Before I begin: If you support Bernie by harassing women or other public figures, attacking Hillary Clinton with sexist language and the tactics of the vile Gamergate or other foul misogynist hate groups, I am not your friend. I am not your ally, nor are you mine. You are a scourge that needs silencing and a pestilence in need of a cure. Stop this nonsense immediately and stand with the rest of us — for something — not against something in a thinly veiled attempt to justify your hate.
The following thoughts arose from a number of conservative family members asking why I support Bernie Sanders. For some time I’ve wanted to write a post encapsulating my decision and continued position. This is my response.
As a clear-thinking, educated person, I understand where the money for a progressive agenda would have to come from. I understand that I would pay more to the system in hopes of saving money elsewhere and to help those who need it most. These values are not foolish, ill conceived, or even unrealistic. I am not some hoodwinked, moony-eyed youth, dazzled by the allure of free.
I do not make these decisions lightly but with the most concerted of efforts to fully understand my own position foremost, and those of others so as to not be blind to the faults of my own choice (and there are several) or the virtues of others’.
And so, a few principles.
Our government should help those who need help, and all people should have a truly equal chance. The US healthcare system is a blight that needs to be eradicated, replaced with an alternative reflecting the modern world and not a profit machine fueled by illness and misfortune. I respect those who fight for a noble cause, even when it is not popular. Only the people should be able to affect elections, not large corporate donations and backdoor deals. Our voting system — the key component to the greatness of our country — is broken, designed to punish the powerless and reward the powerful when it should simply count each person and their singular vote.
I do not support dividing everyone’s income to the point at which we are all paid the same. That scenario would be communist. Some have earned an easier life by sacrifice, and some have earned a harder one. If socialism means balancing the scales so that the American dream — that pursuit of a better life through hard work can result in success for any person willing to do said work — can be real again, then I am indeed for socialism. But I have always (even when I voted for Bush in 2000) insisted that our government exists to work for us, and that we pay into it for the services it can provide, be it roads and bridges, education, a military to protect us (though only as a last resort), or with clean, efficient energy, and a healthcare system that helps everyone.
I watched as a corrupt insurance industry and profit-driven medical industry depleted my Grandparents’ savings while my Grandfather struggled with the horror of dementia and my Grandmother struggled as her partner of five decades fought against that horror. And it only got worse as his condition got worse. It turns my stomach to think of it.
When I look into my son’s bleeding face (he fell and bumped his chin on the bed) I am ashamed that even one of my first thoughts is given to the bill and not to his pain or fear. Every thought should go to him. This too turns my stomach.
Why do we generate all of this prosperity if we must live in fear that it will be swept away by random chance?
Some events are unavoidable. But if our government is going to pay for something with the taxes they extract from us, let it be this. And the most embarrassing part for our nation is that other countries have already solved this problem. The systems vary, and none are perfect, but they are all more effective and far less expensive than ours. This is the issue for which I feel the most passionate, partial measures will not do.
In high school I read Wayne Gretzky’s biography, and one quote stood out (a quote I also appreciated much later when Steve Jobs reiterated it). He said, “I skate to where the puck is going, not to where it has been.” I began then to apply this philosophy to my political views.
In a hundred years, a thousand, will the greatest country on Earth help its people when they are sick, or will it watch them suffer as their life savings is instantly consumed and they worry about money when they should be focusing on those for whom they care most? After examining all of my politics under this lens, I saw what I would someday want in a politician.
Then, about a years ago, I read about Bernie Sanders. Nearly all of his policies pass my self-imposed test. In a hundred, a thousand years will we: restrict people based on their gender, race, or sexual orientation? Listen to them instead of saying that the problem is already solved? Power our industry and personal lives cleanly and efficiently or in whatever way is most profitable?
Will we be at war with a world full of enemies, or will we have found solutions to render those enemies ineffectual and irrelevant — or even have managed to make them into allies? Will we pride ourselves in the education of our people — so much so that we would pay to make certain that they are all educated? Will we, the people, decide what steps our government takes, making sure that it acts in our interests and not in the interests of others?
Or, will we still remain at the whims of capitalist industry, which though it has served us well, has clear flaws that concentrate wealth and power at the top, while continuously forcing those at the bottom further and further down? Will we shout insults, build walls, and shoot first, asking questions later like fearful cavemen (or women) cowering in the dark, paranoid of everyone and everything that is not like us?
Or, will we apathetically accept that the world cannot be changed, that our lives, and the lives of those whose are the hardest, cannot be improved? Will we reach for half-loves and smile when given our quarter portion? Will we deal and barter with swindlers who already have more than they and a dozen generations of their descendants could ever use?
So many of our major victories as a people came from skating to where the puck was going, to where the world was going. The pilgrims who crossed the Atlantic did. The revolutionaries did. Lincoln did with the emancipation. When we awoke to Hitler and the Japanese, when women won the right to vote, when the Civil Rights Act was passed, when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, we skated to where the world was going.
But we know this only in hindsight. Now, today, we must choose to the best of our abilities where we think the puck will go. Bernie Sanders aims for where I think the puck will be. I support him because I want all of us to be there, too.