A reflection of my 2016 Iowa Caucus involvement. “Activist” is a term I hid from for as long as I could. Unfortunately, I didn’t hide well enough.
Activism and I met during my very first direct action at an event hosted by Iowa’s most notorious white nationalist. Outside the event, I confronted GOP politicians on their stance on DACA, border security and a rumored wall. That day, I spoke with the now president of the U.S. I asked him if he would deport me and he gave me a very unpleasant response. He had not announced his campaign, so I dismissed our encounter.
Soon enough, I found activism taking me by the hand, and before I knew I was asking Hilary Clinton about a path to citizenship, getting kicked out of Trump rallies and publicly endorsing a presidential candidate.
As expected, it wasn’t all exciting adventures. The scrutiny I dealt with brought characteristics out of me that I disliked and feared. Today, I admit that the amount responsibility and harassment from every which angle turned me into a competitive, stubborn, destructive and bitter human being during my caucus involvement
Was their success our success?
My support for a certain candidate was not well received by many and caused me a few friendships. The amount of responsibility I felt to advocate for immigrants, led me to overwork myself to get people to caucus for the candidate I believed in. Looking back at my involvement, I can see how my competitive nature took over. My community of immigrant activists was extremely divided during this time and I, too, played a role in our division.
A good activist works for the people, not for the man.
Beware: stubbornness is a blind fold in disguise.
The political space was something that I didn’t quite understand. The unknown intrigued and consumed me at the same time. A mentor of mine warned me about what I would face as a young, female activist and I didn’t believe her. My stubbornness led me to use a narrative in interviews that only helped immigrants that fit a certain profile, and I wish I could take it all back. I allowed myself to be used by people without seeing that I was just another item on their agenda. My stubbornness thrived and fed off my naïve self.
Self-destruction can prevail.
My relationship with activism also fostered my destructive behavior. Even though I wasn’t alone in the fight for immigrant rights, I felt alone. I said yes to every commitment and pushed myself to meet expectations that no one but myself had established. It was clear to me that I was running on E and I chose to ignore my body’s cry for help. Activism made me feel seen, free and empowered.
I refused to accept that the feeling of freedom might have come a price. It caused me hours of sleep, relationships and my own self-preservation.
Me? Bitter? Not even.
The one characteristic I still struggle with…bitterness. Between 2015 and 2016, I might have attended over 30 rallies and community gatherings. Some of these gatherings were attended by only a few. At times, it felt like our cries for help were not heard by party leaders and their supporters. Thus, we remained forgotten by those with the power to fight for us.
My bitterness fogs my vision. It doesn’t allow me to accept nor believe that people are now paying attention. I simply refuse to forget when the fight for social justice was more than a picture on my timeline. Hence, the violence towards my community remains a talking point without any follow-up.
Leaders must acknowledge the past, work with the present and hope for the future. Focusing on what’s at stake in the 2020 Iowa caucuses may allow me to reconcile with myself. I’ve been competitive, stubborn, destructive and bitter for way too long. Someday, I hope to part ways with these bad activist tendencies. For now, I’ll reflect, learn and stay militant.