Dokken: The Nation We Could Be

A vote for Trump is a vote against America.

by Natalie Dokken | 11/3/20 2:00am

I am 19 years old — born the year of 9/11, and the year that U.S. troops first touched down in Afghanistan. I have never known an America that wasn’t at war, or an America before mass shootings. I grew up without financial security because this country decided that the cost of my father’s cancer treatment was my family’s peace of mind. I grew up watching Hurricane Michael, a hurricane of unprecedented strength obliterate my aunt’s town and home due to our country’s decision to prioritize corporate interests over its citizens. I grew up rehearsing what to do if someone decided to make my school into a murder scene amid our nation’s inability to enact common sense gun control while children continue to be gunned down in their classrooms.

The America I know locks people in prison for addictions they cannot control, and for daring to believe that if they make it to America we will grant them asylum. The America I know financially ruins people for getting sick or for being born with an incurable disease. The America I know praises its citizens for being white supremacists but beats, kills and condemns those who protest the injustices faced by people of color at the hands of the government and the police. 

While this reality is upsetting and unacceptable, we must remember that we have the power to change it. We must vote with the actual state of America in mind, not the one we wish we were. 

We must not give into Donald Trump's destructive, nationalistic rhetoric that defends discrimination, xenophobia and hatred under the guise of keeping our nation “great.”

I am tired of turning on the television and being told by our president that to look at America and see anything but a perfect, all-powerful nation is to be un-American. I am tired of being told by our president that to want to implement policies that remedy some of our failures is radical. If we want a better nation, we cannot keep looking to the past — we must look to the future. Progress means a transformation of something into a better version of itself, and I can assure you we are most certainly not going to find that better version in America’s racist, bigoted past.

Many of the problems of the America I was born into have either seen very little progress or only worsened over the years. Failure to implement comprehensive climate change policy has led to more severe, less predictable weather, including wildfires, heat waves and floods that have destroyed entire ecosystems and communities. Our inability to enact common sense gun reform has led to nearly 300 active shooter incidents during my lifetime, costing more than 2,000 people their lives. Our failure to pass comprehensive health care reform means that more than 100 million Americans are struggling with medical debt at a given time, with nearly half a million people per year citing that as the main reason they file for bankruptcy. 

While the America I have come to know is a far cry from the beacon of freedom and opportunity that I was taught to see it as, I do not, in fact, believe that America is a lost cause. I write this column with the knowledge that people will read it on Election Day, a day where the American people will be tested on their ability to see through divisive, shallow rhetoric about how great America is from a candidate who wants to return America to what it formerly was, rather than what we need it to be — a candidate who would deem this very thinking un-American. 

There is a lot on the line in this election — our environment, the rights of marginalized groups and communities, health care — but also the future of American democracy. This election, we are deciding not just between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, but between progress and complacency, between looking to the past versus looking to the future, between the America we are and the America which we should be. 

I want an America that makes good on its promises, that lives up to its founding principles and supposed values. I want the America I was told we already are. Look past Trump’s fear-mongering nationalism, and realize the reality of the current political moment.  Smell the decay of our nation’s integrity and be repulsed, outraged. Then, let’s choose to do better.