Navigating my independence through political turmoil

Many people find it difficult to call themselves American these days.

I don’t think that this is an unreasonable stance. In fact, I think it is a reasonable position. However, I feel differently.

I am proud to call myself an American.

My American heroes are Neil Armstrong, Cesar Chavez, Benjamin Franklin, Harriet Tubman and Malcolm X.

I consider myself mixed race; half-Mexican on my mother’s side and half-Anglo on my father’s. As someone possessing conservative beliefs along with liberal values, I feel that I mainly stand with independent voters. I would not call myself a centrist though.

My political awakening began in 2016 and was a watershed moment for me. Donald Trump’s presidential victory ignited a fire in me to get more involved in local politics.

Since turning 18 years old, I’ve never skipped voting in an election.

I began my involvement in the Bernie Sanders movement and was interested in spirited debate with those on the Libertarian or Republican sides.

I’ve never been someone to shy away from a debate. I will always relish an opportunity to discuss important issues with people I might disagree with.

My first memories of politics were the Bush v. Gore presidential election in 2000, but I did not develop opinions until I learned about the Indigenous Genocide in elementary school.

Learning about this and other unspoken atrocities did not make me feel shame for being American. Instead, it made me hate those who let these things happen.

I’d see these things but would get caught up in the writings of Sandra Cisneros, Gary Soto, Amy Tan and Alice Walker, as well as the broader literary canon that some have said is made up of mostly dead white guys.

I felt like I was spoiled in this way.

It is no mystery that my American pride comes with a fair amount of bias on my behalf. Even my last name, Leavenworth, is inextricable from the American story.

Leavenworth is synonymous with a military installation and federal penitentiary founded by one of my direct ancestors in Kansas.

We don’t lose anything by admitting that the Indigenous Genocide, slavery or Japanese internment are just a small number of the shameful things that we must work to make right each day.

I believe that now more than ever, it is imperative for us to fight against tyranny, oppression, and persecution. We must cut through that noise and join together as a country that holds itself and each other to a higher standard.

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