“You’ve ruined this country!”
“You had a chance to fight injustice!”
“You threw your vote away!”
A few comments stuck out, but eventually the taunts of enraged people yelling from across the classroom fused into an incoherent jumble. Konrad Johnson was president and the crowd made it feel like the world was going to end. I voted for Peter Snoqualmie, a third-party candidate from Montana. He seemed like the candidate I wanted for the job so I voted for him. If only it was that simple.
Earlier today, when my Political Science professor asked us to move to certain parts of the room based on our votes I did so with no predispositions. I thought it’d be fun to see the political views of my peers. But apparently the party that lost was not too thrilled. They were angry, and aimed their wrath at the several of us huddled in the north corner of the room. Since I was not with them, I was against them.
The following weeks were an isolating experience. Whenever I entered that class I was met with piercing glares. My normal study group wanted nothing to do with me. People were just so damn mad about him winning, and the media was all too happy to fan the flames of civil unrest. I should have noticed the change in the atmosphere before it started getting out of hand.
One day I walked into the lecture hall ready for a pre-class quiz. I had gotten in the habit of just watching my feet as I found my seat, to avoid passing glares. So I didn’t notice how empty the room had gotten until I fished out my books from my bag.
“Where is everyone?” I asked the sparsely populated student body.
A few students shrugged or looked away. It seemed no one cared to answer.
I heard a tooth grinding screech as the double doors flew open.
“Class! We are going to watch the live-stream of the protest on campus!” He excitedly held an open laptop as he skipped to the front of the class. “This is history in the making!”
With a few cords and keystrokes the live-stream was connected to the projector and shone on top of the blackboard. A pimple faced journalism major held a microphone up to the protesters, asking their cause. My classmates stood in the background waving signs.
“We want Konrad Johnson to resign! Your voice is a weapon! Use it to fight injustice!”
The ringleader spoke for a while longer, but as he did a crowd began to form opposite the protesters. The distinct sound of a bottle shattering on the ground interrupted the interview.
A counter protest had been spurred into action and it got violent fast. The audio cut out, and video was choppy but we could see the reporter struggling to escape. He caught an elbow to his jaw, knocking him to the ground for a moment before scrambling along the ground to get out of the center of the brawl. Blood streamed down his chin.
My professor jittered with excitement. His eyes grew, as if they were absorbing the flickering images from the screen.
“This is politics in the 21st century”
I stared blankly at the chaos projected at the front of the class. My fellow students fought viciously for their beliefs. This was not politics, this was a war rivaling the spectacles at Carthage or Hastings.
It dawned on me then why candidates like Peter Snoqualmie would never win. You can’t win a war by remaining neutral. It didn’t matter how much I liked Snoqualmie, I had to check the ballot unfolding in front of me. And he was noticeably absent from the choices.
I pushed back my chair and stood. It squealed against the linoleum floor. My professor was too enthralled by the dancing lights of the projector to notice me sliding through the double doors. As I neared the quad, the sounds of screaming and battered flesh echoed into the hallways ever louder. Sirens faintly approached from the distance adding a subtle sterile flavor. My nails dug into my palm as I clenched my fists.
I still was not sure what side I would join. But I would come out swinging.
It’s better than not having a voice.