November 12, 2016 § 14 Comments
Here are a couple of thoughts, one written by my son Woodrow, the other written by a friend, a white guy with an adopted son.
A Political Revolution
It was a cool Thursday evening in Carson as Mom and I got out of the car outside the LA Galaxy Stadium. We were surrounded by a sea of cars, and had to do a little bit of maneuvering to get to the gargantuan line that stretched from one end of the stadium around to the other end. But soon enough, we managed to pass security and take a seat in a small stadium within the Galaxy Stadium. There, my mother and I had the opportunity to listen to man named Bernard Sanders rant away at the establishment, demand a higher minimum wage, and call people to action for a more progressive agenda. This is what he dubbed the political revolution, and the invigorated crowd cheered him on, hoping to see him catapulted to the office of the presidency.
But when July came and the final results of the primaries were tallied up, it was clear that ol’ Bernie wasn’t going to make it to the White House. For many people who had supported him, it was over; the political revolution was in its death throes.
They couldn’t have been more wrong.
Not just over whether the political revolution was still alive, but also over what the political revolution actually is.
For a lot of people, the political revolution was voting for Bernie and then putting him in the White House. After that, everyone and the country would live happily ever after.
The political revolution that Bernie was calling for was more than about free healthcare, free tuition, and a habitable environment. It was more than just electing Bernie to the presidency. At its core, it was, and still is, about getting those who are young to go out and be engaged in the political process. Not just reading the news and voting, but actually getting up off their butts and going outside to register others to vote or to canvass neighborhoods. Not just holding opinions, but also sharing those views with others and participating in meaningful discussions with people that you don’t know. Not just being political, but being politically active.
So when I came to UCSB just a couple of months ago, I found myself in an environment devoid of anyone telling me what to do (except for the R.A.s telling people not to drink or smoke) and with a bunch of time on my hands.
During Welcome Week, I visited a lot of the booths and looked at nearby events and happened to receive a flyer about a group called Campus Democrats and also information about an event at their headquarters; I was further emboldened to go after talking to a person named Ethan at one of the tables. So I did.
And next thing I knew, I was walking throughout Isla Vista with a clipboard and a bunch of literature in my hand, asking people if they’ve registered to vote and if they know anything about the local measures and local races.
So that’s what I did for more than a month: I went from house to house and talked with people. Some days I only worked for two hours; on election day I worked from 5AM to 8PM. It was by this time that I figure out for myself the meaning of Bernie’s political revolution: I was taking in part of it, along with the other dedicated volunteers that I worked alongside with. It was empowering, not just to me, but to others as well because so many people just don’t know how to fill out a voter registration form or where their polling location is. I took solace in knowing that I helped someone’s life out and ensured that their voice was heard.
In hindsight, it was the most rewarding thing that I have ever done in and with my life. Sure, I had a couple of foul people slam the door in my face or argue to me about their proud views of Trump, but for the most part, people were kind, attentive, and most importantly, open. It helped reaffirm my Rousseauist belief that people are born good, and that there was plenty of hope for the future of this country.
Now that belief may have been shaken from the election, in the same way that the political structure of this nation have been shaken, but just like my faith in the republic, I still continue to believe that people are inherently good.
To put it bluntly, a lot of bad shit happened: The GOP has maintained their majority in Congress, the amount of Republican governorships increased, and most frighteningly, we have elected a reality TV star to the office of arguably the most powerful office in the world.
Will this country survive? Yes, but not before having to fight some battles. Despite the unpredictability of Donald Trump and his capability of causing damage to America, I still think and believe that this republic and its institutions are more than sufficient enough to survive the onslaught of problems that will be associated with a Trump presidency.
So now what? Well, I simply invite and encourage anyone to become more politically active than they were this year. If you didn’t vote this year, vote in 2018. If you did vote this year, then volunteer with an organization that does voter registration; even giving up a couple hours of your life will help others cast their ballots and aid in the fight against right-wing extremism. Go out there and talk with people. If there is an issue or issues that you really care about, fight for it. Get up and stand up for your rights. Because this revolution is sure as hell not over.
