Jewish teens discuss their thoughts about the future

Marquette High School sophomore Lauren Bayne (right) stands with friends, protesting the Muslim ban at Capitol Hill on Jan. 27. Lauren traveled to Washington D.C. with her confirmation class, where they had the opportunity to attend the protest. Photo courtesy of Lauren Bayne.

BY GREG SVIRNOVSKIY, Junior, Marquette high school

Protesters gathered on the steps of Capitol Hill, waving signs, marching stoically. Braving the chilly air and drizzling skies, they yelled proudly in cries of desperation.

“Show me what America looks like,” they said, their chants permeating through the city. “This is what America looks like!”

Lauren Bayne, a sophomore at Marquette High School, remembers it all. She recalls persuading her rabbi to allow for the trip to the National Mall on Jan. 27 and the excitement that followed. It was a confirmation class trip to Washington, D.C., a city gone abjectly wrong in the midst of a tumultuous transition of power. Yet it felt so right.

“On Sunday, when we heard that there was going to be a protest about the executive order regarding the Muslim ban, about half of our group created posters and marched down to Capitol Hill to protest the order,” Lauren said.

She said she gained a profound and new understanding of her role as an American citizen. She can fight to initiate change for her progressive values.

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“It was absolutely incredible to see how there was so much unity in this division that our president caused,” Lauren said. “It really was a representation of what America looks like. There were people with so many religions and ethnicities and genders and they were all coming together because they believed that there was an injustice in the world.”

Ethan Aaronson, a senior at Marquette, said he believes that the first weeks of Donald Trump’s administration have been a mixed bag.

“I think he’s been better in some areas than I personally expected, but between his raid in Yemen and the constant use of executive action, his entire administration accurately portrays the current state of establishment politics in general,” Ethan said.

Despite personal reservations, Ethan said, he supports Trump as the legitimately elected president.

“It doesn’t matter that 54 percent of the country didn’t vote for him anymore,” Ethan said. “Everything he says and does from this point is coming as the president and is therefore, to some extent, representative of the views of our country.”

Ethan said his political values do not stem from his faith; rather they come from his humanity.

“Being willing to pay more for other people to have things they otherwise couldn’t afford isn’t a radical thing, it’s just being a good person,” he said.

Aaron Rodin, a sophomore at Parkway Central High School, has a different viewpoint of the initial weeks of the Trump administration. Rodin said he is particularly pleased with Trump’s so-called Muslim ban as a means to make the country a safer place.

“I feel that in the first few weeks of office, his administration has made better progress than the Obama administration did in eight years,” Aaron said. “While the immigration ban is a very controversial executive decision, it is a big step in the right direction for the safety of American citizens, which should be the president’s No. 1 priority.”

Aaron said he believes that Trump has been dealt an unfair hand by the media.

“I think the media is very slanted in a liberal direction,” Aaron said. “Media sources like CNN saying they predict Hillary Clinton as the winner shouldn’t surprise anyone, as a vast amount of their views come from liberal leanings. I do believe he (is) correct in skipping the White House media dinner. I can’t blame him for not wanting to be surrounded by people who repeatedly mock him.”

Aaron has no problem with many of the protests that have followed Trump’s inauguration. However, he said that he finds some protesters’ statements incendiary and dangerous to democracy.

“I’m glad that American citizens are utilizing their constitutional right to peaceful protest,” Aaron said. “However, I do think that certain protests are downright immature, like the ‘Not My President’ movement. After all, the people that are protesting are the same people that supported a candidate that said, ‘To say you won’t respect the results of the election, that is a direct threat to our democracy.’ ”

Noa Hahn, a sophomore at Ladue Horton Watkins High School, said she has felt afraid during the first few weeks of the Trump presidency. Noa said she wants to continue raising awareness about the dangers of Trump’s policies and stay active in politics.

“We must stay marching and protesting,” Noa said. “We lobby and call our representatives on both the state and national level. We must also educate ourselves and people around us. Many of us blindly follow what our family members or friends tell us, so we must expose ourselves to different races, religions, sexual orientations, genders, nationalities and economic backgrounds.”

Noa has been involved in recent marches to protest the Trump administration. She said these protests have changed the way that she looks at the people around her.

“I went to a march to protest the travel ban, and my friend carried a sign that said, ‘The voice of the people cannot, must not, and will not be denied,’ ” Noa said, adding that her Jewish faith has influenced her political attitude. 

She says she subscribes to ideas that value the input and lives of others.

“For the most part, my faith sets the foundation for my personal values and beliefs,” Noa said. “The Torah says ‘love thy neighbor,’ and Donald Trump’s policies directly violate that.”

Throughout Trump’s first weeks in office, political activism on both sides has run rampant throughout the country. What remains to be seen, however, is whether we grow because of our collective differences in ideology, or we succumb to them. 

Time will tell.