Columns / Discourse / Featured / April 12, 2017

I accidentally took a vow of silence during Election Day

Just to give some context of my life and perspective to this column: I’m not a very political person. I grew up in a country that’s had the same president for the past 31 years. Democracy doesn’t really exist in Uganda — every election that comes is rigged, the opposing candidate would be kicked out of the country or put under house arrest. I would look to America as an example of how democracy and elections were meant to work

This was my first time in America for an election that I could actually vote in. I am completely new to the American system so while at Knox I was mainly paying attention to how the elections work and why. What does someone need to become a president? How many votes? Which votes matter? What is the electoral college? I had no idea what the answers to any of these questions were.

Feel free to think of me as incredibly ignorant because I forgot the day that my President was being elected. The Vow of Silence was for my Intro to Religious Studies class. I had to not talk or take any action against something for 24 hours. It was horrible.

Everyone that tried to talk to me that day drew the conclusion that I wasn’t talking out of protest for the elections until I showed them the assignment page. I wish I had thought of doing the Vow as a way to protest the election, then it would have meant something.

As the day progressed I didn’t really think of the election. The silence helped create an inner peace with what was happening and how I felt about it, I never really felt the need to talk to any of my friends about what was happening. I only felt the need to comfort, I don’t think I have ever hugged as many people as I have in that 24-hour period. When you can’t talk you start to watch other people’s body language and empathize with them through that. Through the night I just sat there and watched. The Taylor Lounge was filled with people watching the election, but as it became more apparent what the outcome of the election was going to be more people began to file out back home.

I was one of the last to leave Taylor. I remember looking one of my friends in the eye for about a minute and just shaking my head with them; the anguish was apparent, language wasn’t needed for that. The night ended with a group of friends and I leaving the lounge with our heads down, them talking about how they were going to skip school or crawl into a hole and hibernate for a week. I, on the other hand, was mellow; I didn’t feel much — either because of shock or the silence and was going to go about my day as normal.

The next day was, for me, much harder than the election night because of the rally that happened on the Gizmo patio. My 24 hours were still not over so I still was unable to talk. As everyone said what they were feeling I grew more anxious, I wanted to break my vow right there, get up and say what I was feeling but I didn’t. I wanted to talk about how we were all in this together, no matter who we voted for. I wanted to talk about how in my short time in America I have never had more faith that we will continue to do what is right in spite of who is in power. But I didn’t say any of this. I was quiet. I was too worried about a grade than contributing my voice to Knox.

Joel Willison

Tags:  2016 elections column discourse politics silence vow of silence

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