A Politics of Memory and Hope: The Catholic Political Ethos of In the Heights

During the last presidential election, it was not unusual for commentators to reference Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton as a counter-narrative to the rise of Donald Trump. The story of an immigrant, who was integrally involved in the American experiment, who was concerned about the dangers of populist politics in particular, resonated with many across the political spectrum. It functioned as an anti-narrative to Trump’s faux-populist, anti-immigrant political platform.

Yet, perhaps Lin-Manuel Miranda’s political masterpiece is not the thoroughly re-imagined life of Alexander Hamilton but his first musical, In the Heights. In this musical about the gentrification of a once Dominican-American (and before that Irish) neighborhood in Washington Heights in New York City, Miranda artistically describes a culture that attends to both the importance of memory and the hopes of a future. It is precisely these two dispositions that must become the heart of a Catholic political culture in the age of an ideological and divisive politics in which human dignity is often forgotten by those who profess the credos of their respective parties.

A Politics of Memory

The act of remembering is a constant throughout In the Heights. There is the memory of immigrants, who have left behind their homeland, to discover in the United States something akin to a “new home.” There is the remembering of the neighborhood itself, which is undergoing significant changes because of the gentrification caused by hipsters (ironically now flocking to Hamilton but that’s a story for another time). Although Miranda does not himself say it, artisanal cheese shops are replacing neighborhood bodegas and hair salons where stories (and thus) human relationships are being forgotten. As Nina and Benny walk the neighborhood, they remember a world that is disappearing before their eyes.

The heart of this remembering is Abuela Claudia, the neighborhood’s grandmother who keeps alive the stories of each family. Her death is a moment in which each character encounters the dissolution of time and thus of place. Their stories, like many stories of that neighborhood before, will be forgotten.

This emphasis upon memory in the musical is the heart of the political vision of In the Heights. Memory is not a form of traditionalism whereby one simply refers back to some idealized past. After all, this comes to be the great foible of Usnavi in In the Heights—he imagines that he can return to the Dominican Republic as his home, all the while forgetting that his home is now where he was raised, where he has established particular relationships with others.

Memory is not traditionalism but a constant referring back to those narratives by which we must make sense of the present. And these memories are tied to particular places, not simply ideas. As Paul Connerton writes in his classic, How Societies Remember:

Groups provide individuals with frameworks within which their memories are localized and memories are localized by a kind of mapping. We situate what we recollect within the mental spaces provided by the group….It is our social spaces—those which we occupy, which we frequently retrace with our steps, where we always have access, which at each moment we are capable of mentally reconstructing—that we must turn our attention, if our memories are to reappear. Our memories are located within the mental and material spaces of the group. (37)

Thus, the restoration of a political culture must take place through attending to the public spaces that we share in common. A Catholic political philosophy is not fundamentally about ideas, about the creation of a utopia apart from particularity. It is always about the particularities of place, of time, of the spaces that we call home.

The danger of the present American political arena is that it forgets about the particularities of place, where political culture is actually lived in concrete human communities. Politics cannot simply be about regulations, laws, and elections. It is not an on-going drama whereby a certain elite class of citizens in Washington DC entertains the American citizenship whose eyes are glued to the carnival of excess. It is not the exercise of raw power for its own sake. Politics is about the ordering of local life toward the common good. As Pope Francis notes about the establishment of this local ecology: “Attempts to resolve all problems through uniform regulations or technical interventions can lead to overlook the complexities of local problems which demand the active participation of all members of the community. New processes…need to be based in the local culture itself” (Laudato ‘Si, no. 144).

Both Democrats and Republicans seem to get this wrong. Liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans alike fail because they too often seek to create a global citizen (or financier), who is not attached to any local culture. They look with derision on those who choose to live in spaces outside of the city, committing themselves to a particular narrative that is often radically distinct from the one told by cultural elites. These are not backwards people, who need to get with the times. They may disagree with progressive and conservative politicians alike on social issues, on how to best take care of finances for the nation-state, even about what public education should include.

The Church has an important function here in holding up particular memories in these local communities. We read old texts, because what is passed on to us is a privileged source even now for present wisdom. We hold onto old buildings, because the stones themselves are steeped in memories of redemption both ancient and new. We acknowledge and foster the memories and cultures of local peoples, precisely because everything that is human may become a source of redemption—an image of divine love for us to contemplate. It is not enough for the Church to form consciences for faithful citizens every four years. Instead, like Abuela Claudia in In the Heights, we must become custodians of memory for a society that seeks increasingly to forget.

