First-Degree Bern

Legend has it that when the Grinch discovered the true meaning of Christmas, his heart grew three sizes larger.

The first time I saw Bernie Sanders speak, my heart grew four.

I was born into an America of massive corporate greed and concentrated political power. The only United States I have ever lived in is one run by Coca-Cola and the Koch brothers.
I have never known a country without massive income inequality and powerful big business.

Then I saw a white-haired Democratic socialist named Bernie Sanders on the Democratic debate stage.

He looked like he had just woken up and barely managed to slip on his spectacles. He was everything the others were not: a Vermont Jew with no Super PAC, no solid voter base and ideas that were anything but establishment.

And when I heard Sanders speak, I felt something awaken within me.

Sanders said that America doesn’t have to be like this. He said that big business doesn’t have to run politics. He said that institutional racism and unfair criminal records for nonviolent crime don’t have to continue anymore.

He promised to help millions of low-income families tired of almost all wealth going to the top one percent and insisted that healthcare is a right for all human beings.

I felt like I had found someone who genuinely cared about each and every individual; every senior without decent healthcare, every high school kid without the money to afford a college education; every illegal immigrant separated from his or her family; every black man earning less than a white man for the same work; every rape victim unable to get an abortion.

That’s the kind of man I want to be. A man who stands up for the poor, the weak, the downtrodden. A man who, amidst the clamor and the chaos of politics, says to those in need: I will help you. I will guide you. And if you stand up with me, then together, we can make the world a better place.

For 18 years I had watched suited Washington aristocrats spew political rhetoric on my TV screen. For 18 years I had listened to meaningless political voices murmuring like ghosts on the radio.

For 18 years I had watched with apathy as the American economy was destroyed and slowly rebuilt.

But Sanders did something powerful for me. He made me feel.

So I turned to the internet, where Sanders had already achieved somewhat of a cult following.

I learned about Sanders’ spotless record of fighting for civil liberty, feminism and the rights of the middle-class American worker.

I even called Nevada voters the night before the caucuses in a phone bank program; many voters thought Sanders was crazy, and one accused me of being a communist and hung up the phone.
When I hung up the phone the night before Nevada, I was faced with a question: since when is it crazy to have dreams?

Since when is it crazy to want an America where, finally, every man’s voice can be heard? Isn’t that what America is supposed to be about?

Since Sanders entered the race, he has been labeled a radical. But in a country where almost all wealth goes to the top one percent and where racism and sexism are as alive as ever, maybe radical ideas are exactly what we need.

So let me say to you what Bernie Sanders said to me on that fateful night months ago:

Stand up with me. Maybe together, we can make the world a better place.

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