Written by Gabriel Tanglao.
As a first-generation Filipino-American, son of a unionized nurse, and product of New Jersey public schools, I share a deep connection with the issues that will define this election. Immigration reform, workers' rights, women's rights, public education, healthcare, sustainable development, social justice, and global peace are all part of my DNA. From the blood, sweat, and tears to the love, hope, and joy that created the foundation of my home and family, my journey has been a beautiful struggle. It is no surprise that this election feels very personal. The chasm in American politics today could not be wider and the stakes could not be higher.
As a millennial educator, it took time to peel back the layers of how our generational experiences have shaped our collective mindset.
First, gun control resonates deeply as a matter of life and death. We were high school students during the Columbine shooting, college students during the Virginia Tech shooting, and new teachers during the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Deeper still, these ‘isolated’ events were not anomalies. They were symptoms of a culture plagued by the diseases of bullying, racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, and violence. As we watch this sickness bleed into other areas of public life through discriminatory policies and rhetoric, we must make a choice. Will we choose to ignore our society’s illness and allow a slow death of our highest values? Or will we use our experience to help inoculate the next generation of young people against these diseases?
Additionally, equity, opportunity, security, and fairness have real meaning to our lives. We were children during President Clinton's economic boom. We came of age in the wake of the 9/11 and President Bush’s war on terror. We were the swing vote and organizers for President Obama's era of hope. We bravely faced the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression and survived the aftermath of this glacier split in wealth disparity.
Known as the "Boomerang" generation, many of us had to return to our parents' home, unable to bear the financial burdens of mortgage-sized student loans and stifling unemployment. We need policies that support public education, union density, and corporate responsibility because we understand that the middle class is the engine that drives our economy. Again, a choice emerges - will we continue to choose a system of desperate inequity? Or will we collectively demand our piece of the American Dream for generations to come?
This election matters to my life, my family, and my students. The issues matter to our society, our nation, and our future. It is clear that our voice, our activism, and our vote matters.
Gabriel A. Tanglao