I have been suspicious of American party politics since I cast my first-ever vote for Ralph Nader in 2000. I spent my 20s living off of minimum wage and student loan residuals, with no health insurance and no savings, forced to back-burner my passion for music to commit to a plan for surviving my adult years. And though I knew I was relatively privileged, one dignified setback after another, my contempt for the casual cruelty of life in this nation festered; however, my anger had no direction, no articulation.
In 2012, I became a teacher and a parent. The abstractions of climate change, authoritarianism, economic collapse, austerity, and endless war became real, loomed near. In 2016, Bernie Sanders began speaking the kind of language I remembered from Eugene Debs, whom I, Left-dilettante English major that I was, remembered as a figure from Dos Passos’ USA Trilogy. It wasn’t just universal healthcare or free college that resonated with me, but the way he spoke directly to the people and involved them in their own destinies: the way he called working people to action.
I joined Kentucky teachers in the 2018 wildcat strike demanding protection of public worker benefits and fighting the establishment of charter schools. After a day of marching, chanting, and booing at electeds as they skulked from chamber, we were met on the pavilion by DSA members bearing hamburgers and fries from Cookout. I knew DSA as good folks, but to see them suffer the punishing March winds in the most cursed city in all of the state to feed fast food to pissed-off teachers swelled my heart.
Within a year, I signed up, began educating myself about socialism, and am now active in organizing . I still have my bouts of defeat and cynicism, but as Theodor Adorno says, “The almost insoluble task is to let neither the power of others, nor our own powerlessness, stupefy us.” The solution is solidarity.