By Lucie Macias
In the year since I joined the Democratic Socialists of America, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been asked why I’m a socialist. I always try to give a good answer, changing my response each time, but I never really feel like I properly explain it.
Does anyone have a good elevator pitch for why they’re a socialist?
Perhaps some of you do, but I know I don’t. Did I become a socialist the first time I lost my free lunch ticket in kindergarten, and the lunch lady that knew my grandma took pity on me and gave me lunch anyway? Was it the first time I saw a neighbor evicted in the rain when I was in the fourth grade? Or maybe it was one of several times my mom was injured at her factory job and still worked her overnight shift after dropping me off at a friend’s house so I wouldn’t be home alone all night.
Could it be something much bigger than my own lived experiences? It could be how systems of oppression like racism and sexism work together to cause suffering and divide us instead of unite us. It could be capitalism’s devastating effect on the planet, and the way it causes environmental racism. It could be the fact that the United States has been at war my entire life.
The answer, of course, is a combination of all these things. After a year of trying to come up with the perfect answer, I’ve realized that there isn’t one simple explanation of why I became a socialist, but there is a simpler answer as to why I joined DSA.
The night of the election I went to a concert with some friends to see Joshua Radin (Joshua, if you’re reading this… Join DSA). He began the concert by making sure we had all voted and telling us even if the results, which would begin rolling in shortly, were bad, he would sing us soothing lullabies. We mostly laughed, still under the impression that Trump couldn’t actually win. No way could the Democrats, imperfect as they were, lose such an easy election, right? I put my phone away and enjoyed the concert. At the end of the night, I took my phone out and checked the results. My stomach sank. It was still too early to call, polls were still open in many states, but it wasn’t looking good. We headed to a bar to continue the night, and things went from bad to worse. We watched states on the screen change to the bad kind of red. The crowd’s mood, usually upbeat for the bar’s $2 beer special that night, was foreign to me. Faces that were normally joyful had somber expressions. The hours passed and it hit me: Trump was going to be president. As we walked out of the bar, my friend asked if I had my passport. I did,because it was my only valid ID, and she said she did too. She joked that we could start driving to Canada and stay there, but I knew what I had to do.
I knew that I wasn’t going to give up. Giving up is not my thing. See, I was raised by two incredibly strong and resilient women, my mom and grandma, both of whom have made incredible sacrifices for their family and have always found ways to make things happen. So I needed to come up with a way to make the things that I wanted to happen, well, happen. I looked around and the group that seemed to have those answers was DSA, which I’d heard about through some Bernie campaign supporters I knew. After some initial problems signing up (due to so many people having the same idea I did) I officially paid my DSA dues and became a member. I started to get involved, slowly at first, but it wasn’t long before I was attending multiple meetings and actions every week. The more I got involved, the more I met incredibly intelligent and passionate people that were making things happen. I knew it was where I belonged.
I try to imagine how my life would’ve been different this past year if I hadn’t joined DSA. I think about meeting comrades at O’Hare to protest the Muslim Ban, in the streets of Chicago with the people for May Day, and again for Labor Day. I think about listening to a Texas comrade’s (Hey Kristian!) passionate speech at the National Convention. I think about Charlottesville, how amazing it was to simply be in the company of comrades after such a terrible tragedy. I think about how Chicago Alderman and DSA member Carlos Ramirez-Rosa stood his ground on BDS and we stood right there with him. How different would this past year have been without these experiences and without the friends I’ve made in DSA? I can only speculate, but the answer seems pretty bleak. I know we all have our paths and stories that brought us to socialism and DSA. Maybe like me you had to watch your family make sacrifices to survive, sacrifices that didn’t always work out and you learned hard lessons from. Or maybe not. Maybe you just understand the basic inhumanity of capitalism and decided it was time for something else. Sharing our stories, learning from each other, and making things happen with amazing comrades is why I’m not only renewing DSA membership, but switching to monthly dues.
Our work won’t always be easy. We won’t always agree on everything. Not every day can be full of wins like Election Day 2017, after all. The capitalists are betting on alienation keeping us down, but together a better world is possible, and I’m ready to keep building it with DSA.