A Politics of Hope

It is because of this politics of memory that we dare to hope. In the Heights often concerns itself with the hopes of its residents. Vanessa wants to move uptown, away from the barrio, to the heart of uptown Manhattan. Usnavi wants to leave behind his bodega, opening a bar on a beach in the Dominican Republic. Kevin Rosario wants his daughter, Nina, to have possibilities for success that he couldn’t by obtaining her degree from Stanford. Dreaming is such a large part of In the Heights that much of its action revolves around the hope of winning the lottery.

There is a subtle critique throughout In the Heights relative to the rather limited “hopes” that many of the characters have. They want to win the lotto so that they can pay an entry fee to a business school and thus become a multi-millionaire engaged in business dealings on the golf course (with ironically now President Donald Trump as a caddy). They want to use the money to leave Washington Heights behind, fulfilling the American dream of “making it.” But the social conscience of In the Heights, Sonny, opens up alternative possibilities for what fulfillment of the American dream might look like:

Yo!

With ninety-six thousand, I’d finally fix housin’

Give the barrio computers with wireless web browsin’

Your kids are livin’ without a good edjumication

Change the station, teach ‘em about gentrification

The rent is escalatin’…

The rich are penetratin’…

We pay our corporations but we should be demonstratin’…

What about immigration?…

Politicians be hatin’…

Racism in this nation’s gone from latent to blatant…

I’ll call my ticket and picket, invest in protest

Never lose my focus ‘til the city takes notice

And you know this man! I’ll never sleep

Because the ghetto has a million promises for me to keep! (“96,000”)

Sonny’s desire is to transform the particular place that he calls home. It is not to leave behind the place for the sake of his own individual success. He wants to bring the community of Washington Heights along.

It takes a long time for Usnavi to come to the same conclusion. Only after encountering the hopeful depiction of a graffiti artist’s series commemorating the death of Abuela Claudio does Usnavi realize what his dream must be:

I illuminate the stories of the people in the street

Some have happy endings

Some are bittersweet

But I know them all and that’s what makes my life complete

And if not me, who keeps our legacies?

Who’s gonna keep the coffee sweet with secret recipes?

Abuela, rest in peace, you live in my memories

But Sonny’s gotta eat, and this corner is my destiny (“Finale”).

Usnavi assumes his vocation as the one who remembers the people of Washington Heights, who undertakes responsibilities for the hopes expressed by Sonny. From memory comes hope.

Once again, the present political situation is short on hope. Political parties flourish (or at least politicians believe they will) through the inducement of fear. “Elect me or else the worst will occur” was the theme of the last presidential election. Yet, human beings can change the world precisely because human beings can dare to hope. This hope is not a memoryless hope that bypasses the particularity of local communities, of the wisdom passed on by our forebears. For it is a hope that sees the possibility of a present world that conforms itself more fully to the gift of love at the heart of existence itself. As Benedict XVI writes:

…every generation has the task of engaging anew in the arduous search for the right way to order human affairs; this task is never simply completed…every generation must also make its own contribution to establishing convincing structures of freedom and of good, which can help the following generation as a guideline for the proper use of human freedom (Benedict XVI, Spe salvi, no. 25).

The Church most of all has a responsibility to perform this politics of hope. We dare to hope for a world in which the unborn, the immigrant, African-American men and women, the man sentenced to death row, every human being created in the image and likeness of God is treated as a person worthy of love.

This is not our present world. And sometimes, this world can be rather dark. But, through the witness of love, we hope that a new world conformed to divine love can take shape in local communities. This work of hope is at the heart of the Church’s effort of evangelization. We do not spurn the world, opting for some escape from the present age, but we take the world along with us toward the fullness of redemption. Because God first loved us, we can love the world.

In this way, In the Heights can function as a parable for the Church’s present mission of politics in this age. We pass on a memory of what authentic human flourishing can look like at the local level. Narrating this memory through our very lives, we learn to hope that human dignity can become not a political football between conservative and progressive Catholics or politicians but a form of life lived concretely in South Bend, in Washington DC, and in Charleston, SC.

It’s time for the Church to cease simply thinking about how we should vote. Instead, our work is to rebuild a political ethos outside the sphere of ideological politics that have poisoned the political well. We do so not as naïve millennials but as those who have attended to the memories of hope that manifest themselves in the Tradition that has given shape to our identity in late modern society.

Who knows? Perhaps, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s next musical will be about us.

Timothy P. O’Malley is director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy.


