Let me start by acknowledging my privilege and by telling you a secret.
My family is considered upper middle-class — we have financial stability, own two cars purchased within the last four years, and my parents are both working professionals. I’m a college graduate with no student loans working in professional services. While I don’t command the lucrative salaries of the San Francisco tech-elite, I live comfortably in an apartment complex that has 24-hour security in Lower Pac Heights. I own a Floyd bed and approximately 15 pairs of white shoes. As an East Asian male, I benefit from my white-adjacent socioeconomic status, and especially in the Bay Area, no one bats an eye at my skin color. Perhaps most tellingly, my life hasn’t changed much since 2016, the year Donald Trump was elected President.
All of this is to say that, thanks to socioeconomic factors and policies beyond my control, I am fairly insulated from the effects of politics. Beyond the emergency of climate change, whether we have a Republican President or a Democratic President, whether we have a President who is a proponent of Medicare for All or isn’t, it doesn’t really matter very much to my life. I will still most likely live comfortably thanks to my aforementioned privileges.
I am writing this not to boast about my circumstances but because many of my friends and people I know come from similar backgrounds and enjoy similar privileges, and if nothing else, I want to challenge us to think deeper about our political landscape, our moment at hand, and what role we play in it.
Because the secret is that I really, truly, honestly do not care for politics. While I consider myself informed on the issues, I’m no policy nerd, and I generally don’t care for all the posturing, power jostling, and self-importance that often characterizes politicians.
But I do care about people. A lot. I care about those who look like me, and more importantly, I care about those who don’t. And I think it’s necessary to fight for those who can’t because the truth isn’t that politics don’t impact us — it’s that it does impact us beyond anything we can even comprehend. And because, to put it quite succinctly, I would not be where I am today if not for the policies I am both a product and a beneficiary of.
Here are just a few examples:
- In America, public school funding is tied proportionally to property taxes, resulting in affluent school districts receiving more resources. Thanks to my moving to a new suburb for high school, I was able to attend an academically rigorous public school with better access to teachers and resources, thereby propelling me to apply for and attend UC Berkeley. I don’t think that’s fair for those economically disadvantaged to not have such opportunities
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helped my parents pay for food for our family when they were poor graduate students and new parents just trying to get by
- The Immigration Act of 1990 increased the cap on immigration from 270,000 to 675,000 people annually. It also created new employment-based immigration categories that benefited highly-educated immigrants like my parents. Without this legislation, it’s very likely I wouldn’t even be here today
As you can see, the policies that govern us play considerable roles in determining our life. Moreover, they often deliver benefits arbitrarily and unequally — I didn’t do anything in particular to deserve the privileges I enjoy. And while I’m all for working hard to improve our situations, let’s be honest — what does it even mean to work hard, anymore? And why do different forms of working hard result in such disparate income and life outcomes?
Here’s the thing — I love America. Every four years, I get extremely (and probably, overly) patriotic about our Olympics teams; I led the Pledge of Allegiance at my high school graduation; there was a time when I was younger that I wanted to exclusively wear red, white, and blue clothing. But if we are to claim to be the “greatest country on earth,” we must recognize that making lofty assertions without holding ourselves to the highest of standards is simply delusional at best and deceptive at worst.
How can a country with the “worst healthcare system in the developed world”, that backs out of an already modest climate accord, that tries to justify drowning its citizens in $1.5 trillion of student loan debt while handing $2 trillion in tax cuts to the ultra-wealthy possibly consider itself the standard-bearer?
How can a country whose apparent solution for patients who can’t afford lifesaving medical treatment is a GoFundMe (one-third of GoFundMe’s are to pay for medical treatments!), whose richest three people own more wealth than the bottom 160 million people, that is literally putting children in cages, possibly claim to be the moral compass of the world?
If we are to love our country, we are to aspire to improve it. That’s why I’m voting for Bernie Sanders — because I want the America my (future) kids to know to be the one we claim to be, and he’s the only candidate in this race willing to fight for our cause.
I’m voting for Bernie because of my parents and for my future kids.
I’m voting for Bernie so that:
- A father doesn’t have to move to another state so he can afford his son’s college tuition
- A mother doesn’t have to send her six-month old son to live with his grandparents because she can’t afford to raise him
- An immigrant doesn’t feel threatened for their very existence
- An entire generation can avoid the destruction of our impending climate crisis
- Another generation can afford a dignified retirement
- An entire country can access comprehensive healthcare without the fear of going into crippling medical debt just to stay alive
There is no sitting on the sidelines for this one. You are either on the side of economic, racial, social, and environmental justice for all or you are not. You are either willing to fight for someone you don’t know or you are willing to capitulate to the powers that holds us all down. You are either willfully prolonging the perils of the status quo or you are joining the movement for a more just, equitable, and sustainable world for ourselves, our children, and our planet.
This is the moment we all face. And it is not about me. It is not about Bernie.
It is about us.