Bernie Sanders. The unassuming, unkempt Senator from Vermont is running for president of the United States. And lately, he makes me cry.
Not in the way I cried when Obama was sworn in for the first time. Those were tears of a different cry, a reason that, as powerful as it was, won’t solve our problems today.
These tears don’t keep me up at night. They don’t come down heavy or hard, but they come to my eyes in a misty way when I see the opportunity we might not get, the future we’re more likely to endure if Bernie Sanders is not elected president.
Sanders is certainly not the first presidential candidate of his kind, and he most certainly won’t be the last. But his is a rare breed, the first we’ve seen in a long, long time. For his supporters, he strikes a chord in that place where we say to ourselves “Yes.” It’s that place that, if stranded on a desert island with any of the other candidates who criticize Senator Sanders’ opinions now, would come to champion his sense of ethics, brother- and sisterhood, true American unity. It may not happen overnight, but on that fictional desert island where we must find a way to sustain and enrich our lives, if not find ourselves a viable way home, Donald Trump’s nonsense would not keep us alive. His would render us his prey–his soon -to-be-meal (and possible new source for hair pieces). Senator Sanders’ view on the world, however, just might keep us alive on that island. And it also just might get us home in one piece.
Just watch how comedian Sarah Silverman introduces the Senator at a recent rally in Los Angeles. It’s moving, not just because of her carefully chosen words, but because he’s filling stadiums and arenas like this everywhere he goes. He’s got the support of labor unions, auto workers, carpenters, and teachers—the people who make up this country, who make our lives better.
It’s comments like this: “I think if you work 40 hours a week, you have a right not to live in poverty. The current federal minimum wage is a starvation wage. It’s got to be raised to a living wage.”
Or this one: “When we talk about making our country the kind of nation that it must become, we must talk about ending institutional racism,” Sanders said at a recent stop in Columbia, South Carolina. “We need major reforms to our broken criminal justice system.”
And this: “For the life of me, I will never understand how a family like the Koch brothers, worth $85 billion, apparently think that’s not enough money.”
Maybe though, I cry a little bit because of how Sanders appears in contrast to, well, ALL of the other candidates, in any party. Maybe it’s the fact that despite his honesty, his integrity, his “what’s wrong with being a good guy” attitude, far less credible people are still running for the office. Hateful, spiteful, greedy people with too much money and too many companies giving them that money to answer to. What does it say about us as a nation when people less qualified on so many levels, still think they should—and probably will—beat out the person best suited for the job? It feels a lot more like bullies in the schoolyard vying to steer our nation in their selfish direction than it does any thoughtful process. What a joke we’ve let our politics become.
Here’s the truth, no matter what your political affiliation, no matter what your personal feelings about guns, or race, or what goes on inside my uterus: We are a nation in crisis. We are a world in crisis—battling a rapidly changing climate, financial insecurity, mismanaged resources, bully industries, arrogance, and a fast approaching 9-billion-people-full future we can’t even imagine.
We’re an abject species living irresponsibly and ignorantly, and we need to come to terms with the fact that Donald Trump won’t change this. Neither will Jeb Bush. Or Hilary Clinton. Or Ted Cruz. Or any of the other candidates. And that’s not to say Bernie Sanders can turn this country, or this planet, into a selfless Vermontopian paradise. But if we want any kind of livable future for our children, we have to make bold choices. We have to trust that a little bit of selflessness is more important for our brothers and sisters than it is painful to our lifestyle, our wallet. We have to accept that corporations never have and probably never will take our own best interest to heart.
We have to accept that it’s okay that we’ve made bad choices thus far, that we’ve confused our true values–the ones we had as children: play nice, take turns, and treat everyone else like we want to be treated—with selfishness, greed, and disdain for ideas and people who are new, different. This is no way to live. This is no future. It’s a dismal, sad reality. And it makes me cry.
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image: Gage Skidmore