I’m 18 years old currently, attending my last semester at a private Christian school in the Deep South of Republican Texas, and am the son of a super religious fundamentalist Christian single mother. Needless to say I was raised with a heavy right wing bias.
Politics was always such a weird thing for me growing up, because I always saw it through such a black and white view. Republicans were the good, moral center of America. They had God on their side, and they knew what was right for the country. Liberals were the baby killing, God denying, evil people who wanted to destroy America and turn it into an evil country run by Satan. That was never explicitly said, but it was definitely the message my young mind received. Obama especially was the evil mastermind behind it all and he needed to be stopped.
I remember the night Obama was elected. All I remember was seeing the result screen on the TV and being angry because my mother was angry. A Democrat was in the White House. America had apparently turned their backs on God and we elected an embarrassment as president.
The next 4 years I barely remember. There was the occasional Obama “controversy” that was played up as a HUGE DEAL on Fox News. All I can recall is that same air of sadness that Obama was still president.
I remember a bit more about the next election cycle. Romney vs Obama. I was just a wee bit more invested as an 11 year old than as a 7 year old (but just a tad). I didn’t know why I was supposed to like Romney, but I knew that he was a Republican sent by God, so he must be good! I remember once again being disappointed when he lost (just like my mother curiously enough) because it meant 4 more years of Obama.
Shortly after that, I hit puberty. Hormones rushed through my body causing all sorts of confusing feelings. But, there was a problem. I started having feelings for guys. This couldn’t be! Being gay was against the Bible, and a choice, because my mom said so! I started seeing charts about human anatomy when learning about puberty, and I would get erections when I saw the boys. This was a ginormous problem. This couldn’t be happening. I wasn’t choosing this! How could my mother be wrong about this?
I pushed down those feelings deep into my subconscious. I repressed them so hard, that I convinced myself that I like girls. I always knew, however, in the back of my mind, that it was a lie. This repression wouldn’t come back to bite me for a couple years, but it marked a shift in the foundation of my worldview. My fundamentalist super religious conservative worldview that had been built up since childhood got a huge crack in the foundation. I knew subconsciously from the moment I found out those feelings weren’t a choice that they could be wrong, dead wrong too.
From that point, I got my own phone and promptly discovered YouTube. I watched mostly innocent stuff for a few years. Gaming, communities, Christian YouTubers, etc. I’ll table this point for a second, as it becomes extremely important later.
I remember walking into the living room one day, and the news talking about a man named Donald Trump who had announced his running for president. The media was wailing on him, including Fox News. “What a joke candidate! He’ll be gone in a month.” I thought.
As the election cycle started up again, I started falling into conservative bubbles on social media. I became aware of these anti-SJW YouTubers and became caught up in the culture war. I started falling down a pipe line into the alt right,
Trump was doing better than expected, and my family didn’t like him. They didn’t see him as moral. We supported Ben Carson and Ted Cruz. As the end of the election approached, it looked like we would have to put up with Donald Trump.
I kept going further into right wing groups on YouTube. Race statistics started being brought up. It was also at this time I had to face my sexuality. I saw gay people existing online. After years of ignoring the problem, I was being faced with it again. I started being extremely homophobic, as seeing them reminded me I was gay too, and that fact was too painful.
Donald Trump had won the primary, but we all knew he couldn’t beat Hillary. It was actually at this time that I learned about Sanders (we’re finally talking about him). He was a “socialist” so I didn’t like him, but I also hated how Hillary stole the election from him, so I had a bit of respect for him. I enjoyed how he talked, even if I didn’t agree with him.
When Trump won the election, I was shocked. I really thought Hillary was going to win. I was ecstatic, even if I didn’t love him at the time.
Deeper into the alt right pipeline I fell. Race statistics, conspiracy theories, Satanist liberals! It was getting really deep. At one point I watched someone who called Richard Spencer “an actual smart person.” The door to go all in with the alt right was right there. I could have easily gone right through the door. I didn’t though. I stayed right where I was for a little bit. There were a few reasons why:
My father who I visited every other weekend is a Marxist of sorts. I’ve met all sorts of super left wing people with him. My dad told me all the things wrong with capitalism. I saw it as ridiculous at the time, but deep inside I knew there was something wrong with the system.
My sexuality also kept me away from going all in on the alt right. I had come to the terms with the fact I was gay. I still saw it as sin, so it made me extremely depressed for a couple years. But I knew deep inside the bigotry towards gays in that community was wrong. I suffered greatly (and sometimes still do) from internalized homophobia however.
When Trump got into office, I was very excited. As his policies got enacted, I was beyond ecstatic. I supported everything he did. I was all in with my support for Trump.
By the time 2018 ended, I was out to a couple friends, and was learning slowly that there was nothing wrong with me being gay. With that change, my hatred of gay people dissipated. Along with that, I saw how homophobic some of the people I followed were, and decided to stop listening to them. I had started slowly climbing my way out of the alt right.
