
It is essential for President Trump to face serious consequences for his actions, because although the older generation may understand the seriousness of this situation; when I first opened TikTok on Wednesday, my page was filled with memes about what had happened at the Capitol that day. Mr. Trump coming out of this situation with no ramifications will set a horrible example for the younger generation, showing them that violence is acceptable in this country.
What has worked for America has always been our freedom of speech, nonviolence, and law and order. So let’s unite, let’s work together to uplift one another, and let’s stand behind our president-elect, Joe Biden. For years, America has always served as a symbol of diversity and acceptance; a place where free speech can be exercised without fear and we, as Americans, must continue to uphold this.
• Vedika Jawa is a student at Washington High School located in Fremont, California.