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Bringing Compassion Back into Government — an endorsement for Shahid Buttar

Our system is failing us. That statement is, perhaps, the connecting ideology of Shahid Buttar’s campaign as he runs for congress, but it is also a statement that resonates very much with me personally. Our system is failing us, and I feel like our system failed me specifically.

I was the type of annoying kid who did everything she was “supposed” to do. I worked hard in school, got good grades, and went to MIT for college. I got my degree in computer science, then worked as a programmer for about a decade. However, a few years ago, I was sexually assaulted by a coworker at a social event. After that, I struggled to work in male dominated technical environments. For the first time in my life, it was as if my mind failed me; I was so anxious around men, I couldn’t concentrate on programming if I was in an office surrounded by them. I held it together with remote work for a bit, often avoiding social situations because I was afraid of putting myself in another dangerous situation. Eventually, however, I went home to stay with my parents.

At the most vulnerable time in my adult life, the system began to punish me for my temporary inability to contribute to the workforce, despite my decades of dedication to it. I lost my health insurance when I needed it most and had to pay for my therapy out of pocket. I had to leave the city I called home, where my friends and religious community were, because I couldn’t afford it anymore. Although I am grateful to my parents for taking care of me, I was deeply lonely for that year as well.

When I moved back to the Bay Area after a year of therapy, a friend of mine was willing to let me stay with her for free while I found work. In fact, I’m writing this endorsement on her kitchen table right now. Despite my best efforts and a lifetime of hard work, a split second decision from a stupid kid in his 20s was enough to land me on the “wrong side” of the working world. My sexual assault took under 5 minutes, but those 5 minutes were enough to rob me of my livelihood for over a year. Despite that, however, I was very lucky. I had friends and family who were willing to support me during the year I wasn’t working.

What happens to people who don’t get that?

I don’t think I even have to tell you; we walk by them on the street every day. Though, for each of them, there are probably dozens we don’t see, people barely getting by, or people who can hold down jobs but are still sick and unhappy like I was during my remote work. As I reflect on my experience, I can’t help but think, what a waste. What a waste of life we’re willing to put up with, what a waste of joy and connection. What a waste of humanity.

We need a path back for people who end up on the wrong side of the corporate machine, for people who — through no fault of their own — have become trapped by our ruthlessly pro-business government. Part of that is improving healthcare, so that everyone can get some, and sick people aren’t isolated because of their illnesses. Part of that is reforming the prison system, so that people like non-violent drug offenders don’t end up branded as “felons” forever unable to find work. Part of that is reducing military spending, so we have more money to use on social services.

But, beyond issues specifically, I think we need to elect politicians who are more interested in helping people than they are in improving their personal situation. It seems to me, most establishment politicians, republican and democrat alike have let down the American people by using their positions to advance themselves and their careers rather than the communities they supposedly serve.

Shahid has been fighting for community rights for years, both as a lawyer and community organizer for 15 years. He is a deeply progressive candidate whose priorities are improving the rights of people, real breathing people, not corporations. He’s looking to run against Nancy Pelosi for San Francisco’s seat in the House of Representatives, and I believe he is exactly the type of candidate the democratic party needs right now. We need someone who is willing to stand up to the corporate hegemony rather than someone who is funded by it. We need people with real progressive values in congress, not just people who “aren’t republicans.” We need politicians who can help guide us into being a country of compassion and opportunity. I believe Shahid is exactly that kind of politician, and I hope you will consider voting for him in the primary election on June 5th.

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