I’m in Atlanta for some training before heading out to Puerto Rico to chase me some Zika Virus. As an Uber driver took me to CDC this morning, we started talking about his life story. Mr. Mohammed arrived in the United States in 2000, escaping war in Sudan as a refugee. He told me that his oldest son came with him, and that son is now studying at a university. He also told me that his two younger daughters are in high school, so Mr. Mohammed is working hard to get them through school and on their way.
As we arrived at CDC, I told Mr. Mohammed about how I always wanted to work at CDC ever since I knew of it as a teenager in high school. “Is this your dream come true?” he asked. I thought about it for a while. He had just told me about how his dream was that his children got through college, and how scared he was of a Trump Administration. (This is one day before the election.) I quickly told him about how I come to the United States when I was ten years old. However, I wasn’t escaping war. Rather, my parents wanted me to have better opportunities, so they brought me here. “Don’t worry too much,” I told him. “One way or another, we’ll have a lot of work to do.” In response to his question of this being my dream come true, I told him that we were the dream come true: The American Dream.
Mr. Trump will tell you that Mr. Mohammed and I in that car were the biggest threat to America ever. Mr. Mohammed, a Muslim immigrant from a war-torn nation. Me, a Mexican immigrant looking for a good job. Mr. Trump gives us a bleak picture of where America is today, and he blames a lot of it on people like Mr. Mohammed and I. That alone would be one good reason for me not to vote for Trump.
Yeah, Hillary Clinton is a deeply flawed candidate. The Democratic Party could have come up with a much better candidate, one without so much political baggage, conflicts of interest, and favors owed to God-knows-who. She could have done a better job as Secretary of State in standing up to puppet master Vladimir Putin.
Hillary could have negotiated a better deal with Iran regarding that nation’s nuclear ambitions, but she wasn’t negotiating it alone. European nations within the range of an Iranian missile were at the table as well. And Hillary could have distanced herself from Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner (among others) early in the election. But politics is all about favors owed, right?
And the goddamned emails, of course.
Regardless of who wins tomorrow, there is going to be a lot of work to be done. Violence is on the rise in places like Baltimore. So we will have to work to give jobs and educational opportunities to those who are lured to a life of crime when a paycheck for honest work is nowhere to be found. There is an opiate epidemic ravaging families all over the country, so we’ll need to work on ending the “war on drugs” and getting on with decriminalization, treatment and rehabilitation. The Affordable Care Act has brought millions affordable healthcare, but it needs tweaking so that others don’t have to carry a heavy burden of high premiums and tax penalties. Zika will continue its march into the Gulf Coast as temperatures get warmer next spring, but it will continue to cause disease and death in the Caribbean while it does so.
In short, there is a lot to be done. And it will not matter much who becomes President next January because the Executive can only do so much about these problems. A lot of them require work at the local level, with maybe only funding from the federal government, funding that comes from action in Congress. Then again, it will matter because the President can do some big things that affect us all the way at the local level, like send us into war, affect trade (which affects some jobs), and enforce laws (both fair and unfair). It will matter most of all because we will tell the world if we want nationalism and authoritarianism or a further slide into social democratism.
And it will matter because we’ll tell women of all ages that they too can be President.
There is a lot of work to be done, and we need to be united in order to get it done. If we allow the divisions of this election to continue beyond tomorrow (November 8), we will have to pay some pretty bad consequences, no matter who wins. In order for us to win, all of us, we’ll have to mend those rifts. Personally, I’ll have to swallow my pride and live with the fact that people who said they were my friends agreed with Trump that I’m a criminal. That right there might the hardest work yet to be done.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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