Conversations with a communist: being a leftist at Wilson

Karam Weigert

I am a communist, and I know what you’re all thinking…yes, I touch grass and I do enjoy adequate amounts of sunlight, thank you for asking. I proudly wear the words “Free Palestine” on my mask, and on the days that I have economics tests I sport my Che Guevara shirt in order to channel his spirit and manifest a good grade.

 I come from Lebanon, a country in the Middle East famous for its comical dysfunction and rampant inequality. Ravaged by the West, French colonization has left Lebanon in a state of perpetual chaos. My experience as a child of immigrants from the global south made me more attentive to the inequality around me and started the fire that is my passion to change the way this world works. 

The structures of gender, race, and class directly cause mass inequality and facilitate the destruction of the planet. Abolishing capitalism is necessary in order to achieve a classless, stateless, and moneyless society. It is unacceptable that some people win the lottery of birth and make it very far in life, living in the greatest luxury while someone in the zip code over is condemned to a life of poverty and misery, unlikely to even leave their home city because social, political, and economic institutions are designed to keep the masses in poverty. While I find these simple truths to be a given, many people do not, including in this school.

Living in the global center of capitalism, the United States, as a Communist makes life interesting, to say the least. Being vocal about my beliefs in a country that is so violent in its reaction towards communism presents its challenges: people rarely take me seriously and often completely misunderstand my views. However, it’s not their fault, our entire perception of reality is manipulated by the state, education, and media in order to justify the narrative of the wealthy over the oppressed. From mind-numbing arguments over whether Cuba is a repressive dictatorship to defending billionaires who profit off of the exploitation of laborers and children,  it is clear that we are actively being indoctrinated.

In my classes I take everything we learn with a couple tablespoons of salt. We are taught a white-washed, watered-down version of history that minimizes the stories of the marginalized whose oppression we are complicit in and focuses on teaching us the implicit goodness of capitalist intention. My peers regurgitate the talking points of corporate apologists, and it becomes quite clear how we’re just simply conditioned to accept certain conclusions without thinking critically about why and in what context we’re being told them. 

In certain classes when full context and history aren’t provided it can have severe effects. We entertain the topics of “lifeboat ethics” and the “Tragedy of the Commons” in our english and economics class, but conveniently our notes lack the glaring fact that Garrett Hardin was a fascist and outspoken white supremacist whose theories written to push a nativist and racist narrative have already been debunked. We learn about Thomas Malthus and his theory of overpopulation, but again fail to mention his ideas were also later found to be false and that they serve as the basis of the modern eco-fascist myth that poor people of color keep having too many children causing a strain on our resources. Now while teachers aren’t blatantly proselytizing these falsehoods, when you don’t explicitly condemn racist ideology, calling it out for what it is, you’re implicitly condoning and legitimizing fascism when it’s not taught fully in the classroom. Already certain students have already begun to parrot these undisguised fascist talking points and fail to critically assess what they’re actually saying because the source is taught as credible rather than as a Nazi . Some of my classmates and teachers have told me I’m crazy or that I’m too idealistic and that I fail to see the good in the system. I always run the risk of either being infantilized or completely disregarded by someone once I disclose the full extent of my beliefs. 

However, I know that I am not totally alone in my beliefs. I have friends who are also leftists (although they may not be as vocal as I am), we have in-depth, philosophical conversations that last hours. I’ve had teachers who have listened to me and even read books I recommended to them. I don’t think of myself as a political nonconformist by thought, rather by label. Most people I talk to are in favor of guaranteeing housing, healthcare, food, and water for all and believe that everyone is equal regardless of color, creed, and class. The issue arises that when I attach the label “Communist” or “Socialist” to this set of beliefs, the ghost of Joseph McCarthy possesses whoever I’m talking to and red panic sets in.

 Over time, the most “neutral” reaction to the expression of my beliefs has been “everything doesn’t have to be so political”. While it may seem relatively harmless compared to say, “better dead than red you Stalin loving antifa marxist terrorist”, our indifference quickly becomes a matter of life and death. Millions of people a year die from preventable starvation, disease, and violence, which all result from putting profit over people. Some of us have been afforded the privilege to simply ignore these problems because they don’t directly affect us. Simply put, I find that disgusting. Sitting back and doing nothing because we can afford not to is unacceptable. Unfortunately, virulent anti-communism is one of many cultural semicolons in the paragraphs and pages of American life, and it will take all of us to push for a better society. •