Why Some of Us Can't Just Vote Blue Again
Some of us know what it's like to be abandoned.
Before we get into it, here's my story:
Some people experience trauma, and others are born into it. We're steeped in it. On my very first day on this earth, someone scarred me. I mean that in the most literal sense. Someone cut me with something, and now three decades later it's the first thing people notice. I have scars from my childhood, too, literal and physical, burn marks and memories of stitches. "You were so careless as a toddler," my mom used to say. "You poured scalding coffee on yourself. You put your hand on the stove. One time, you jumped straight into the fireplace."
It was only until becoming a parent myself that I truly understood something: No, you're not supposed to let a 2-year-old pour scalding hot coffee on themselves and jump headfirst into fireplaces.
Now I understand the reason I was allowed to run around the house all day injuring myself is because my mom was battling the early stages of paranoid schizophrenia, an illness that would later convince her that I was an alien clone that needed to be starved and killed.
Nobody came to help.
Friends didn't help. Family didn't help. Doctors didn't help. Insurance didn't help. All of them had plenty of advice, and judgment. The police wouldn't come to our house until she was stalking us around with kitchen knives and trying to make bombs out of alarm clocks.
One time, four police officers came and dragged her out of the house and put her in handcuffs. I remember this look one of them gave me, like she wanted to say or do something. Instead, she stood there with her mouth open, looking at me. At some point in my teens, I decided I'd never let anyone look at me like that ever again. As for my mom, that kept on going until about five years ago, when she finally died alone in the only facility that would admit her.
The medical bills nearly bankrupted us. On top of that, somehow my mom managed to spend my entire college fund while running up tens of thousands in credit card debt without telling us.
What did she do with that money?
We'll never know.
Unlike 90 percent of the world, I'll never know what it's like to have a mom. I'll never know what it feels like to be loved unconditionally by a parent. On top of that, I've lived an entire life being reminded every single day that most people don't care, most people don't want to hear about it, and you don't get a break. You still have to learn how to function like everyone else who had semi-normal upbringings with parents who showed them how to do things they thought they figured out all by themselves.
This is going somewhere, I promise.
Wait for it.
When I got to college, I decided right away that I was going to make a difference. So I trained to become a teacher. I spent my teens and early 20s making barely $15,000 a year, waiting tables, washing dishes, and cooking food for people who could afford to eat out. Sometimes my rich friends showed up 30 minutes before closing and stayed 45 minutes late. Sometimes my boss got tired of paying me and decided to clock me out without telling me.
I spent my 20s and 30s living in slums while teaching everywhere from technical colleges to historically black institutions. Even after getting a tenure-track job, I lived in rundown apartments that didn't have functional heat or air conditioning but did have leaks and roaches. I was always curious about how my friends managed to get by in graduate school without piling up debt or working themselves to death. Finally, someone told me:
It was parents with money.
Me? I started working as a cashier and a bag girl when I turned 16. You'd think affluent suburban dwellers would withhold some of their contempt for a white girl ringing up their groceries. As far as I can tell, nope.
I was treated like an idiot.
Some of my friends laughed at me. "My parents won't even let me get a job. They think it's more important for me to focus on school."
These were my liberal friends.
Because I was autistic, people assumed I wasn't smart. Because I was quiet, people assumed I was shy and socially awkward. Honestly, I came to see it as a strength. It's important to know what people are really like. If they don't think you're important, they show you their true selves.
It's a useful skill.
Many of us have voted dutifully for Democrats for most of our lives, only to watch the affluent break their promises and then give us condescending lectures about our privilege and entitlement. These are the same people who show up to restaurants and stay an hour after closing.
It's really something.
It doesn't matter if you're a nurse working double shifts or a teacher making starvation wages, there's no shortage of celebrities, influencers, politicians, and armchair political scientists eager to explain how we should think and what we should feel about...everything.
For many of us, we never expected Democrats to be saints. But over the last couple of years, they've descended to new lows. We watched them gleefully rip their masks off while abandoning everyone who couldn't get a vaccine yet, including parents of young children. We watched them spread lies and information about dangerous diseases, simply to advance a narrative that allowed them to resume their brunches and vacations. We watched them shrug off inflation until it became impossible to ignore. We watched them applaud the Fed for strangling us with interest rates. We watched them shred what's left of the planet by approving record numbers of fossil fuel projects. We heard them tell us we don't have a human right to a livable planet.
Now they're concerned about our mental health...
We watched them continue to fund genocides around the world, including the most recent one in Gaza. We watched them smirk and talk about the vulnerable falling by the wayside. We listened to them gaslight us about made-up things like coronophobia while voting against mask mandates.
I know what it's like to be abandoned.
I've been abandoned before.
Americans feel abandoned. They're struggling. They don't want to hear about how good they have it from people who don't understand what it's like to be soaked in trauma for your entire life. They don't want to hear from the ones who were too good or too important to get a job as a teenager.
I've reached a point where I no longer try to convince anyone which way to vote. I personally don't know what I'll do yet.
I know one thing...
It doesn't help to lecture people on what they owe Democrats. It doesn't help to scare us with fascism. It doesn't help for someone to talk to us about our privilege and entitlement when they know nothing about us. It doesn't help to talk to us like we're five. It doesn't help to make excuses and rationalizations for the party that's driving away voters, while trivializing and diminishing the deep moral grievances we feel. It just drives us further away.
If Democrats actually want to win, they could try something radical. Instead of grandstanding and lecturing, they could apologize. They could get down on their knees and beg us to vote. They could do something to regain our trust and respect. There's one thing they haven't tried:
They could listen.
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