By Lora Supandi
I discovered Senator Bernie Sanders’ platform during the 2016 presidential campaign. I was in high school and witnessing the divides of our nation. In my hometown, racial and class inequalities sparked tension and turmoil. I remember a distinct image: As queer and POC students were walking home from school, a group of Trump supporters had installed “Make America Great Again” flags onto their trucks as they sped around campus and cursed at fellow students. It was an experience that left many traumatized, wondering who the ideals of our nation truly represent. In that moment, I realized that I will never find my identity reflected in the red hats of President Trump’s supporters.
As Bernie’s campaign gained popularity, I also began diving into the works of Howard Zinn, such as “A People’s History of the United States,” which exposed the atrocities of our nation’s early history. Bernie’s campaign and Zinn’s works forced me to confront a chain reaction of questions and critiques about our political system. Institutions that we were taught to respect and appreciate revealed themselves to be much more brutal and animalistic than they initially appear to be. State punishment, the modern prison system and systematic oppression abused their power in private spaces. For years, the U.S. government has been a fascist regime for people of color and the queer community. Our post-colonial society has stolen from the indigenous, ostracized queer and POC bodies, and abused the labor of immigrants and low-income Americans. In school, students learn about John Locke and the importance of our natural rights. We were taught that we have the right to life. However, as time progressed, those rights became more nuanced. Who gets to claim their rights? Who gets to live? We ask these questions as people die — abused and exploited — in the “Land of the Free.”
With the revelation of America’s ongoing exploitation and oppression, Bernie Sanders redefined the way our government must treat our human rights and deconstruct the errors of the past. Many painted him as a communist, but for the marginalized communities of our nation, he was a voice of hope and strength. He allowed us to reclaim our basic human rights through healthcare, education and the protection of our planet’s wellbeing. There is much more that still needs to be done, and progress is a continuous force of change. However, Bernie’s 2016 and 2020 campaigns have opened our eyes to the power of unity and a grassroots movement. Together, we have the power to reclaim our rights and build a nation that represents every human being.
I’ll forever be inspired by this man who has been fighting since his youth. The end of his campaign is a loss for many, but through Bernie, I not only understand but also fully embrace the popular quote: “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.”
Lora Supandi ’21
Contact Lora Supandi at lora24 ‘at’ stanford.edu.
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