I watched the news all of last week. I was flipping between CNN and MSNBC from basically Tuesday morning until Friday night. My partner was away for work for the week, which I was initially terrified of, but it ended up being a good thing since my brain could not focus on anything other than feeding my dying cat and watching the news.
I am 41. I grew up through the Reagan years, the first 8 Bush years, and the Clinton era. I could have voted in the 2000 Bush/Gore election, but I was young and drunk and just moved to Los Angeles. I voted for Kerry with my first general election vote and definitely did not mark anything down the ballot. I knew, at least, that my not knowing meant not to act like I did. It was not until Obama ran that I became engaged. I voted for him both times, and by the 2012 election, I was educating myself on everything else on the ballot.
During the 2016 primaries, I was in a newish relationship (with my now lifelong partner) and had begun to actually see outside of my liberal whiteness, and to me, that meant refusing to vote for another white man. I voted for Hillary in both the primaries and general election of 2016. I got all sucked into the first woman president and most qualified candidate of our lifetime jams and was happy to vote for her. I knew that she wasn’t perfect, but neither was anyone else, and so I rooted for her. And then she lost. And like every other white person that voted for her, I went through some major reevaluation of myself and our country.
I previously wrote about my education in the almost all white, rural school system, and how it was not until my college coursework, which was much later in life, that I learned some factual Black American history. Even in reading that essay again, I see how much I have grown since 2017 – dang, I didn’t even know to capitalize the B in Black people until this year! I was not introduced to Ida B. Wells until my thirties! Anyway, I spent the last 4 years reading more about our country’s institutionalized racism. I have always supported Black Lives Matter, but I became more serious about my distrust and disdain of our police, criminal justice system, and the government as I learned more. I am much more vocal on every social media platform about it, and am known for speaking up (maybe a little too much) at work. I am trying to educate others (white people) and have found it is impossible when that person is my own family.
Sometime after the 2016 election, my partner and I watched a movie by Michael Moore (yes, I know all of you are rolling your eyes) called Fahrenheit 11/9 and I immediately felt awful for supporting both Hillary and Obama, and then I started reading more radical essays, and learning about anarchy, communism and socialism. We even went to a local socialist group meeting, but that was not our jam. Seriously though, did y’all watch that movie? Yikes.
And that brings me to the 2020 election, which started in 2019. THIS HAS BEEN GOING ON FOREVER. I was a fan of Kamala tearing people apart in Senate hearings and rooted hard for her as my state Senator before learning about her ridiculous laws on truancy and lack of protecting trans prisoners. After learning these things, she announced she was running for POTUS and I jumped on the Kamala is a cop bandwagon. I was rooting for Warren afterall, so I didn’t want her to win. Wow, it seems like a lifetime ago that I bought a Warren for POTUS shirt. And then Warren was out. I voted early for Biden and Kamala. I also voted down the entire ballot for the most progressive and Democractic people on the ticket (this was a little easier for me in Los Angeles, but you get the idea). And then I signed up with a group to do text banking in key states. I texted voters in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. I received messages that ranged from calling me a “bitch slut MAGA Trump 2020” to “I voted for Biden already and am terrified.” The weekends of texting with these voters made me certain that we would repeat 2016. That he would win again. Even though I was voting for someone that was not my first, second, or even my party-choice, I was terrified that others didn’t do the same as me.
And then it was time to watch the results come in. Like I said, I watched the news all of last week and was flipping between CNN and MSNBC from basically Tuesday morning until Friday night. And when it was finally called on Saturday morning, I fell back asleep for hours. I felt like I had not slept in a year. I woke up for the speeches by Kamala and Biden and wept. Only to fall asleep again for what was basically the rest of the weekend. Why was I so emotional? Why did I get so sucked into the swan song story of two Democrats that stood for everything I have since learned to be so against? Was it simply that Trump got fired? Maybe. I thought maybe my age had something to do with these feelings. Maybe the 40+ years of brainwashing was too strong for me to unwire over the course of the last few years.
I was confused so I reached out to friends and the one that got me thinking more said basically this: you are an empathetic person that feels for everyone – it is why you became a nurse. And they’re right – I care about humanity and want to make life better for others. Here is the other thing, I feel like everyone who gets into politics genuinely hopes to help people. I can’t see someone like Biden or Kamala starting their careers with the goal of making life worse for others. I see them as caring people that got sucked into the system. I saw and still see Hillary that way. I think these are people that have been taken by the same system that I am (we are) against. I think that in order to get to the places that they are, they had to make some shitty decisions. Maybe to get a bill passed they had to agree to some other awfulness, because that is how our country works! Look at the recent New Jersey marijuana law, they passed to make it legal and guess where a ton of the tax revenue is slated to go? Fucking cops. I don’t know, maybe over the course of their careers, they became less able to fight for it all and had to pick their battles (while bombing other countries and punishing single mothers for their child skipping school).
I am not writing this to explain myself to you. This was more for me to work out what I think and feel. I am confused. I get excited to think of our Black, Indian woman Vice President and get weepy when I see pictures of little Black and brown girls staring up at her. I get emotional when I think of Biden’s family and how difficult of a time he has had with those losses. I get fucking pissed when I think of every family that was torn apart or whose lives were lost due to endless senseless wars and bombing through every year Biden was Vice President. And yet through all of these mixed feels and constant self questioning, I still believe that the only way we can push this country into any progressive future is to do it by using the system that we are provided.
I will keep voting for every progressive candidate. I will also continue to vote for the lesser of the evils as long as we are in a two party country. We hopefully can keep chipping away at that problem while continuing to fill seats with progressive House and Senate candidates. I mean, I wish I could vote to abolish prisons, police, ICE, and frankly burn it all down and start all over. And maybe that is what is next, who am I to say what is the best way to do anything? Fuck. I am still learning every single day, evolving into some empathetic anarchist that will probably hand out cups of water while setting it on fire.