BEHIND THE WALLS
by Shreya, Age 14
What is My Freedom Dream:
The Darkest Corners of Society
by Ciara, Age 14
My school has tried incredibly hard to make every student feel comfortable and safe. They’ve created clubs to spread awareness about different cultures and different ideas. One of these clubs is called the Gender and Sexuality Alliance, or the GSA. Some kids at my school attend this club because they support the LGBTQ+ community. While the others are actually a part of the LGBTQ+ community. I’ve noticed that the most common question that kids are asked is, “Do your parents know?” While there are a good number of kids who are fortunate enough to have supporting parents, many don’t. My question was always, “Why can’t they tell their parents? Why can’t they tell the people who are supposed to love them no matter what? Why can’t they tell the people who are supposed to protect them no matter who they love?”
Many can’t tell their parents because of religion, culture, or maybe just the fact that they would feel judged or neglected. Some kids are terrified that their parents wouldn’t love them anymore. What I can never get over is the fact that parents care more about who their child loves more than their own child. As an Indian, the idea of love at a young age itself isn’t a very accepted concept. Introducing the idea of loving the same gender, or not loving someone at all is something that is frowned upon in my community. Growing up in such an orthodox community, I’ve always known there to be two genders and the simple fact that a man HAS to marry a woman. Not once have I ever heard someone say, “Love who you want to.” The Indian community in general, can’t come to accept the LGBTQ+ community. They can’t come to accept their own children. Now their children can’t even feel comfortable being themselves with “their people” and culture without judgment. This problem isn’t just one with the Indians, but in fact with all cultures.
All this neglecting and judging has led to so many people feeling lonely. It also leads to them questioning their feelings and constantly just wondering if they are “overreacting”. And when they finally realize they truly aren’t overreacting, they feel like they have to hide one of their biggest milestones from their family. Adults need to know that being a part of the LGBTQ+ community isn’t just a “phase”. They also need to know that neglecting their child of their feelings forces them to hide who they truly are. Parents can’t change their children, so the best thing they can do is to be there for them and love them for who they are
A sword can be stolen, it can be broken in half and rendered useless, a sword can be blocked by a shield and it can be exclusive, only owned by the wealthy or skilled. Words on the other hand, are everlasting and all encompassing, we all have them. they are an unblockable blade, they are the only weapon we have to create real change. No matter what, language has a way of always being heard. Words are what make sure every person has the ability to fight for what they believe in. My freedom dream is that we as humans are willing to listen to anyone who has something to say, to listen to every person's story, even those our government has decided to throw away, even the criminals.
The darkest corners of society are in its prisons, not because of the inmates, but because of the way inmates are treated.
The United States judicial system has been long proven corrupt, taking in inmates for several years for offenses that cannot be solved by prison time but would be rehabilitat-able with mental health care, or with financial support. Instead, everyone is sent to the same facilities, no matter what type of help they require, to be thrown away rather than rehabilitated and integrated back into society. These inmates get out of prison only to recommit an offense for the sole purpose of getting sent back to prison because they cannot survive on the outside with the stigma of being a convict, they cannot get jobs and they will not be rented to, nobody accepts them outside of the cells they were put in, and it is functionally impossible for the system to do what its supposed to do, which is to solve a problem, rather than throw a Band-Aid on it. And justify it by saying it was deserved.
But tell me, even if people do deserve to get thrown in prison, be fed unsafe food, be beaten and dehumanized, and in some cases killed. If you think anyone at all deserves this, then truly answer the question: under what circumstances? Where is the line where someone has to be treated like a human? And if the government is given free will to choose the circumstances in which someone's human rights can be taken away, what's to stop them from making a rule you can't follow?
All of this is to say that my freedom dream is that we finally look to the inmates to fight for, that human rights are not just for the innocent. That we truly listen to every person who has a story of mistreatment, no matter who they are.
And as for the way I can help, all I know is that I will do everything I can to make a difference. My weapon is my words and I hope that by standing up in the only way most of us can, speaking out against what is wrong, and I hope I can be a part of the change.