By Melba Tajallieh Aguilar
Like many in our generation, I feel cheated by this election. Clinton was never my candidate. I agree with many of her policy positions, and do not deny she is a highly qualified, talented politician who has served her country well. However, like many millennials who have seen America at war longer than at peace, I could not reconcile myself to her positions on conflict and diplomacy. Like many millennials who have watched student debt grow and opportunity shrink, I could not accept her center-right, pro-corporatism economic policies. More than anything else, I resented having my voting power taken from me by establishment politics. The primary election wasn’t rigged (that's basically impossible to do in our system), but nor was it equitable.
I did want her to win the general election. Faced with the vulgar xenophobia of Mr. Trump, there was no other realistic option. I compromised by refusing to campaign for her, a choice I feel some guilt for now, however small my sphere of influence may be. I simply never considered Trump a sincere threat. The idea of him as president was so absurd, so offensive to basic sensibilities, I felt confident Clinton would win a landslide victory with no help from me. Many millennials made the same move.
How wrong we all were!
There has been a lot of finger pointing and name calling this week. Many of my friends and family are legitimately afraid of what the future will bring. I know this fear seems like hyperbole to many Trump voters, so let me take a moment to tell you why I'm worried: My step mother and eldest sisters immigrated from Iran, as refugees fleeing religious persecution, more than 20 years ago. They are proud, hard working Americans, and some of the kindest people I know. When Trump says he wants to stop immigration from "high terror" regions, all I hear is he wants people like my family to die. When he makes hurtful generalizations about middle eastern people, I infer his validation of hate crimes against them. If any politician had said these things, I would be unable to vote for them, whatever my feelings on their policy.
The thing is, getting mad doesn’t do anyone any good. We need to channel that feeling into something deliberate and productive. That’s going to mean something different for each of us. In my print articles this week, I encouraged you to start by having the hard conversations with your own family, and to really listen to what they tell you. Compassion can be a radical act!
To this end, I wanted to share the story of my good friend Justin Parish, whose example has been a source of inspiration to me in recent months. Justin and I grew up in the same close-knit religious community in southeast Alaska. He is a larger than life character, the sort of person who lives with such joyful exuberance you have no choice but to feel optimistic when he’s in the room.
Spurred on by Bernie’s example, Justin volunteered to run for the Alaska State House against incumbent Cathy Munoz. Though he is an intelligent and engaged citizen, he is not a politician. A marine biologist by training, he works as a paraeducator in his normal life. He ran because he feared the effects many proposed budget cuts would have on his more vulnerable students. Like New Mexico, Alaska is amid a deficit crisis brought on by oil revenue shortfalls. Also like us, their legislature has been talking exclusively about the spending side of the sheet, neglecting the revenue side entirely, despite Alaska having no income tax and one of the least aggressive deals with oil companies in the country.
He ran on a shoe-string budget with the support of the local Democratic party, spreading his message primarily online and by word of mouth. Few thought he stood a chance, but his constituents disagreed. On the same day Trump unexpectedly won his election, Justin won his.
I realize there are few things more passé than a college newspaper advocating for “the youth” to “rise up”, but hear me out. If you don’t like the way things are, change them. We have more power than we realize. I’m not just looking at progressives here; I know many of you who voted for Trump (and Johnson) did so primarily because you’re tired of feeling left out of the equation. If you’re as tired of being dis-empowered as I am, now is the time to instigate for change. Have the hard conversations, run for local office, campaign for candidates you truly believe in. Midterm elections are only two years away. Our generation is the reason I feel hope. Get to work.
Note: This is Melba's personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the positions or opinions of Paydirt or New Mexico Tech.