In my prior article I wrote about the complicated beginnings of losing my political affiliation. I described the evolution of extremism between the right and the left (conservative and progressive) as destructive to independent voices across New York; including adding brief examples of how dangerous progressive and conservative extremism can become.
I remember the first time I identified myself as a Republican, and how I lost my affiliation with the Democratic party. As a teenager, growing up in East Elmhurst, I felt obligated to label myself a Democrat. Living in a community of eighty five percent democrats, any activism I performed as a teenager funneled through democratic agencies, leaders and representatives. “Join the Democratic Party and be part of the change in your community” was the words I remember, from people like Assembly Member Joe Crowley. I could not register as a Democrat for two reasons: I was underage, and I was a green card holder (permanent resident). By the time I joined the Marine Corps, I was convinced the democratic party was the most inclusive organization in our country (boy was I wrong).
My first experience outside of New York was Parris Island, the Marine Corp Recruit Depot. In a squad bay (room) with eighty-two young men (from eighteen to thirty years of age), platoon 3036 was made up of White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Muslim, Christian, and Jewish recruits (young men working for the title of United States Marine). Within the thirteen weeks away from home I learned what inclusion, team work, community, and leadership was truly about. I make this reference (of Marine Boot Camp) because the term community is never completely appreciated, until you have truly felt reliance of another human being, without prejudice or judgement. At this stage in my life, our world was just about protecting the integrity of our platoon, unit, team, or simply said “community”.
I graduated from basic training on April 25, 1999. My parents, cousins, aunts, and uncles all traveled in a large 12 passenger van to visit the depot on family day, and graduation. I remember seeing the pavement of Parris Island filled with families of all colors, children, mothers, fathers and spouses. I also remember the first time I had my first meal outside the military base; it was a southern BBQ place right outside the skirts of Beaufort South Carolina. Beaufort is known for its large registration of republican voters, it is also known for a history of placing democratic officials in office. With my New York mindset I would have assumed a democratic county was the right place to be. However, the concept of racial equality and partisan politics becomes very complicated to understand outside of New York City. During my travels, I visited cities and met different citizens across each state; from Florida, to Georgia, Texas, California, Illinois, and right back to New York. Each city holding its distinct culture and approach to partisan politics; yet ignoring the concept of racial equality. I remember the first time I was told by a Californian to speak English in his country, sadly that Californian was a United State Marine stationed with me in Camp Lejeune (and a known democrat). I even remember overhearing the mumbles of people saying, “you know he only wants to date you because he needs his citizenship” (sadly that came from a democratic household). These are two examples of what the late 90’s and early 2000’s was like for Hispanic military members (even worst for those with foreign accents).
By the time I was assigned my permanent duty station in Washington DC I thought I had experienced every distasteful racist comment a young man could stand. Most of them came from highly populated southern democratic counties. When I reached Washington DC, I was in an uncontrolled state of aggression, a ticking time bomb, willing to explode on the next individual who wrongfully glanced at the color of my skin or commented on the origins of my nationality. Luckily for me, the walls of 8th and I helped me retransition myself into an inclusive mindset. My Unit was inclusive: white, black, brown, yellow, Muslim, Asian, and Jewish (once again an inclusive family structure). Even outside the city of Washington DC (a brown and black metropolis that promoted inclusion in ever aspect of city life). As a Marine I was assigned to work formal parties in my dress blues, we conversed with Washingtonians, Virginians and Marylanders. I learned the structure of politics and the difference between political parties. I remember asking “what exactly is a republican?” My curiosity of not settling for one structure to define me lead me to seeking alternate political positions as a young-adult. At the time the Republican Party was a different kind of organization. It promoted inclusion, and while most Democrats in New York are unwilling to admit this, the path of social justice was promoted by Conservatives and Republicans (between 1950 to 1989). Achievements like the woman’s right to vote, civil rights act, desegregation of schools, and the Reagan immigration reform plan. It was October 12, 2001, one simple act of kindness by the Bush Administration confirmed my future registration in the Republican Party. The Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans Commission, also known as executive order 12900, a plan which was set to ensure the educational progress of young Hispanics across the country. I learned about the fight for immigration reform led by the Bush family, and the principles of members such as John McCain. I learned about the importance of fiscal responsibility, the American Dream of ownership and business entrepreneurs. Back then the Republican message was built on progress and achievements. Republicans did not hide their ambition to make a profit, instead the party encouraged every member of society to achieve excellence and contribute to the American Capitalism Structure. Their message was simple: Start your business, build your business, be a business, support your family, and donate to your church. The Republican message was that simple; better yet the true message was to promote economic empowerment in each section of the country, in every community, for all people, and to hopefully reduce poverty in our country.
Fast forward fifteens later (by-passing the Tea Party Movement for now), the 2016 elections were the final declaration to ending moderation (moderate establishment policies) in our country. Everything I experienced as young-man was quickly reintroducing itself in our society (prejudice, judgment, and discrimination). I watched while local Republican officials (District Leaders) slowly introduced an anti-immigration plan, while stating their support of Nicole Maliotakis because she was a “Latina” (an oxymoron in its own nature). I watched our current President (President Obama) admit the rhetoric from the right was not Conservatism. In horror I saw the end of a well-established machine that promoted economic empowerment, for social segregation. The worst part was the very same alliances I once held with members of the right was slowly morphing to resentment and hatred because of their political views against my culture and community. I regretfully placed one Republican Latino Senate Candidate on the ballot, only to watch his undying support of the Alt-Right Immigration Policies (while ignoring his very own immigration status). Sadly, I lost my political affiliation in 2016.
On the left, I saw the Bernie Sanders Movement vastly approaching. In concept, affordable housing, tuition and medical services is a righteous act. However, in practice, the pathway to these programs can be difficult to obtain. Take affordable housing for example: as a society we have the obligation to create housing for every member in our community. We take construction cost, land cost (purchasing of the building), and fair wages in determining how affordable rental units can be. Simply stated these three elements must all remain in an affordable level to begin the conversation of affordability, now add the liberal protest against “corporate subsidization and tax break”, topped with the living wage union movement in New York City (the mathematics becomes difficulty to maintain). Aside from the instability of the economic platform of the Bernie movement, I was introduced to the term “Democratic Socialist”. The term democratic socialism for our community is also an oxymoron in its own nature. Most of our parents escaped their country of origin because of democratic socialism. The United States promoted an opportunity that was not available in countries such as Peru, Mexico, Ecuador or Cuba (now the very same policies we escaped as a family are being introduced in our American Communities).
To be continued