I had an exam on the day of SONA.

On the eve of the SONA I was frantically studying for my Econ 102 Exam. That time, the SONA was really the least of my concerns….until I saw a tweet that linked to a news article.

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A rally at Times Street? Possible rallies at times street? What if I’m unable to exit my house? What if I don’t make it to my exam? WHAT IF. WHAT IF. WHAT IF. Then suddenly (because I was desperately trying to procrastinate) the what ifs turned into whys. I didn’t understand why people would rally before the actual SONA. I didn’t understand how groups  plan their rallies as if they know exactly what the president is about to say. I found it pointless. I found it senseless. I thought they were wasting their time. I thought they were wasting everyone’s time by blocking the roads and preventing cars to pass.

Meanwhile government officials prepared for a day of glamour. Who knows how many of them even cared about what the president had to say? Surely a big percentage of the officials were only concerned about the creases in their suits or the sequins that fell out of their gowns. It’s quite difficult not to imagine that while the people were preparing to air their views and concerns, all the politicians were concerned about were their looks . The truth was that while the government officials were busy getting beauty sleep, the rest of the masses were losing sleep because they were working hard to make signs and paper maches that would help them send their grievances. They were busy actually preparing for the state of the nation address, their State of the Nation Address.

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That’s when the rallies made sense. As horrific as it was to have to watch people crowd the street and congest the roads, I started to understand why they existed. The government can’t ban these rallies. They can’t stop people from sharing what they think especially on the day that the supposed State of the Nation is discussed. They knew that the president wouldn’t dare criticize his own term. They knew that he would over glorify his achievements and understate his shortcomings. They knew that he would yet again make empty promises and they knew that they had to do something about it.

I had an exam on the day of SONA. In fact I had two exams. The first was, well, my 102 exam and second was the test of my citizenship. On the day of SONA I had to question what kind of citizen I am. It was then that I realized that failing to understand the motives behind the rallies was failing to understand that we live in a democratic nation. That day the politicians dressed their best. That’s what they do. They clothe things, adorn them to look pretty.  That day, the cars moved at a snail’s pace, but so what? Our country’s crawling the same way. That day, the people crowded the streets, but so what? They clamored for their rights. That day, some people got hurt. That day some people were annoyed. That day some people didn’t care. Which one were you?

Lerizze Tan

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