Children Deserve the Best


In the waning days of summer in 2015, a three-year-old boarded a boat with his father to make the journey from the resort town of Bodrum to the Greek island of Kos. Clad, as any three-year-old might be, in blue shorts and a red t-shirt, he was just another among the nameless, faceless migrants fleeing Syria, until an image surfaced of his fragile body washed up on a Turkish beach. Images of Aylan (Alan) Kurdi lying face down in the shore quickly spread around the world. The ferry he was on had capsized, and he, his mother, and his five-year-old brother Galip drowned in the Mediterranean in the early morning hours on September 2, 2015. This image of a lifeless child challenged the world.

In his Christmas Eve homily this past year, Pope Francis urged all Christians to “allow ourselves to be challenged by the children of today’s world, who are not lying in a cot caressed with the affection of a mother and father, but rather suffer in the squalid ‘mangers that devour dignity’: hiding underground to escape bombardment, on the pavements of a large city, at the bottom of a boat overladen with immigrants. Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by the children who are not allowed to be born, by those who cry because no one satiates their hunger, by those who have not toys in their hands, but rather weapons.”

Children deserve the best—the loving caresses of parents; the care and protection of the community; a safe, clean place to sleep; the stability of a home filled with affection; nourishing food to eat; clear, clean water to drink; the joy of playing with siblings and friends; a dignifying education; and participation in the life of the family and society. Children do deserve the best of our time, energy, and affection. Yet children are made to bear the brunt of society’s failures. They are in the precarious position of being useless, redundant, of being non-producers. Children endure the weight of modernity’s failures, its violence, and its sin. We enslave their fragile bones and vulnerable bodies, and on flesh imprinted with all the freshness of dignity, we inscribe hunger, violence, and death.

Children deserve to be at the center of families, communities, and societies, yet too often they are condemned to the peripheries of society. Children may deserve the best, but according to the scandalous calculations of modernity, a child’s right to stay around is precariously dependent on her geopolitical location, her gender, her parent’s economic stability, and, yes, even her race. She may end up sold into slavery or crushed at the bottom of a raft, or she may never be allowed the rarefied privilege of taking a first breath. She may be expunged from the human family, her body relegated to the waste yard, because she fails to meet the rigorous expectations she knows nothing about.

Children deserve the best, yet they are often what the late Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman called “‘collateral casualties’ of progress,” excluded from protection under the law, non-persons. Children are our first casualties. They are among the first to be un-humaned, to be declared unwanted. The child that drowns in dark waters of the sea; the child who stares in blank silence, bloodied by barrel bombs dropped on his school; the child who has taken up arms; the child who tries to draw back as a syringe of saline searches her out in the darkness of her mother’s womb—these are the little ones who had the audacity to be poor, to be exiled, to be at school, to be alive.

Children are the most vulnerable among us. As Christians, we forfeit the right to determine a child’s worth. When we die in the waters of baptism, we forfeit the right to decide someone else’s usefulness, value, or right to exist. We forfeit the right to choose to love some but not others. To be Christian is to take up the duty to love without discrimination. This love compels us to lay aside the weapons of the battlefield, the weapons that are used to kill children while they attend school. This love compels us to lay aside the weapons of the boardroom, where decisions are made in the interest of profit margins that mean certain death for the most vulnerable. This love compels us to put down the weapons of the medical field that are used to eliminate human life in the womb.

Christian love forms us into a new vision, a dignifying vision that stands in solidarity with women and with their preborn children, a vision that sees value where the world sees uselessness—in the preborn child with Down syndrome; in the indigent elderly man who can’t consume the small, white communion wafer; the refugee, the women and children fleeing persecution searching for signs of hospitality; yes, even in the unrepentant death row inmate. To be Christian is to be formed in the love of Christ, who loves us while still sinners. This means to forfeit the right to decide who is worthy of love. It means we forfeit the right to decide which children will be allowed to take their first breath or which mothers will receive adequate prenatal care. This love is not a uniform love, but it is unifying love. It is a vision that sees that a society that fails to defend its most vulnerable members will soon find that it is unable to defend the principles of integral human ecology and that what is considered a “right” will be determined by the whims of the powerful.

This vision sees that the realities of abortion, war, migration, economic exploitation, of human trafficking and sexual slavery, disproportionately affect the most vulnerable among us, namely children, but also that all offenses against human life, in different ways and at different levels of gravity, participate in a logic of violence, in a logic that produces a throwaway culture. To be Christian means that we participate in a form of love that is whole, healthy, and fresh—that doesn’t choose its own way, but is led by the love of Christ, who loves people, not systems. To love like this is to love against the grain, to love into the darkness, to love with that burning heart that only Christ writes in us.

