The election of November 8th was a shock and surprise to many, especially at SOTA, which is a progressive and diverse school. Coming to class throughout the rest of that week was emotionally exhausting; on November 9th, I arrived to my chemistry class to a room full of weeping students and dejected teachers. Each of my instructors addressed the issue differently, while still maintaining the obligation of political neutrality, which is required by the school district. In my English class the election spurred a conversation about art and its relation to protest and political dissidence. In AP World History we related the events to past instances of tyranny and regime. My history teacher permitted students to make signs in class to display at several walkouts and rallies, both condoned by the district and not, that took place in the several days following the election. Myself and hundreds of SOTA and Academy students joined upwards of two thousand student protesters in walking from school to Aquatic Park. Some students even made it onto KTVU, CNN, and Fox News Atlanta. It was impressive to see so many different types of people unite against a single cause. Even more awe-inspiring was the level of student of involvement during a time when most adults became defeatist and accepting of the election’s outcome.
The hardest conversation about the election was the one that took place in Creative Writing. I slowly began to realize how dire my situation had become despite my privilege and affluence. The class discussed how, in repressive and silencing governments in the past, artists have always been the first citizens to be jailed or persecuted. As Arin Vasquez (‘18) put it, “artists are the most dangerous.” We are also more vulnerable in times like these. I also considered how difficult it had been for me to produce creative work following the events of November 8th. I understood, at least intellectually, that periods of turmoil and fear are the most important times for artists to produce and speak out. However, with the country’s fate churning in the back of my head, as well as my peers’, as well as the fear of coming of age in Trump’s America, it became nearly impossible for me to focus on “trivial” things like schoolwork.
Over the last week or so I have gradually been able to return to a normal school life, and writing comes easier now. I decided to not partake in any more walkouts- as doing so, in my belief, would not only rob me of an education-which is exactly what Trump wants-but also rob my school of funds for the day. The question of art’s role in politics, and visa versa, is an ongoing discussion that I am not willing to end anytime soon.
My message to applicants is this: at the crossroads we stand at, currently, as a nation, there is nothing more important than your art and your creativity. Keep creating and create louder than ever. In times of tyranny, artists are the first to be silenced. MR. Trump has already expressed interest in the silencing of the press, which is not only unconstitutional but horrifying. Even if political art feels whiny or pointless, try it out anyway. Read books, read the news-and not just the kind of news that you like to hear. Be disgusted. Be angry. That’s okay! Channel it into something productive or positive-and most of all, keep writing. This country is going to be fine.
Stella Pfahler, class of 2019