What have you done in the last year to respond to the upheavals in American politics? This is an installment in a series of short essays that reflect on the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency.
I am originally from Turkey and I became a United States citizen in 2005. Since then, I have voted in all elections, primary, odd year, midterms and general. I am active with Swing Left PA-07. You might say I am bit of a political junkie.
People ask me why I got involved. There was a survey after the election about which groups in the country were negatively affected by Trump’s hateful rhetoric. There were four: immigrants, LGBTQ, women, and Muslims. I belong to 3 of those groups.
Also, I’ve seen this movie before. Democracy in Turkey got destroyed. When Ataturk founded the Secular Republic, it showed the world that democracy can work in a Muslim country. People like me complained about the Left parties in Turkey and did nothing. The left was fragmented; it had no leader. Meanwhile the religious/extreme groups walked from door to door to recruit supporters. Then, the Prime Minister, now the President, divided the country using the same rhetoric that we are hearing now. It became us vs. them, secular vs. religious, Turks vs. Kurds. The country was dividing.
I saw that mistake once. I know democracy is fragile. People don’t realize how fragile institutions are. Under authoritarian presidents and regimes they will disappear. I do not want this to happen here. I am happily married, I live in a city where I feel welcomed, and have good relationships with my neighbors and friends. That said, I worry about my nephew, niece, and all kids who will grow up in this country. I worry immigrants who are here and scared. I worry about LGBTQ people. I worry about religious minorities.
After spending 2 months without listening any news and binging on every Netflix show you can think of, I knew I had to do something. I joined Swing Left to Flip the House by capturing 64 competitive districts — places where the last election was won by 15% or less or where Clinton beat Trump. Swing Left is a grassroots organization formed to create an army of volunteers to support Democratic nominees. We canvas, register voters, phone bank, and raise money. If we hold the 17 vulnerable Democratic-held districts, we only need to flip 24 House seats — exactly half of the 48 Republican-held districts on our list — to take back the house in 2018. This is a winnable fight.
I am not a politician; I am a concerned citizen. And like many people, I’ve been sitting on the sidelines for too long. I don’t have all the answers, but it’s time to channel our anger and despair in a positive direction. I am grateful to my partner Larry for supporting me and for my fellow activists in Swing Left PA 07. In the words of Barack Obama, we are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.
Mete Egemen was born and raised in Ankara, Turkey where he earned his BS & MS in Mechanical Engineering from Middle East Technical University. Mete became a US citizen in 2005 and earned an MS in Biomedical Engineering from Drexel University in Philadelphia. He serves in leadership with Swing Left PA-07 and is supporting and participating in numerous grass-roots efforts to restore a more just and civil society to his new homeland.