ANTHONY J. ZARZYCKI
Having supported Bernie Sanders throughout the Democratic Primary only to fight for Hillary Clinton during the General, I know a thing about getting over defeat. Nobody wants to have lost. Nobody wants to wonder whether the world may be a worst place because you didn’t work hard enough, like some remake of The Man In the High Castle except instead of Nazis celebrating victory, there’s, well…
There’s a simple solution to overcome defeat. To not be the loser. It’s to stop being the loser. It’s to fight for tomorrow instead of pain ourselves with what happened that November Tuesday. Democrats have a lot of change in store for them, and perhaps, it’s for the better. Many people predicted a restructuring of the Republican Party with this election, but with the disadvantage of losing comes the advantage of being able to evolve. It’s easier to succeed and learn from your mistakes when you realize you were defeated and made mistakes to learn from.
So, I propose a step forward for Democrats. In time for the turning of the calendar year, when many people are entering a vacation period, there’s no better time to write to your elected officials, including one in particular: President Barack Obama.
Use it as a time capsule. Write your feelings down to look back on when you feel defeated or without hope. Don’t entertain your read with policy recommendations but truly write your heart out. Be honest. And then, send it away and forget. Forget those feelings and move on because there’s fights to be fought. It isn’t with each other, anymore. It isn’t between who we supported in the primary or what who did wrong in this state or that. We need to unify the party by realizing why we’re a party in the first place.
Here is what I wrote to President Barack Obama, and I hope you share your time capsule letters as well:
Being twenty, I straddle the cusp of people who remember and don’t remember the attacks on 11 September 2001. My class was always divided between those who just vaguely remember those graphic images and those, like me, who remember the event only by what their parents recalled to them years later. The recollection of my memory when it comes to world events begins with a much gentler, innocent time:
Standing on the gravel driveway of my childhood Pennsylvanian home with my dad about to get into the car. I ask him, “Dad, who’s the President?” He tells me the answer but I’m confused. George Bush? I thought George Bush was the first President, how could he still be alive?
The second oldest political memory is when I’m eleven. It’s one of blue- and red-filled states. Of my brother and father on the living room couch watching the television. It’s of me falling asleep but waking up in time to see something that, at the time, I couldn’t quite understand the ramifications of, yet still felt the grandeur of. It’s a feeling I have, shaking through my spine and taking the breath out of my chest, when I learn something new which changes the whole way I see things or before I give a speech or when I go for coffee with a cute guy. It’s a distinctly human feeling — where you can observe a meteor shower and instead of streaks of light, you’re watching a boundary you never realized was there be broken and a new frontier is opened.
A black man telling the story of Ann Nixon Cooper. A black man who would become the President of the United States of America.
When I recall that memory, it excites me in understanding the very unique and monumental eight years I’ve lived through. It’s the latter end of my childhood. It’s my teenage transition. It’s my growth into an adult. I grew up from a quiet boy in the woods of the Poconos to a proud gay man pursuing an education in astrophysics and — because of the influence of role models like you and Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders — political science at the Pennsylvania State University. I grew into an activist. I became fired up and ready to go change the world around me because I saw the change people like me could make. It wasn’t skin colour I shared with a leader like you, but instead, a life. The life of growing up in a place where people didn’t think you could get ahead. A life which involves doubting what you may become because of who you were. A life which involves a more than two century old question: can American democracy really overcome the faults of humankind? Can American democracy truly make life better for every person? Can American democracy actually overcome its challenges together, unified, as We the People?
Yes, we have. Yes, we will. Yes, we can.
I’m proud to have grown up with the minority President: the President who was an underdog but who persevered. Who embodied the American Dream. I’m proud that my early memories aren’t of fear but of hope that if a black man with a funny name and funny ears can change the world for the better, than perhaps a gay man with a funny name and a funny nose can, too.
Penn State College