I grew up in Indiana dead set in thinking there was really no way I could ever try to compete for public office as a Hindu and as a first generation American. I can specifically remember going to the Beech Grove Public Library one night with my Dad when three older kids kept yelling "Haajis" at us thanks to The Simpsons. To this day, I still hate that show because it subjected me to that stereotype and made me live through the immensely embarrassing moment when I wouldn't even let my Dad say anything back.
I realize now, that I had and still have deep-seated insecurities arising from moments like that. We all do. For me, every perceived slight or evidence that I somehow wasn't fully "American" just reinforced the belief that there was always going to be that ceiling on what I could accomplish.
Now I know, the insecurities of my background are not limited to me. What did my parents or Judge Curiel's parents do? They traveled across oceans to a foreign land with an alien language and no connections. They built businesses, raised kids, and became contributors to their community all the while working hard to make their kids extra "American," embracing things like football and Budweiser to feel more a part of this great experiment. There's nothing wrong with that, but I know first hand how much we overcompensated to be more "American" so that bullies like Trump could not question our allegiance.
Of course, it's not just immigrants whose insecurities make them overcompensate; women feel compelled to suppress emotions to look tough, gay friends felt the pressure to be extra macho in their youth, black friends of mine had parents who told them to be extra subservient to police to protect themselves. I remember working for the 2008 Obama campaign -- one week, he was "too black" and another, he was "not black enough" because, oh wow, he eats arugula! And while so many people knock Hillary Clinton for being too robotic, too calculated, too career-focused, too cautious, I can empathize with the insecurity of feeling like you have to do a little more, or be a little better to be good enough to be compared with everyone else on an even field. It would be easy for people turn into drones to fit a narrative -- but if there's one thing Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have taught us it is that you can't live your life for a narrative, there's nothing to that.
Bill Clinton once said there's nothing wrong with America that can't be fixed by what's right with America. Well, what's right with America rapidly proved to me that nothing is impossible or foreclosed because of the gender, religion or race with which I was born. The best parts of America proved my insecurities wrong -- so much earlier in my life than I could have ever imagined. A woman will follow a black man named Barack Hussein Obama for the nomination from a party where she defeated a "Brooklyn Jew" as her chief rival in a contest where those immutable characteristics were never brought up as a negative issue.
What an amazing time to be alive! Just 15 years later, the country and everything that is right with it proved how wrong I was growing up -- the ceiling on all of our potential has been blown right off the top thanks to what we have already accomplished as a generation.
Which is why it is so important that we continue fixing what is wrong with America -- right now, that is a group of folks led by a demagogue who uses his insecurities to lash out at others. Mr. Trump's questioning of whether a judge born in my own state of Indiana with Mexican background can ever be impartial relegates me to the exact second-class citizenship about which I was insecure growing up. His election, would not just put me back 15 years to my youth to a world where I'd always be limited by the circumstances of my birth. Trump's election would make everyone that does not agree with him somehow less American and by extension. That's the definition of a demagogue, we've seen what happens when someone stands above men and tells them their problems are based on "others."
So, for all my Bernie friends, be proud of what you've accomplished. But the stakes are too high to stay home this fall. And for my Republican friends, now is the time to make amends for the past. Your party has admitted that it exploited racial politics in the South as a wedge issue to rise to national power but this is your opportunity to let that element go its own way, it is not ours.
It's time to roll up our sleeves and get to work, to shatter the highest glass ceiling in the world and make permanent how far we've come as a Nation.