Back in 1979, my mom fled Vietnam in search of free-er shores with a 5 month old me in tow. We stayed in refugee camps for a year and then were sponsored by some nice folks from Maryland to come to America. I remember being sworn in as a US Citizen when I was eight years old. My wrangler jeans and cowboy boots, hand raised proudly in the air – this was my home and I got to go through a ceremony that told me that I was welcome here. Coming from a communist regime, I have seen the damage that those who would seek to shut down a free country can do. I’ve also seen the hard work that it can be to fight for your freedoms in the face of some pretty scary times.
When I was 23, at grad school at Columbia University in New York, I saw the towers fall from my Brooklyn window. And what scared me most was the thought of ‘what is Bush going to do?’ I knew he would retaliate and try to find whoever did it. I thought he might try to get back into Iraq. What I didn’t know was that he would systematically strip us of our rights, of our freedoms that we hold so dear. I didn’t know that he would allow torture in American prisons, that he would give power to federal agencies to spy on the American people, or that he would do his best to push the agenda of fear.
Naomi Wolf’s excellent book “The End of America, a Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot,” was written to me. It actually starts off “Dear Chris,” and when I found out that it was at my wedding that she developed the idea for the book I was beyond flattered – I was moved to action. I did all I could to make sure that our civil liberties would be protected.
And now it’s November 4, 2008. Finally. And today I voted for someone that I know will become the next president of the United States of America. He’s smart, he’s thoughtful, he is calm, he understands context and the need to repair America’s reputation as a free land. I could go on for days on why I voted for Barack Obama and why I am so tired of the rhetoric that Bush, McCain, and especially Palin are putting out – the idea that there are any ‘real Americans.’ I’m tired of the racist policies that underlay so much of what the GOP pushes. I’m tired of hating our president.
I’ve taken the oath to defend this country against all enemies, foreign and domestic; and today was the day that I defended the country against domestic enemies of progress, enemies of freedom, of the right to choose. I’m so proud to say that I voted today for Barack Obama.
Christopher Gandin Le, MA