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Like most people, there are a lot of moments from my childhood I remember well and moments I’ve forgotten. Since I have TBI, there are probably more memories I’ve forgotten than those I remember. Some of those moments are good, some are bad, but they are moments that help define us. I recognize a lot of younger readers and activists have their own experience, but one of my first, earliest memories was Dec. 8, 1980. I was sitting upstairs in our house when my oldest sister cried out, and I didn’t quite understand what happened. The next day at school, the teachers were shocked. Many clearly had been crying. We stopped at lunch and one of my teachers played “Imagine.” Even in a small Arkansas community, the idea remained that every one of us imagined a better future, a future that would benefit those around us, that would provide peace, hope, and the ability to see our dreams be realized. We imagined. This makes me wonder what hellscape some Republicans imagine the future should be for their children. What dreams do they have? What hopes do we see for our future? Shouldn’t we connect over our hopes and our dreams instead of our fears and our hatred? That is the question on the ballot this cycle, and for every cycle since Trumpism has taken over the Republican brand.
I sat on the floor with my dad in the 1980s, watching Star Trek, then Star Trek: Next Generation. My brother and I read voraciously about the worlds we wanted to see and the kind of things that might be possible in the future. Hoverboards? Teleporters? We watched terrible movies, but movies that made us laugh, and that we enjoyed.
Everyone in town would go to the game of the season—football, basketball, volleyball, baseball, track and field, and we would root for everyone. Because all of us had shared dreams of a better future. How could we make America better?
Even Republicans we knew talked about “sunrise in America,” and hope for a future of greatness. What could be invented? Could we cure problems and struggles?
Think about this in contrast to the Republican Party. These are not “extremist Republicans.” This is the current state of the Republican brand. As long as Republican leadership refuses to push back on their own deniers, and their own internal problems, then this is not a matter of MAGA: This is a party-defining moment.
The moment you lean into the statement “great again,” you are defining something that is so oppositional to my entire childhood that I simply struggle to connect with what it means. How did we lose track of the dream of a better, brighter American future? When did one political party decide to bet everything on the idea that the future for American children was doomed and the only way forward was to refuse the idea that our country would continue to improve with knowledge and experience?
Activists who will read something like Connect! Unite! Act! are guaranteed voters. So many around us are not voters who are guaranteed to vote. Right now is the time to talk to them, directly, in the kind of language they speak, in terms that matter to them, in dialects that connect them to their home. We need a reminder of the social contract that asks all of us to be better for our children and for our future.
We aren’t a country built on being better for a very small group of people. It’s great that Mr. Bezos can rake in so much money that he could bury himself in a modern-day Egyptian pyramid. Good for him. Instead, we are a country that worries about the opportunities and lives of the living.
I listen to the debates from Georgia, Arizona, and Wisconsin and I see Republicans stand behind a podium and offer points of attack that are predicated on the idea that America is already past its prime, and the only way for our country to get better is to go backward. In order for us to survive, we have to give up on the concept of moving ahead.
They offer word salads that are void of dreams. I think back to a childhood film that brought me joy (and a few tears), particularly this scene.
“Every part, every creature, is a dream of human kind; therefore, it has no boundary”
”Then why is fantasia dying then?”
”Because people are beginning to lose their hopes, and forget their dreams. So the nothing grows stronger”
”What is the nothing?”
“It is the emptiness that is left, it like a despair, destroying this world, and I have been trying to help it”
”Because people who have no hopes are easy to control. And whoever has control has power.”
I think about this when I listen to Republicans speak to their audiences. They offer no hope. They aren’t offering plans. They aren’t offering solutions. They are offering fear and the promise of forcing others to forget their dreams. With every moment this fear goes unchecked, the only thing that grows is nothingness. It offers no fertile soil to breed, to be better than we are now; just an ask that we only have memories of the past, but no dreams for the future.
We’re closing in on Election Day, and early voting has begun to open in numerous states. As a child, did you have a dream that you wanted to see visualized? Did you have a hope for America or the world that you thoughts was attainable? Vote this year like your dreams depend on creating an environment of possibility, instead of one set on the idea of stripping a generation of their ability to dream and find the inspiration to see the beauty in their dream.
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