Jessica Keating is the director of the Office of Human Dignity and Life Initiatives in the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame.


After the Women’s March, Let’s Build a New Coalition for the Vulnerable

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My two young daughters, my husband, and I were among the 125,000 people who gathered on Boston Common on Saturday morning to march (or to try to march, anyway – to the surprise of no one, Boston’s comically skinny and winding streets were no match for the masses). We brought a double stroller, tiny outerwear for every conceivable weather condition, and enough Cheerios and raisins to feed a small army. Seemingly the only thing we didn’t bring with us was that critical activist must-have: the sign. I had contemplated making one the day prior, but I kept coming up blank. Maybe something about hearing the phrase “American carnage” undulating from my car radio zapped my creativity and wit. But on another level, there was part of me that wasn’t quite sure how to name what I was bringing with me to the march.

To be honest, participating felt fraught. I was irritated at the exclusion of pro-life organizations from official partnership in the national march. On the most basic, most practical level, it struck me as a monumental missed opportunity for coalition building among groups of women long alienated from one another. What a chance it could have been to finally see one another as more than single-issue voters, to celebrate the complexity of our political and religious identities. Isn’t it sort of the point of feminism to get behind the idea that there are as many ways to be a woman as there are women? Besides, what could have been a stronger statement against the vacuous pro-life rhetoric of the Trump administration than the open inclusion of pro-life organizations in the protest?

But, imperfect as it was, standing in solidarity with those sure to bear the brunt of the new president’s chilling contempt for society’s most vulnerable was too important to me to stay home. So I came, Cheerio-laden and signless.

Toward the end of the day, I spotted another mother holding her infant daughter in a carrier and a large sign in her hands. It read: “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children.” Below was a picture of her bright-eyed daughter. On the other side was a list of ways the Affordable Care Act had been critical for her pregnancy, birth, nursing, motherhood, and the life and health of her daughter.

Hers was the sign I would have made. In many ways, her story was my story. My oldest was born after three consecutive miscarriages. Without the tens of thousands of dollars worth of complicated testing that helped my doctors finally get to the bottom of what was preventing my body from carrying my babies to term – tests covered by my insurance that my husband and I would never have been able to pay for on our own – it’s unlikely that my daughters would be here. That mother’s sign spoke in a powerful, practical way to the interconnectedness of all life and all creation, and to the truth that society’s concern for its least powerful is a litmus test of its goodness. Our strength comes in recognizing the unbrokenness of that proverbial garment of life. That, to me, is the work yet to be done.

A few years ago I participated in an anti-racism workshop that concluded with the mantra, “The work is not the workshop.” The workshop itself was powerful and challenging – so much so that it would have been easy to fool ourselves into believing that participating in it was the same as doing the work of justice it demanded. But it wasn’t. It was only after the workshop ended, after we all went back to our workplaces and schools and churches, that the real work needed to begin.

In the same way, the Women’s March was not the work. That’s not to dismiss it. Just the opposite: if its purpose was to direct our eyes toward the work yet to be done, to propel us outward to take up what theologian M. Shawn Copeland calls the wrenching task of solidarity, then mission accomplished. I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in a movement in which I felt not quite comfortable and not perfectly at home. Dissonance can be fruitful, if we allow it to be. Instead of coming away feeling complacent, I rode home on a crowded bus more convinced than ever of the need for authentic solidarity among women and more energized than ever to work for it.

I research religious ritual in contexts characterized by pluralism. The beauty and genius of public rituals – like a women’s march, for example – is that they create space for ambiguity. In the act of walking-with, standing-with, being-with, they can become sites of embodied encounters and unexpected relationships. They allow for the emergence of the unanticipated, the unexpected, the almost-impossible. So here’s my best hope for the Women’s March: that the coalition building can happen after the fact, recognizing in retrospect that for a short time we all stood and walked together for similar and different things but ultimately for a vision of the common good that begins with the smallest, the weakest, the most vulnerable.

Susan Reynolds is a PhD Candidate in Theology and Education at Boston College.


The Wise Men Went Another Way and So Must We to Protect Creation

As Christians around the world observe the feast of the Epiphany, we recall the day that the Magi, following a star by faith, arrived in Bethlehem to honor the newborn Savior. This year, however, I find myself reflecting more on their return journey, specifically the wisdom that lead them to go back a different way after being warned to do so in a dream. Because the truth is that we have ventured down a dangerous path in our relationship to Creation and to rectify this, we need a new way forward.

