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Stepping Up to the Booth
Published on Tuesday, October 3, 2000 in the San Francisco Chronicle
If Bush Becomes Our Next President, I Will Lose The Freedom To Be Who I Am
by Belia Mayeno-Choy
 
MY POLITICAL BELIEFS are woven into childhood memories. I remember hearing stories about being rolled along in a stroller at political demonstrations and going to see Jesse Jackson speak in Pittsburgh when he ran for president in 1988 -- he bought me an ice cream.

When I was 12, I went to the local headquarters of the Democratic Party and called people to make sure they voted. Those I called thought it was a joke, because I was so young. But in my family, you can't be apathetic about politics. It was a given that I would register as a Democrat. In my family, the joke goes,``Being a person of color in the Republican Party is like being a deer in the National Rifle Association.''

I never understood how deeply ingrained this idea had become until I finally ventured out of Berkeley's liberal cocoon and interned in Washington, D.C., last summer. I had to confront my own prejudices when I realized that I was afraid to tell my mom I had made friends with Republicans. It's funny -- some people upset their parents by piercing an obscure body part. I thought I would upset my parents by spending Saturday night with people who had conservative views on welfare and affirmative action.

Becoming friends with young Republicans in D.C., however, didn't change my views. But sometimes someone would make a derogatory comment about Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer from California, or complain that those ``black-power writers'' like Toni Morrison and Alice Walker were replacing Shakespeare and Chaucer as mandatory school reading. I would just stare down at my french fries and try not to laugh or yell. But I can't look the other way when it comes to my first vote.

For years, I've waited to finally vote in a presidential election. But, now that I can, I don't feel the excitement that I always anticipated: I'm more worried than anything else. The prospect of George W. Bush as the leader of the free world is downright frightening.

As a young person, I strongly disagree with Bush's reforms to the juvenile justice system in Texas, such as lowering the age at which a minor can be tried as an adult to 14. I have friends and relatives who have been in juvenile facilities, and I've seen it do much more harm than good.

As a person of color, I am appalled by Dick Cheney's 1986 vote against a House resolution calling for the South African government to free Nelson Mandela.

As a woman, I believe a Bush/Cheney administration would threaten my reproductive rights. I am 19, an age where I see a lot of my peers getting pregnant and dropping out of school. If I am ever in that situation, I want the power to decide if I will become a parent. If Bush becomes our next president, I will lose the freedom to be who I am.

Belia Mayeno-Choy, 19, a student at Vista College in Berkeley, is a reporter and producer for Youth Radio.

2000 San Francisco Chronicle

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