Slowly yet surely, I was starting to see more and more of the people that I was following for who they were. and started to listen to less and less of them. I realized how fucked up some of the things I believed in were. By the summer, I was following very few of the “Anti SJW” channels. The only ones that survived my purge being the left leaning ones who didn’t take it so seriously. The golden age of Anti SJW-ism was over, and the left leaning people in that community started taking out the more extreme people, which helped me greatly in knowing who to unfollow.
I started to see through many of the lies of the right. I saw through the thinly veiled excuses for Trump’s bigotry towards Muslims, Transgenders, and immigrants. I realized that Trump may not be the perfect individual I assumed he was.
It was around this time that I subscribed to a channel called Sh0eonhead. She is extremely important to this story, even though it may seem innocuous now.
I loved the way she approached her videos. She didn’t take it so seriously. She joked around and went for low hanging fruit, and didn’t act like she was being a “culture warrior” or “being on the right side of history.” She was just having fun taking the piss out of stupid people. It was chill, just how I liked it.
I followed her second more politically serious video and even though I didn’t agree with her politically, I liked her enough as a person to watch her fairly short videos. I was being exposed to, for the the first time in my life, left leaning ideas regularly.
I also started questioning my faith. This is very important, and I won’t get into why I questioned, because that isn’t important. I don’t care if you’re religious and I don’t want to make this a place where I try to “deconvert you” or anything. Me losing my faith is very important is because for the first time, I saw that everything that I had been taught my whole life had been a lie. If something as fundamental as that was wrong (You have to understand how ingrained religion was in my life), what could be right? I needed to reconsider everything I had ever been taught for myself. Nothing was off the table. I took off the lens of my right wing bias.
I quickly saw president trump for who he was. He was a racist, he was homophobic, he was misogynistic. I was quick to disavow him.
I started listening to more and more left leaning people, and found myself agreeing with people I once despised for being “SJW.” I had finally clawed my way out of the alt right after about a year of starting that process.
I also, for the first time, listened to Bernie Sanders. Before that, I had only been told by conservatives what he thought. They made him a straw man. I hated him before I even started listening to him speak. However, when I opened my ears to truly hear what he had to say, I never stopped listening. I was utterly shocked by how many things I agreed with. I saw the horrible gap between the rich and the poor. I’ve seen the effects of low wages myself. I’ve seen people have to work 2 full time jobs just to keep their families eating. I’ve seen unavoidable sickness financially gut families. When people I know have died from cancer, it left their families not only incredibly sad, but also left with the unneeded burden of medical debt that wasn’t their fault. I knew something was wrong.
Bernie Sanders represents a change that has been sorely needed in America. The youth of this nation have read the history, seen it play out. We’ve had Bush, it didn’t work, we had Obama, and it didn’t work, we now have Trump, and it doesn’t work. We need real CHANGE. Bernie Sanders is the only candidate alive today that is advocating for change that has LIVED IT OUT. He was at Pride DECADES before it was socially acceptable. He voted AGAINST the endless wars that have cost us trillions of dollars, and thousands of lives. We youth have witnessed a war about nothing for TWO DECADES. We are SICK and TIRED of money being wasted on foreign wars instead of on improving the lives of the people! We are SICK and TIRED of the interests of the BILLIONAIRES being put before honest hard working people. We are TIRED of unlivable minimum wage. We are TIRED of workers having no rights. We are SICK of overpriced tuition keeping poor people from getting degrees that could help them out of their poverty. We are SICK of outrageous student debt from greedy college owners who took advantage of young people. We are SICK of people DESTROYING the planet, pretending it’s not a problem, and then dying and leaving us with the problem.
The establishment has had power for far too long. Yes, Bernie is not a Democrat. He’s better than a Democrat. He’s a worker for the American PEOPLE. He has ZERO billionaire donors because they are SCARED of him. They are scared to lose their power. They are scared of the equality the American people DESERVE.
Many of the people talking bad about Bernie were like me. We were presented with a Boogeyman. We never actually listened to the words of that amazing man. We were told to hate him, so we did. Show them the truth, calmly and rationally. Doing otherwise turns them off more.
If you look at my post history, you can see the transformation I had this year. I made this alt account because I go to a school that will EXPELL me just for being gay, and my name is tied to my regular account.
It’s tough being a gay atheist liberal in a fundamentalist republican household and state. It’s tough to pretend to be everything I’m not at all times of the day. It’s okay. In 6 months, I go off to college in Houston, a liberal city with a great gay community, and then I will move far away from here.
Bernie Sanders represents everything that I hope in a world. A world where everyone is treated equally, and that treats everyone well. A world where nobody has to work 3 jobs to keep themselves afloat. A world where everyone can have rights, even the workers. Bernie Sanders and the movement around him is my hope that this generation, the young people, will be the ones to change the world.
Thank you Bernie, for giving me a world of hope.
To wrap this up, I want to link John Lennon’s “Imagine.” It has become the anthem for me and what I hope for the world. A world where we all live in peace, looking out for each other, and we don’t hurt ourselves anymore. All the horrible ideas that oppress us to this day were made by humans, and we can dismantle them. I hope one day we can get here, and Bernie is making that possible.