And for those who think that none of this really matters …
My son and I spent this past weekend camping. We had a nice campfire. We slept in a tent. We explored the woods. We chatted about all kinds of things. Conversations with a 9 year old little boy are wandering paths of questions, non sequiturs, farting, and laughter.
His sisters used to join us. My oldest daughter is gone to college. His other sister is in 8th Grade and is way too cool for us now.
Weekdays during the school year are essentially sequences of uninterrupted routine. Get up. Get them up. Make sure they stay up. Make sure they’re dressed and fed. Brush teeth. Comb hair. Find back pack. Go to school. Pick up from school. Run around to activities. Eat. Brush teeth. Go to bed. Repeat x 5.
With kids, though, this routine is noisy. They fight each other. They fight me. They grouse and complain and sigh. Sprinkled in are question, non sequiturs, farting (mostly me), and laughter.
The morning after this election was different. There wasn’t much laughter. My family is very much Democrats. We were all down. I was particularly glum, lost in thoughts for my friends who just lost elections and would be out of a job.
“Dad” I heard my son say. His voice was soft and wavering. I thought he was going to try to console me. He’s a very good, sweet human. He worries about people.
“Dad, do I get to stay in the family?” he asked. I looked at him. I didn’t really understand the question. “Dad” he continued and beginning to cry asked, “Do I have to go back to Guatemala?”
I’ve never experienced a moment like this. The convergence of love, concern, despair, fear, confusion and more love made expression beyond a tight hug impossible.
“Juan, you are my son, tou are Mommy’s son, you are Susan’s brother, you are Ellen’s brother, nobody can pull us apart, we are a family and we will always be a family.” We repeated these statements together in various ways repeatedly.
“Nobody can send you away.”
Somehow my son has managed to pick up the messages I’d hoped he wouldn’t. This election, the news media, this horrible orange human, has broadcast messages that I hoped he’d be oblivious to. No such luck. The message is that Americans are white. They’re angry. They want brown people to “go back.”
Americans want to build a wall to keep brown people out. Brown people are rapists and drug dealers. They’re bad. My son has been bombarded with this. I love him so much and I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry.
My son knows he is loved by his family. He’s scared for the rest of the world. It seems for good reason, too.
Adopting a child is possibly the most soul expanding endeavor. You learn that you have capacity for love that seemed impossible. You realize that any human, literally anyone, can be your child. The only boundaries that separate us are boundaries we build in our heads. They aren’t real.
But here I am. I’m worried about my little boy. As I worry about my little boy, I worry about all the little boys and girls. I worry about the people whose families can be torn apart by unfeeling immigration policies, by poverty, by violence. Families destroyed, humans rubbed out by the misfortune of being born a shade too dark. These little boys and girls are our kids.
All of them.
All at once.
My boy lives in a mean world. I can’t protect him all by myself. He doesn’t look like me. He was born a beautiful brown hue. He is going to become an adult. He is going to carry as much love into adulthood as I can give him. I’m not sure it will be enough to overcome the hate and suspicion of others, though.
Maybe if you pitch in, too? Can you help me? Please?
The guy you see pushing a broom, raking a garden, picking your fruit didn’t steal your job. He’s feeding his family. The woman who cleans your motel room? She’s not stealing anything. She’s trying to live. They’re my children. They’re your children..
I hope you never feel the fear that you will be pulled away from your mom and dad. I hope you never have to console your child who thinks he or she has to leave the only world he’s ever known simply because of where he was born and the color of his skin.
The little boy sleeping under the table at a restaurant while his parents work? Can you please see him as a little guy who loves Legos and Pokemon? The little “Mexican” you see might be my son. In fact, he is.
And I’m your son, too.