What I Learned from the 2016 Election

Until the election night, I saw myself and my group of “educated” people as the group that should lead society; that should show the way and the manners to do things; that should give our ideas to others to be implemented. In other words, I was part of the elite, like the Washington elite that propels the entire country forward. So were Hillary Clinton and his party; so were Paul Ryan and his party. But the election results screamed at us “we the white uneducated people don’t want you because you forgot us.” Yes, those who put one of them at the presidency of the most powerful country in the world loudly and emphatically complained because the “educated” people have been looking down to them for too long, axing the most important feeling that any human has: hope for a better future.

To me the lesson is simple: we all are humans.

We all breath, eat, drink, defecate, sleep, love, cry, laugh, have sex, but most importantly, we all have hopes of a better future. A better future for us, and for our children. All of that happen no matter whether our highest degree of education is a third grade of grammar school, or a doctoral degree from Harvard university, because again, we all are the same; we are bone-and-flesh humans. I bring up the people’s education level because according to the polls Trump won thanks to the uneducated white people (if you still trust polls check the Washington Post). Or we could flip the argument and say Clinton lost because there were not enough white educated people voting for her. Being in the group of educated people I, inadvertently, have trained myself to despise the uneducated because, I thought I would understand things that they wouldn’t; because I learned things that they didn’t; because I could explain things they couldn’t. But I am not alone. I know and I have seen how other educated people look down to the uneducated and believe in a superiority just because of the education level, when in reality the fact is we all are humans.

But now we have a problem. The concept of a representative democracy is that we elect our leaders to represent us, and to make decisions more wisely and expeditiously based on timely information that they have before us. Most of the elected officials are “educated” people, lawyers, doctors, and business people with government experience that should be able to propose ideas to guide the country in the right direction. Now we have a new commander in chief who we know has no experience on government at all; who knows little on macro/world economics; who insults minorities of all kinds; hence, we will have to help the new president during his time as the leader of this country while we find a solution to the problem before the next election.

How do we make sure this does not happen again? A simple solution is to pay more attention to the white uneducated people, but this won’t solve the root cause. In my opinion the solution is to make them part of the educated crowd; make them part of the political process; give them more knowledge of history, geography, languages, religions, in order to become responsible citizens. In other words, elevate their educational level so they are their own leaders, and make the best decision when electing their representative. This is not easy. The elite wants to be a small group to have privileges that the masses don’t have. Therefore, the first task is to make a change in the mindset of the elite. That is the hardest part because it will result in a change of the status quo that has prevailed for centuries. A second step towards a unifying country is to change the way votes are counted. The electoral college vote makes no sense anymore in the era of satellites, internet and cell phones. One person = one vote.

The country where I was born went through this episode 17 years ago. Hugo Chavez, representative of the uneducated, made the same appealing call to make Venezuela great again using Simon Bolivar’s 19th century ideals the central message of his campaign. He won by a landslide with the vote of the uneducated and forgotten people. Unfortunately, Venezuela’s democracy was young (only 40 years old) and didn’t have the strong institutions US has in the congress and the supreme court. Chavez rewrote the Venezuelan constitution to fit his ambitions; corruption continued in higher levels, and the country has been in disarray ever since. I am sure the US congress has the strength to stop Trump from becoming an authoritarian president as Chavez was.

I see this election result (and the election in Venezuela 17 years ago) as the great lesson that tell us that we need to be humble and educate ourselves and everybody else; we need to care more about our kind simply because “we all are humans.”

C. A. Soto Aguirre©


Words that Mean Something

Before I became a naturalized American, after twenty hard-working years in this country, I was not very enthusiastic about it. I felt that I was losing something of me, something of my Venezuelan being, by becoming a citizen of this country. However, I did it mostly because I didn’t want to risk living here with a permanent resident “alien” card, presumably renewable every ten years, and to make my family and myself “alien” citizens forever. So we went through the process of naturalization that required to fill a long questionnaire, an interview to demonstrate certain knowledge of the US constitution and history, and to show your ability to speak English. After we passed the interview, the immigration authorities set a day for the naturalization ceremony. For my delight, being a baseball fan, the ceremony happened in the Detroit Tigers’ baseball field because one of the Tigers players was also becoming American. It was a Summer day, and we were standing between the third base and home plate, along with a group of about 100 people from multiple nationalities. The judge who lead the ceremony was short and to the point, and in less than 20 minutes we were done and heading to the seats to watch the baseball game as part of the “package” of the entire ceremony.

Along with the naturalization certificate, which looks like a high school diploma with your picture in it, and with the name you choose to use in America (any name you wish), you also receive a short letter signed by the President of the United States of America (yes, I write it in capital initials to make it sound important). I now show the main paragraph of that letter. These words mean something:

“Americans are united across the generations by grand and enduring ideals. The grandest of these ideals is an unfolding promise that everyone belongs, that everyone deserves a chance, and that no insignificant person was ever born. Our country has never been united by blood or birth or soil. We are bound by principles that move us beyond our backgrounds, lift us above our interests, and teach us what it means to be citizens. Every citizen must uphold these principles. And every new citizen, by embracing these ideals makes our country more not less American.”

When I read this letter, signed by the US president of that time, I said to myself: these ideals are universal, not just American ideals. It meant that I have lived all my life being American, or better, being a universal citizen. Let us exam the letter in detail:

When he wrote: “everyone belongs” tells me that nobody should feel displaced.
When he wrote: “everyone deserves a chance” tells me that there is room to let every well behaved human being to stay here.
When he wrote: “no insignificant person was ever born” tells me that we all have the right to be heard.
When he wrote: “Our country has never been united by blood or birth or soil” tells me that all citizens of the world are Americans as long as they abide to the American (universal) ideals he mentioned.
When he wrote: “We are bound by principles” tells me that it doesn’t matter where you come from, what skin color you have, what god you pray to, or what nationality you have. What matter is to follow the ideals and principles he mentioned, and that must suffice to “feel” part of this country.

I read that letter several times in the following weeks after the Tigers’ game, and each time I read it, I felt more and more of a citizen, not just of America, but even more citizen of my dear Venezuela where I learned those ideals, and also a better citizen of this world were we all live.

That letter was written by a Republican president, George W. Bush, but that is irrelevant. I am convinced that any Democrat president would have written something similar. However, the fact that was written by a Republican president is at odds with the current position of the Republican party against the Obama’s executive actions. They are missing the point. As more and more foreigners come to America, the more American this country is. Republicans need to commit to the spirit of the letter I received, where it says “we are bound by principles that lift us above our interests” rather than thinking in the next election cycle, otherwise, a democrat president, likely a woman, will receive the majority of the votes from those naturalized Americans.

C.A. Soto Aguirre©