Seeking to honor one much greater than themselves, the Magi were present and reverent to the newborn king, sharing spiritual gifts, as well as the more obvious and tangible offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Likewise, each of us has also been entrusted with gifts by God. The gifts of our time, talent, treasure, and testimony are things that can inform our vocations and allow us to provide for the needs of others. The material gifts the Magi brought were fitting for a worldly king. Jesus, however, makes it clear to us in the New Testament that we are not called  to prize power or material possessions, but rather to serve the “least of these.” In Laudato Si, Pope Francis reminds us that the “gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest,” and that humans are called to steward and love not just human “others,” but animals, plants, and all of Creation. We are called to use our gifts to protect God’s Creation.

The magi exemplify this mentality, paying great attention to nature. Looking to the rhythms of the stars as they journeyed, they were guided to the savior by a deep relationship with God’s Creation. Referred to as the “Book of Nature” by medieval Catholic theologians, God’s Creation was not only intended to sustain us, but also to reflect the love of our Creator and teach us about Him. As we deal with increasing climate chaos and what Pope Francis refers to as the “ethical, cultural, and spiritual crisis” at its root, how many of us can point to native edible plants in our neighborhoods and give thanks for them? Or notice if migratory birds are returning earlier in the spring? If we don’t marvel at the sparrows, we risk losing sight of God’s promised provision for them and for us, even as our sinful overconsumption of resources alters the composition of the atmosphere and our climate. Called to be witnesses to and stewards of Creation, we cannot protect that which we do not know and love.

The Magi’s choice to depart and travel home by “another way” infuriated Herod. Their act of civil disobedience against a violent and oppressive ruler was not without great risk but it allowed the Holy Family to escape to safety in Egypt. As the realities of disease, poverty, famine, and violent conflict become evermore common and severe due to climate change, it is clear that we must depart from our sinful ways, returning to a healthy relationship with our common home.

To do so, we must not ignore the testimony of God’s own Creation any longer, allowing the observed changes in carbon concentrations, temperature, rainfall, and sea level to guide us to respond courageously, just as the star guided the Magi. With climate change deniers coming into the White House, industrial polluters resisting the call to ecological stewardship, and the widespread materialism that impacts our spiritual lives and our planet, we seem to need, like the Magi, to go by a different way. To do so will require an ecological conversion, for which a great deal of wisdom and a deepening of faith will be necessary.

The Magi were called by God to protect Christ and the Holy Family. Scripture and tradition make it clear that all of us are called to care for Creation, taking steps to live more responsibly as individuals and working in community to protect it from those that would do it harm. As daunting as it may seem, Pope Francis offers encouragement:

All is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start, despite their mental and social conditioning. We are able to take an honest look at ourselves, to acknowledge our deep dissatisfaction, and to embark on new paths to authentic freedom. No system can completely suppress our openness to what is good, true and beautiful, or our God-given ability to respond to his grace at work deep in our hearts. I appeal to everyone throughout the world not to forget this dignity which is ours. No one has the right to take it from us.

This year, I pray that the example of the wise men will motivate us to pursue wisdom in our own lives.  As we deepen our relationships with God, others, and our common home, may we root ourselves in a faith that inspires action; in relationships that give life; and in holy service and sacred stewardship. May we grow in wonder and gratitude as we reflect on the mysteries of the incarnation of the true king, our Creator, and all of Creation.

Catherine Goggins is a faith-based climate organizer with Interfaith Power & Light who lives in Washington D.C.


Donald Trump is Now the Standard-Bearer of the Pro-Life Movement. We Should be Ashamed.

Catholics are once again the swing vote that has decided who will be the next President of the United States. Donald Trump has won voters who self-identify as Catholic 52% to 45%, reversing President Obama’s 2012 win. Among Catholics, Trump outperformed numerous past Republican presidential candidates.

Catholic voters in America have given Donald Trump both the presidency and a Republican-controlled Congress. But for pro-life Catholics, one question must be considered: is this the person we want to represent the pro-life movement?

As a college student, millennial, and devout Catholic, I take both my faith and the right to life very seriously. I don’t simply want abortion to be prohibited, but for all people to be supported and for their humanity to be affirmed, dignified, and upheld. I am pro-life for the whole life. This means standing against abortion, the death penalty, unjust wars, and euthanasia. It also means being in favor of a living wage, accessible and affordable healthcare (especially for mothers and their children in times of need), mandated paid maternity leave, and more funding for crisis pregnancy centers. Everything that society can do to protect and support pregnant mothers and their babies should be offered, because this commitment to life and human dignity is what will ultimately end a culture of assisted suicide, abortion, objectification, and xenophobia. This will bring about a genuine culture of life. These are all things I consider when I enter the voting booth.

