Last night I went to the most gorgeously inclusive poetry event. All races, ethnicities, genders and orientations were welcome. The crowd skewed young, but all ages were present. The only thing you couldn’t be was engaged with the election process as anything other than a detractor. Though the event’s organizer encouraged me to carry around my voter registration clipboard and the venue was hosting a “Get Out the Vote!” themed art show, I soon sensed the crowd’s vibe and heard enough Bern catchphrases in poems to know I should put my clipboard away.
A straight-presenting, white, middle class, less-likely-to-be-harmed by-a-Trump presidency poet introduced a poem by saying, “So Hillary Clinton will be in town next month,” and I was one of a few lonely woohoos before she launched into a poem that gave me A. some good insight into Honduras and B. the assurance that I was the one kind of person not welcome in that magically diverse room.
I’ve never found the spoken word community particularly hospitable to feminism, but this wasn’t that. Just as I had during primary season, I felt hated for being part of the so-called establishment. Since the causes I’m in politics to fight for (reproductive rights, racial justice, LGBTQ+ rights, voting rights) are pretty damn revolutionary, I’m sick to fucking death of that assessment.
I’m sure that many of these young detractors will still vote, and even if they don’t, they’ll be helping us make more justice with their writing and their demonstrating and their being. But I’m angry that the Sanders campaign’s “rigged system” rhetoric and adoption of decades of Republican smear campaigns may have given young people a sense of learned helplessness that intentionally or unintentionally takes some of their power away. I’m livid at the idea that Sanders is not helping these young folks he so inspired earlier this year to continue feeling part of the election process.
We, the Democratic Party, need young people to push and protest and hold us to better standards. We need to hold all of our candidates accountable. And yes, the system IS rigged, but we need you to vote and call and canvass and help us make it better, fairer, more inclusive. Hillary’s platform is one that everyone can be proud of. No “lesser of two evils.” No “straight outta options.” 2016 is about love and kindness versus bigotry and hate. I’m guessing my woohooing will be less lonely in November.