VHS students discuss what political issues matter to them
By Lila Cohen, Reporter
Election Day is fast approaching, and tensions are running high. Many students are closely following the news, anxious and fearful of the outcome and the impact the results may have on their futures.
While most high school students are not old enough to vote, they still hold strong political views. Vashon is a very liberal community and those views are reflected through the high school population.
Students’ worries range from minority rights and police reform to the Supreme Court and abortion rights.
“[Abortion] is an ongoing issue that has divided the left and the right, and the panel of people making these decisions are primarily white men,” senior Penelope Boyes said. “Not only does this affect women's rights, it also affects their right to healthcare and safety, making them an [even] more marginalized group than before this issue became prominent.”
Penelope Boyes is not the only student to hold these views.
“I’d say abortion rights and birth control are really high up [there] for me,” an anonymous student said. “I think the lack of basic empathy [from conservitive lawmakers] with the whole thing just wholly indicates that it’s not abortion that’s the issue, it’s controlling women.”
Because there are so many topics for the media to cover right now, movements like Me Too are not getting as much national media attention as years prior. However, this movement still matters to students.
“An increasing amount of people in the U.S. have come forward about their sexual assault, creating movements like Me Too. The criminal justice system has underperformed in charging the [assailants], making a lot of people feel unsafe,” Penelope Boyes said. “The majority of assault and rape is against women, marginalizing them even more and giving them a feeling of unsafety, especially with the birth control rights on the line.”
Islanders and commuters have seen more and more people come forward with sexual assault allegations.
“I think that a lot of women (and men/others) feel passionately about bringing these [assailants] to justice because many of us know or have known someone who has been assaulted.” a second anonymous student said.
This summer it was a different demand for justice that led large masses of protesters to the streets, demanding justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black Americans who were killed at the hands of police officers late last year and early this year. Around the world people are speaking up against systemic racism, police brutality, and calling for the officers responsible for the deaths to be brought to justice.
“With the death of George Floyd, many Americans saw for the first time racism’s pervasiveness in policing, and in society at large,” freshman Ila Baldwin-Snell said.
In recent months, the Black Lives Matter movement has taken hold like never before, gaining momentum and support all around the country.
“Black Lives Matter is one of the most important political issues right now. Although BLM is a human rights issue, many people have turned it political,” freshman Olivia Boyes said. “People of color have been fighting for so long to have the same rights as everyone else in the United States. Although they have come a long way, not everyone treats people of color as equals.”
Many Americans are calling for police reform and to defund the police in aim of combating systemic racism in the criminal justice system.
“Defunding the police is really high up there for me. It's a deeply corrupt system…” the first anonymous student said. “The laws are flawed and so are the enforcers.”
The Black Lives Matter protests have caused lawmakers to begin making lasting legislative change.
Many students feel that legislative change is also needed in regards to climate change. In recent months Vashon Island has been smothered by smoke for weeks at a time, reminding locals of the potential effects of climate change.
“[Climate change] is an important issue because species are dying out, parts of the world are on fire, waters are rising, and the temperature is changing,” junior Theo Newcomb said.
The Supreme Court and this presidential election will have drastic effects on how the United States responds to climate change for the near future. The Supreme Court will also likely have a large role to play in the future of abortion rights and criminal justice reform, both of which are issues that matter to students.
Vashon’s population is relatively sheltered and not particularly racially diverse, so not all these issues affect everyone personally.
“I think that every issue matters, but is seen a little differently through different Vashonians, but it affects us all the same,” Newcomb said. “Our community is small, but when something bothers us, everybody knows and supports each other.”