American Dream

Last week, Hillary Clinton made history by accepting the democratic nomination, becoming the first woman to be chosen to run for President by a major party in the United States. Seven days later, I still feel nothing and it’s bothering me. When Barack was running for president, I recognized at every turn, what a momentous time I was living in. So what is my problem now?

Nearly twenty years ago, I was a young girl who didn’t wear a bra, shaved her head and had zero fucks to give. I had tons of opinions and ideas about how the world should work, but no real idea about how it actually worked. I complained about the government and vowed not to vote until two things happened, almost simultaneously. At the time I was living with my grandmother (who’s always been politically involved) and attending a progressive alternative school for kids needing to get sober (that’s another story for another time). In Social Studies class, which was taught by a super hot feminist named Mike Durschlag, we watched the PBS documentary One Woman, One Vote. I saw women beaten in the street, force-fed and jailed all because they believed that women should have the right to vote. I had to leave the room on more than one occasion to cry in the bathroom. I sat there both proud, and in pain. Those women endured all of that for me, a girl they never met. It was hard for me to wrap my head around such selflessness. They wanted me to have a voice and a seat at the table and the only way for me to thank them was to do exactly what they fought for – vote. I talked about it with my grandma on one of our evening car rides home. She sat there quietly, sometimes nodding, a hint of a smirk on her lips as I talked excitedly about this grand revelation I had. Finally she said, “Do you remember what I told you about voting?” Suddenly I did remember. She had said it on a number of occasions after my many rants about how, “like, totally fucked up” our systems of power were. She said, very plainly, “You cannot complain about something you are unwilling to change.” For the longest time that is what I was doing, moving through life ATNA (all talk, no action). What good is that?

Here I am now, having voted in three elections, preparing to cast my ballot again and yet I’m feeling more like my teenage self. There is a lot I still don’t understand or like about our government and how this process is structured. I don’t think that we should have a two party system, I don’t think money should play so heavily into the success of a candidate or their ability to reach potential voters. I think the electoral college sucks. I think if the government is meant to be for the people, by the people, popular vote should win, but what do I know?

A woman is running for president and they print a picture of her husband when she accepts the nomination. Uh, what? A woman is running for president and I keep hearing all this chatter about what she’s wearing. Really? Maybe this is why I don’t feel anything. Somehow I know they will always find a way to minimize us, sexualize us, make us seem emotional (when did that become a bad thing?) and unqualified. Are we really that afraid of change? Everyone can agree that we need “something different”. Maybe this–maybe she, is it. I don’t claim to know. What I do know is this, Trump is asking about nuclear weapons. Trump supporters are inflicting physical violence on peaceful protesters, they are talking about killing people (Hillary included), there is nothing great about hate, racism and violence.

People, get your shit together. And let me be clear, this isn’t me saying, “Vote for Hillary.” This is me saying if the system sucks, let’s band together and change it. Let’s all do our part and figure it out, but maybe not three months before an election, right? Maybe we vote and then we start a revolution, because something’s gotta give. I can’t be the only one tired of voting for “the lesser of two evils”. I care about our country and care deeply about the people who live here. I still believe, perhaps foolishly, in the American dream, but I also believe in the idea that it takes a village to truly become someone. Who are we becoming? Where is our village?

I’ve never been to New York, but I know that at the base of the Statue of Liberty you will find these words:

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I also know that my great, great grandmother arrived in this country by way of Ellis Island in 1894 when she was just 15 years old. What if, when she arrived she had been met with angry people shouting, “Go back home!” or a wall? Perhaps I wouldn’t be here at all.

This country was meant to be a beacon of hope, to help and shelter those in need. If we are being honest, America’s history is not great, but its future could be.


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