Why I Am Voting for Bernie Sanders, by Way of Cornel West: Be a Hope

Arik Bjorn with Dr. Cornel West. Image by John A. Carlos II.

Arik Bjorn with Dr. Cornel West. Image by John A. Carlos II.

Mom fell into the donut hole months ago, but she never told me.  Then she fell even harder—and the call came that she was headed to the hospital by ambulance.

In the emergency room, the doctor asked my mom why she hadn’t been taking her medicine.  A screwy look appeared on her face—the question prompted a whole new level of pain beyond what she was suffering physically.

“The donut hole,” she sputtered.

The ER physician tapped his clipboard with a pen, “Ah, the donut hole.”

I was frustrated to be out of the healthcare pastry loop:  “What the hell is a donut hole?”

The doctor explained that the donut hole is a Medicare loophole.  Once a Medicare patient reaches the annual prescription spending limit of about $3,000, the patient is responsible for 100% of prescription costs until January 1 of the following year.

This means that thousands of senior citizens suddenly find themselves without critical medicine during the latter part of the year.  Ho, ho, ho!  Merry Christmas!  Oh look, a broken safety net under the tree!

That’s okay, you might think, because seniors have Social Security.  Um, why don’t you try living on a monthly check of less than $1,000, a large portion of which goes straight back to pay Medicare-related expenses?

There is some good news.  Obamacare gradually phases out the donut hole.  The bad news?  Thousands of senior citizens may die by 2020 as a result.  But that’s okay:  they’ll die quietly, ashamed to admit, like my mom, that they cannot afford their medicine.  Just another disaster of Randian capitalism; everybody, move along.

The fact that a donut hole ever existed—that it will still exist for three more years and few politicians are jumping up and down about it—is a stain of barbarism upon the red and white-striped pants of Uncle Sam.  Actually, though, if you look closely, there are quite a few stains against Civilization upon those trousers.

Dang, someone spilled military industrial complex all over the lap.  My oh my, if the atomic bomb and Agent Orange didn’t leave a stone-washed mark at the knees!  Goodness gracious, racial injustice ripped off the back pocket—hand me a Black Lives Matters patch.  Make it two; income inequality ripped off the other pocket!  And, um, I don’t know quite how to put this, Mr. Sam, but ‘XYZ PDQ’—your drone is showing.

Actually, one politician is making incensed gesticulations at the podium about prescription drug prices.  And he’s had as much as he can take of a bought-and-sold political economic system, an outdated higher education financial framework, and all the slings and arrows of outrageous social injustice against minorities, women, the LGBTQ community, the disabled, etc.  And you should hear the guy rip into Wall Street and the Millionaire/Billionaire Class.

His name is Bernie Sanders.  And I’ll be voting for him to be our 45th President.

But why vote for Bernie Sanders?

There isn’t a Democratic candidate worth his or her weight in donkey hee-haws who wouldn’t pay lip service to the above issues.  Besides, even if Mr. Sanders managed to make his way to the White House, he faces a seemingly unconquerable Game of Thrones-like political Wall that stands in the way of democratic socialist victory—not to mention an army of undead hosts led by Donald Trump, NRA, Ted Cruz, Walmart, Paul Ryan, Franklin Graham and Oregon Militiamen.

Might as well cash in our vote, like so many Goldman Sachs speaking engagement fees, and vote for Hillary.  After all, Establishment Progressivism is comfortable.  A little socialized medicine here, a little marriage equality there.  Baby steps, everybody.  We’ll catch up to the industrialized world and MLK’s “audacious hope” in another couple of centuries.  In the meantime, sit on your couch, munch Funyuns, and watch the NFL and Netflix.

So.  Why vote for Bernie Sanders?  Because I’m tired.  I’m tired of waiting.  I’m tired of tasting Civilization by teaspoon.

I want my mother to live with a sense of security the remainder of her days—with no healthcare pastry potholes in sight.  I want my daughter’s higher education experience to come without the saddling burden of debt—as mine has.  I want a few new bridges here and there, and a few less (actually, far more less) F-22 Raptors.  I want justice and income equality for my neighbors of all colors and creeds.  And I want the United States to explore and protect our Little Blue Planet rather than exploit it—before it’s too late for my grandchildren and greatgrandchildren.

We bought in to “Hope.”  And while Change came for some, it did not come for all.

But in 2016, I have a better understanding of HOPE.  I used to think “hope” was a noun.  A breath you held inside.  A wispy dream pointed at a better tomorrow.  Then I ran into the buzzsaw words of German thinker Jürgen Moltmann:

Hope is more than feeling. Hope is more than experience. Hope is more than foresight. Hope is a command.  Obeying it means life, survival, endurance, standing up to life until death is swallowed up in victory. Obeying it means never giving way to the forces of annihilation in resignation or rage.

Now I realize that HOPE is imperative.  A Command.  HOPE is a matter of live and let die.

Why am I voting for Bernie Sanders?

I’ve been an avid follower of Mr. Sanders since he became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in the early 1990s.  My political philosophy aligns with his more than any other candidate.  He’s as earnest and honest—and tenacious—as any presidential candidate I’m likely to see in my lifetime.  (Hopefully he has now blazed a character trail for future progressive politicians.)

But that’s not the real reason I’m voting for Bernie Sanders.

I’ve spent a lot of time the past year thinking and writing about Civilization.  I even wrote a book about it, Waiting for Civilization.  Last night, I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Cornel West speak at the University of South Carolina.  He was presenting along with Adolph Reed, Nina Turner and other progressive leaders.  During the Q&A session, I asked Dr. West, “What is Civilization?  How do we get there?”

Dr. West waxed eloquently, as only he can, on the history and state of all things.  The audience rode the carousel of his jazz-like philosophical, theological and sociopolitical musings.  Eventually, he concluded with nutshell truth:  “BE a HOPE.”

That.  THAT.  That is why I am voting for Bernie Sanders.  (As is Cornel West.)  Because Bernie Sanders doesn’t talk HOPE.  He is HOPE.

And I am HOPE.  And Cornel West is HOPE.  And you, dear reader, are HOPE too.

Bernie Sanders will never give way to the forces that oppose his convictions.  That’s the person I want working not just for us—but with us—in the White House.

Together, our votes, our efforts, our acts of kindness and our unrelenting insistence for justice—our blood, our sweat, our tears—our collective, tangible HOPE will make this country a better place for all.  And I’m voting for a President Bernie Sanders to lead the way.

Arik Bjorn

Arik Bjorn lives in Columbia, South Carolina. He was the Democratic Party / Green Party fusion candidate for U.S. Congress in the 2nd Congressional District of South Carolina. Visit the archive for Arik’s campaign website, and check out his latest book, So I Ran for Congress. You can also follow his political activities on Twitter @Bjorn2RunSC and on Facebook. And be sure to check out more from Arik in his archives!


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