Many of my friends who are devout Catholic millennials support these same values, and many struggled to determine how they would cast their ballots. Sadly, due to their care for the unborn child, many felt they had no choice but to vote for Donald Trump due to his newfound commitment to appointing judges who will overturn Roe v. Wade.

Personally, I could not bring myself to vote for either major party candidate.  I voted for a whole life write-in candidate. On election night, as my friends watched the results of the election pour in, we looked at each other in disbelief. Many who voted for Trump had thought they were making a protest vote, that he wouldn’t actually become president. But now, he is the President-elect of the United States. Read More


Life after the Election: The Jubilee Year of Mercy was Just Practice


Lies we tell ourselves, when recognized as lies, tend to leave us feeling shocked or emotionally raw. I thought it was not possible for Donald Trump to be elected president, and in the shock that steadily mounted from 5 p.m. Tuesday to 2:30 Wednesday morning, I was forced to recognize that belief as not only a lie but a kind of moral superiority. I, like half of my fellow Americans, believed that the portion of the population which saw Donald Trump as a savior, even a flawed savior, had to be a minority because the America I knew could not so easily support the violence and careless cruelty of his personality and policies. The “America” I thought I knew was a lie; it was the lie that Americans truly are better than the rest of the world. Sure, the Philippines could elect Rodrigo Duterte, but America could never trust a strongman like him with the presidency. Turkish citizens could support that widespread crackdown on thousands of fellow citizens by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but Americans could never be capable of lashing out in violence on the basis of fear and suspicion. All lies, and the truths to replace them proved to be a bitter medicine.

Yet the longer I sat with the outcome of the election, the more the bitterness of that medicine turned stale. The most banal fact of American politics is that we are divided and politicized and incapable of compromise. Everyone knows that. And everyone believed in a savior, whether it was the Supreme Court or Congress or the president, who could ultimately vanquish any opponents who posed a threat to the very identity of the great American Experiment. Numerous Democrats believed in President Obama’s executive orders on immigration, in the Obergefell ruling, in the Affordable Care Act; all of these and more were a hope against the forces of bigotry, prejudice, and ignorance. As we have seen to the shock of all those who repudiated Trump’s rhetoric and worldview, many Republicans saw Donald Trump and his future appointees to the Supreme Court and a Republican-controlled Congress as the salvation of freedom, economic independence, and the American ideals of success. Almost every American saw this election and their politicians at its forefront as the only hope for the rebirth of the American Dream, and they saw the opposition as the death-knell of all that is good in this world. Dramatic, yes—but  new? No, this is normal, and has been normal since I can remember starting to pay attention to politics in the 7th grade. Read More


Politics Alone Won’t Save Us. Let’s Get to Work.

Last Tuesday evening, I sat down with a heaping plate full of Chinese food, surrounded by some of my closest friends, ready to watch history be made. Amid the hopeful excitement, a brief thought entered my mind: “What if this doesn’t turn out how I think it will?”

As the evening continued and Donald Trump gained more and more states, I was filled with a sense of dread that felt all too familiar. I had been here before. The hope of a sure win, slowly crumbling – replaced by fear, uncertainty, and the sight of my future falling apart. It was eerily similar to a scene I’d witnessed two years before.

My first job out of college was a nonpartisan fellowship at the Governor’s Office – the ideal path toward a lifetime of political advocacy. I believed that the best way to share my gifts with the world was to give myself fully to politics – to change the system from the inside, working to serve the people and better the world. This all hinged upon the Governor under whom I began my internship – a role model and someone whose career inspired me – winning his reelection.

In a turn I didn’t expect, on a night that should have been filled with celebration, my candidate lost…badly. Suddenly, I went from visions of social justice and a job waiting for me at the end of the year to all of my friends, co-workers, and colleagues losing their jobs. Aside from about eight other young adults, everyone I had worked with would now be fired. I was sad for my co-workers. I was scared for my state – afraid that the many programs whose growth I had witnessed would now go away. And I was terrified for my future. I couldn’t follow the path I had expected. I couldn’t work in this world of hatred and back-stabbing. I couldn’t see a path out, and my plan was falling apart. Read More