Why “Accepting our Differences” No Longer Works for Me
My personal view on the current political scenario as a naturalized US citizen.
I first came to the United States in June of 2008. I had left Brazil, my home for the past twenty-six years, with two hundred dollars in my pocket and one suitcase full of dreams. I had come to work as an au pair through an exchange program. It was a must-need experience for me because I was an English teacher in Brazil, and the whole “living abroad” experience would supposedly open doors for me professionally.
I was young. I spoke three languages. The future looked bright and promising for a passionate and young immigrant in America. I didn’t know how long I would stay, but of one thing I was certain: I had loved the United States with all my heart from the moment I stepped on its soil.
I was embraced in this country and treated as if I had been born here. Americans were curious to hear my story. They wanted me to tell them about my life, my dreams. I made friends right away, from all over the world. America was a loving and accepting place.
2008 was a difficult year for Americans, for the world. The global financial crisis hit every home and family — many lost their jobs, and even the ones who didn’t were still fearful. It was a year full of insecurity at all levels.
But there was a big difference between 2008 and 2020: we were united.
I remember a special moment that year: the first time I watched a television debate between the two candidates for the US presidency, Barack Obama and John McCain.
Watching Barack and John debating was a beautiful thing to see. Both were very respectful, talking about new policies to be implemented, plans to save the economy, military action in the Middle East, and so forth. So much to discuss, so many words exchanged, but no disrespect.
I also remember watching a woman step up to John McCain in one of his rallies and call Mr. Obama an “Arab” — in a real accusatory tone. Then I watched John McCain politely take her microphone back and say that although he and Obama had their differences, he was a decent man. I saw a Republican candidate stop discrimination with class and respect. I saw a man not entertain racism.
How far 2008 looks to me now when I think of John McCain’s rally.
I often think of McCain. A war hero, a great human being. I didn’t share most of John McCain’s views on politics or social changes (I liked Obama better), but yet I respect the memory of that man. I respect the memory of a Republican, a veteran, a true patriot who loved his country and his people.
I lived in peace in the US for the following eight years. I got married to an amazing American man and became a US citizen. Things looked “normal” and peaceful. Life seemed to smile at many of us immigrants.
Being friends with immigrants from all over the world, and also being an ESL teacher, I heard so many stories since 2016. I have seen tears. Disappointment. Pain. Discrimination. Prejudice.
And now, in 2020, I see a lot more of that.
I know I might get a terrible backlash for writing this. I’m sure I’ll read comments on this article that say “Trump2020,” or the old “Go back to your country!” line. But I hope you bear with me for just a while if you are not a bot shouting words of hatred behind the screen.
I want to speak to you as a human being. You might not accept our differences, and I am okay with that because I also don’t. But it would be important if you at least read why I feel the way I feel. You don’t have to agree with me at all — and I don’t expect you to.
Last year, I wrote an article named “Don’t Say You Love Me As an Immigrant.” I wrote about Carlos, an immigrant boy who died of the flu in a detention center in Texas back in May 2019. It was a painful article to write. I felt vulnerable because I could not believe that many people who said they loved me had voted for someone who was in favor of caging children. People who justified what happened to boys like Carlos. They would come up with the worst excuses, “It was his parents’ fault! They should have thought of that before crossing the border.”
Yes, I heard it all. Even from people I love. I could no longer accept their love for me anymore when I believe Carlos deserved as much love and attention. Carlos and I were the same. It didn’t matter if he had crossed “illegally” — he was still a human being. So how come could they tell me they loved me when something like that happened to another immigrant and yet they supported the person in charge who was guilty of Carlos’s death?
From that moment on, I realized the people I knew and loved had normalized violence and the war against immigrants. They decided that it was normal for a president to laugh at the crowd’s suggestions of shooting immigrants at the border.
“Shoot them up!” a crowd member yelled. The president smiled. The crowd laughed. My heart broke into a million pieces.
And that brings me back to 2020.
I hear a lot of talk about “respecting our differences.” I see posts from people who spread positivity and who desperately try to unite us all. They share videos of political candidates who are friends but from different parties. Best friends who vote for different candidates. Everyone still smiling and happy.
“Can we still celebrate our differences? Can we still love each other even though we vote differently?” they say.
Honestly? I don’t think we can anymore. Because it’s not about politics — it’s about decency. Our differences have a bigger gap now between what is has been considered right and wrong.
I really don’t judge the peacemakers. They’re trying their best, I know. I am not starting a fire or a war, either. I won’t unfriend people on social media sites because of their beliefs or because of who they vote for. But I allow my heart to be broken because of these people. I allow myself to grieve the respect I have lost for many.
I am sorry, my dear Republican friends. I respected you when you voted for McCain in 2008, for Romney in 2012, and even for Bush in the past. You had your reasons to believe they were better — and I accept and respect your decision!
But I cannot respect someone who votes for a pathological liar. I cannot respect someone who votes for a man who says kids in cages are being well treated; someone who votes for a man who smiles at the suggestion of shooting immigrants at the border; someone who denies science; who retweets conspiracy theories; who encourages his voters to intimidate others in the polls; someone who simply isn’t cut for the presidency.
There are so many things I have not talked about, and I don’t want to extend myself here on all the absurd things I have seen this man say. But I will tell you what I have seen over the last few years — things that did not happen in 2008.
These things I have seen will tell you why I can no longer “accept our differences.”
I saw my immigrant students afraid of losing their visa status.
I saw immigrants canceling their children’s health insurance because they were told they would be denied a residence card to their family members if they used any type of government assistance.
I saw DREAMERs crying at school because their friends said they would be sent back to their countries.
I have seen people create GoFundMe pages because they cannot pay for their medical bills.
I have heard stories of Black people being intimidated in the streets — even in Maryland, where I live.
I have seen people normalize violence. And I am not speaking of physical violence — but verbal, mental, psychological violence too. We see it on the news all the time and we hear stories— people being intimidated, threatened. and yet, they haven’t changed their voting choice.
Our president has normalized lies, abuse, and violence.
Can you picture this circus had Romney or McCain become president? I don’t think I can. McCain would have condemned violence and disrespect, and so would have Romney. They wouldn’t have accepted a surge of attacks on morality, so why should you?
A dear friend confessed to me she had voted for Trump in 2016 and is now undecided. “He’s good for business,” she said. I didn’t respond back then because that comment tore me apart — she is someone I love. Another justified that she’s voting for the party. Because of its “values.”
Despite all this blatant exposure to abuse and lack of morality, people still justify it.
“They’re both bad candidates!”
“All politicians are corrupt anyway.”
“They’re all bad, so I might as well just vote for someone who helps my business.”
I am done explaining, and I know a lot of you are too. I just hope that a few undecisive and decent people can think about what kind of country they want for their children and grandchildren.
I hope they choose a country that values immigrants, minorities just like they value white people; a country who says no to abusive words toward women; a country who helps their residents grow their business as well as their morals when it comes to paying for their fair share in taxes; a country that listens to scientists over “woke” documentaries that spread misinformation and lies; a country that accepts science and climate change as a fact; a country that values their citizens; a country that doesn’t normalize hate speech.
I want the same morals of the country I knew in 2008. A country where people with different beliefs on socio-economic policies still shared the same values.
That would be the new “American Dream” for me. The new American Dream would be simply the acknowledgment that we are all equal, free, and we all deserve respect, compassion, and care.
Care. We need to care, but not just about our own businesses, our own taxes, our family. We need to care about everyone on this planet, in this nation. We need to be united again — and the normalcy of hate and abuse isn’t the answer anymore. Consciousness, folks, consciousness.
In short, on November 3rd, I hope you make America care again.