As the elections near us, with only four days to go until California votes, I have begun looking into the websites and issues that each candidate stands for. I believe that our experiences shape our values, and it stands true for me. I have to admit that I look for people who look like me, because I believe people of color are under-represented in our government and I make a push to change those numbers, and I read their "issues" page on their site to double-check and ensure that they stand for what I stand for-- rights for immigrants, push for public education and raising the bar and opportunities for our students, women's rights, restructuring the criminal system. Today, as I read about the candidates, it brought a tear to my eye when I read their cookie-cutter statements about their upbringing. Although they were edited by professionals and possibly not even written by the candidates, the facts are there. I refer specifically to the candidate Alex Padilla wrote:
"I am the proud son of Mexican immigrants – my dad, Santos, and my mom, Lupe, came to the United States with an elementary school education and a strong conviction in search of the American Dream. Their hard work and sacrifice allowed my sister, my brother, and I to succeed in local public schools and go on to graduate from college. So I know how hard immigrants work to raise their families, contribute to their communities, and make life better for future generations."
As I read this, I reflected. And I related. And I cried. Here is a man who shares MY STORY. Do you know how rare it is, or was at one point, to see people in power who shared my story? It is, or at least was, a rare sight. My own parents, Rafael and Lupe, immigrated from Mexico, likewise with an elementary school education. My mother studied up to the 4th grade; my father, up to the sixth. They traveled to the U.S. in the late 80's because Mexico did not have enough to offer them, and like Padilla's parents, they aimed to reach their own version of the American Dream. The stories paint the picture of the image that my parents saw in their head before they arrived; stories told to us know, my siblings... stories of how you could find money laying in the streets. The dreams they must have dreamed when they arrived.... I can only imagine. From the moment they arrived, my parents have worked hard. They have made the best of this world with the limits they were given. They taught ME hard work.
My husband and I often discuss how both our sets of parents have taught us the value of hard work. We both go to work and strive to do our best. We both pride ourselves in trying hard and doing the right thing. That is why I push to fight for what is right, for those who cannot fight for themselves, for those without a voice, for those and alongside those who keep fighting the good fight. Doing the right thing may not always be the "best" thing for me. But if it's the right thing to do, it's what should be done, and what will be done on my part. So, as the voting begins Tuesday, I keep that in mind: what is the right thing to vote for, even if it's not the "best" thing for me?
Next school year, I will be teaching Night by Ellie Wiesel. My plan is to teach the Holocaust with the roles of hero-hero-bystander-perpetrator to analyze why people do bad things. Lately, I've been stuck on the idea about bystanders being "bad" people in addition to the perpetrators. Those who stood by and watched as the Nazi marched prisoners along the cities, and did nothing to stop it, aren't they just as bad as those who led them and killed them? How could the world watch as millions of Jews, homosexuals, and others were killed off for simply having an identity that the leader defined as unpure? Aren't they likewise guilty? If we stand by, and allow the bad to happen, aren't we just as bad ourselves? If we do not HELP the issue, the problem, the situation, we are in the same boat as the perpetrators. That is why it is vital that we vote for those who will represent the issues and people who need someone to do the right thing.