Until We Can’t Fight Anymore…
I went to sleep early the night of the presidential election of 2016. I was in Atlanta, training on what I needed to know before being deployed to Puerto Rico for 60 days of chasing Zika. I had been in training most of the day, and then I took a long walk to the hotel from CDC headquarters. Once at the hotel, I grabbed some food and tuned in to listen to the news and see the early returns. Everyone was convinced that Hilary Clinton would win, and a Donal Trump presidency seemed like an unfathomable nightmare. As the night wore on, I stared to watch stock futures fall as other parts of the world looked at the returns. But I was too tired to think, so I decided to go to bed.
In the middle of the night, my wife called me. She seemed very upset, and I asked her what happened. She told me that Donald J. Trump had been declared the winner. It seemed like a dream, and I got up to look at the returns. It was true. The dude who had mocked immigrants, people with disabilities, women, and just about any group that was not white and filled with anger… That dude was going to be president. And he was going to put members of his own family in positions within the White House. And people would be okay with that so long as he hurt the “others” and not the small and vociferous base of the Republican Party.
Back at CDC, the woman who was in charge of training me was very happy the next day. She said she was happy because “something would finally be done about the immigrants.” She said this with all sorts of seriousness on her face. Whether or not she was aware that I was one of those immigrants, given that she had access to my bio and curriculum vitae, is beyond me. But it did help me realize that it was the beginning of at least a very long four years. Nevertheless, I was not discouraged.
Tonight, it looks like Glenn Youngkin is going to win the governorship of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Mr. Youngkin, a Republican, has come out in opposition to reproductive rights, to books about slavery being read by school students, to vaccination mandates, to making mandates, and to public health recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic. He has also been friendly with groups that are anti-immigrant and borderline racist in their xenophobia. And he’s not afraid to double-down on lies and misrepresentations by his campaign — or himself — when asked to account for those statements.
Here we go all over again.
While I’m not a resident of Virginia, I do work there, and my work is entangled with the public health work of the Virginia Department of Health, a department that will be staffed and functioning at the pleasure of Mr. Youngkin if the results from tonight hold. The policies that he has advocated for as a candidate will have a great impact on public health of Virginians. And, since few if any public health problems respect political boundaries, they will likely have an impact on the state where I live.
While I am disappointed, I am not going to lie to you and tell you that I’m not somewhat excited. I am excited because I am my grandfather’s grandson. Grandpa was a member of the opposition in Mexico during that country’s Perfect Dictatorship. He and his friends made a lot of trouble for the federales in the Mexican north. He was a poll worker, an activist, and an outspoken critic of the status quo. I got to see a lot of that in my youth, and I got to hear how much people admired him for all he did. Even the people who disagreed with him politically respected his commitment to standing up against the authorities.
I, like my grandfather, am a trouble maker.
There’s this scene in Battlestar Galactica where the humans who are fleeing the murderous robots out to get them are trapped in a settlement as the robots arrive. One of the humans asks one of the main characters, “What now, captain?”
“We fight them. We fight them until we can’t,” she responds.
Because the only thing to do is to keep fighting and not be discouraged in the face of adversity. You walk up to bullies and push them back, maybe even punch them in the mouth. That’s what those who cannot defend themselves need from us.
And that’s just what I’ll do… Until I can’t.