COMMENTARY: When I heard that Bernie Sanders was holding a rally in Vado, N.M., 20 minutes from where I live, I knew I wanted to go. My husband graciously volunteered to take our children to a much-anticipated birthday party so I could go, even though he’s a Bernie fan too.
Bernie is my candidate, and I am holding out hope for him to win despite my inner cynic. If he doesn’t win the Democratic nomination I’ll support Hillary Clinton, but it will be a pragmatic choice. I switched my voter registration from independent to Democrat to vote for him in the upcoming primary, as I know many others have done.
Our oldest child Nicky, who is 9 years old and just finishing the fourth grade, is paying attention to the presidential race this time around. We talk about it sometimes on the drive to school, usually after he hears an interesting tidbit on the radio. He has expressed fear about the Trump phenomenon, and he knows that we could elect our country’s first female president, but I think the most significant thing he’s learning is that politics can affect his life, his friends’ lives, his family’s life.
I’ve become familiar with health disparities and social determinants of health both as a perinatal nurse and a student nurse-midwife. Teen pregnancy is much more common in rural areas, for example, and that tends to correlate with low-birthweight infants. The color of a woman’s skin is one determinant of how likely she is to give birth to a preterm infant. As I’ve learned more about these issues within theoretical frameworks, broadening my knowledge of the complex webs of systemic injustice in our country, my support for Bernie has only grown.
I was delighted that Nicky wanted to come with me to the rally (after some understandable deliberation about how to spend his Saturday morning). We set out early, made a quick stop for coffee and breakfast sandwiches, and took NM 478 to Vado, passing the pecan orchards and open fields that decorate the area so beautifully. We parked next to an irrigation canal and made our way to the line that was already winding around the school parking lot.
The two hours we waited in line passed quickly and pleasantly. Someone gave Nicky an enormous piece of pan dulce. We shared sunscreen with our line neighbors and they gave us an extra water bottle. We enjoyed looking at all the T-shirts: “Talk Bernie to Me,” said one. My personal favorite featured Sesame Street Bernie. A group of women in red scrubs held Nurses for Bernie signs and offered me one after I complimented them.
A woman behind me in line was also a nurse; as we talked I learned she had just finished a 16-hour shift before coming to the rally. I chatted with a retired Army officer who just learned that her veteran benefits will not be paid in full as she was promised. She had harsh words for the Democratic Party, but like me she registered as a Democrat for this primary.
After passing through security, we crossed a large field and settled in near the fence separating the field from the stage. At this point, Nicky’s energy was waning and the sun was intensifying. I put water in his hair and positioned my shadow over him. We used our signs and the T-shirt we’d bought for shade.
Even though the sun was brutal, the atmosphere was like that of an outdoor music festival — energetic, lighthearted, friendly. A band gave a beautiful performance of John Lennon’s Imagine, then led the crowd in several rounds of This Land is Your Land. That moment, standing next to my son taking it all in and singing the lines he knew, filled me with hope and gratitude. The folks in front of us made a path for Nicky to move up to the fence so he could see, and off he went.
This is the New Mexico I know and love — my New Mexico — a place of easy friendship, generosity and warmth.
After a rousing introduction by a local veteran, Bernie took the stage. This was my first presidential rally, and the energy in the crowd was wonderful to experience. Bernie said many of the same things I’ve heard him say elsewhere, but it didn’t feel contrived. (He’s been saying the same things for many years, after all.) Especially significant to our borderlands, he spoke of Americans not having to be divided from their family’s languages or cultures of origin. He spoke about the treatment of Native Americans in a direct and brutally honest manner. He spoke of the plague of childhood poverty and poor education in our state.
I believe it’s possible to both love the things that make our country great and loudly decry the things that don’t. Sanders talked a lot about historically and presently marginalized groups — women, our LGBT brothers and sisters, African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans. He spoke of investing in younger generations. That’s when I realized that Bernie’s message is all about imaginative investment, and that’s what I love about it.
I want to be part of investing in a country that is more educated, healthier, more environmentally conscious, more concerned with the well-being of others, and more committed to righting historical injustices. I want my children to have every possible opportunity, but I also want that for everyone else’s children. That is why I support Bernie Sanders. Hearing him speak clarified and magnified those values.
After the rally, we walked back across the field (stopping to take a drink of water from a hose, because this is New Mexico) and heard the familiar sound of music from an ice cream truck. We drove home, sun-wearied but happy. I’m thrilled that we were able to share this experience.
The conversations I have with my son are precious to me. They offer a chance to get a sense of how he sees the world. I’m still holding out hope for Bernie, but whatever happens, I hope the national conversation sparked by his campaign continues, and that we see a move toward justice, peace and fairness.
Emily Luna was born and raised in Silver City, and aside from a two-year jaunt on the East Coast, she has always called New Mexico home. She lives in Las Cruces with her husband and three children.