Politics is difficult for me to navigate, because I don’t like being beholden to a political template, political rhetoric, and I like to believe that human beings are multidimensional in that they do not fit nicely into categories. It’s ironic, because I am a psychiatrist, and we diagnose patients based on diagnostic criteria and categories. But with that said, at least for me, I know that these diagnostic categories are there to streamline diagnoses, research, and billing. But no two depressed patients are identical, no two borderline personality disorders are identical, and no two psychotic disorders are identical. Patients with a disorder share similar presentations and manifestations, but the individuality of those presentations are quite apparent. Of course, as always, I’m digressing. Let me go back to politics.
In the United States, we are in a state of strong divisions, based on political ideology. We each have our camp, and we are at war with the other political camps, and differences of opinion in a camp are oftentimes not tolerated, even when there is broad agreement on most issues. This brings me to the Michigan Gubernatorial race, as Michigan heads into the August primaries to select the Democrat and the Republican who will face off in November. We have some accomplished candidates running, but I can’t say I agree with any of them 100%. But who said I had to agree with someone on every detail to support him or her? I caught myself becoming very picky in supporting a candidate, and realized that by doing so, we end up feeding into the divisions. I do not and cannot agree with anyone on every issue, and that is not necessary and is not a healthy way to select who to vote for and donate to.
Early on, I was an Abdul El-Sayed supporter, having met him and liking his ability to dialogue, respectfully disagree, and his humility. I donated to his campaign sometime in January or February 2018, and it was the first political campaign that I’d ever donated to. I liked what he had to say about improving access to trade schools, sitting with unions to address what trades and skills would be beneficial for late teenagers and early adults to go into. His focus on STEM education was another thing that caught my attention. Furthermore, I agreed with him that our economy is not participatory, or inclusive, and we need to give lower income families a break so that they can have the opportunities to climb up the social ladder. See, he was not preaching equality of outcome, but he was preaching the important concept of equality of opportunity and equity.
As the months went on, I found areas of disagreement with Abdul, such as on the issue of abortion. I believe in regulations on abortion, and that it’s not only a decision to be made by mother and doctor, but that society has a role to protect unborn children under certain circumstances, such as after viability. I don’t want to get into the details of my beliefs, but we’ll just say that we disagreed. I also found myself disagreeing with him on marijuana policy, where I believed in decriminalization, Abdul was advocating for legalization. Finally, I also did not like a policy that I understood as advocating for teaching sexuality education in schools. This is different from sexual education, and the reason I did not like this policy is not because I am opposed to different interpretations on gender and sexuality, but because I believe these are important discussions that should be reserved for the family and community, and I believe it is the role of local school districts, not state or federal government, to appropriately address such aspects of the curriculum. I felt that the progressive movement was being pushy with enacting cultural policies, like how the conservative movement often attempts to enact cultural policies without regard to culture or community norms.
I began to question my support for Abdul, someone who I was initially very excited to support. Someone, who like me, was a son of immigrant parents, hailed from Egypt, and was also a millennial (I’m very into generational differences, but I’ll digress too much if I get into it). A friend of mine happened to be setting up a meeting with Abdul around this time, and he let me know, so I was able to join in on the meeting, and we had a healthy discussion. On the issue of abortion, we discussed that we both wanted to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, and that is the clearest way to reduce abortion. It was interesting, because I had not thought about it that way before. I’ve heard President Obama talk about this point being an area of common ground, but I never processed it the way I did after discussing the topic with Abdul. So, while we don’t necessarily agree on specifics, we agree that reducing unwanted pregnancies is the most effective way to reduce abortions, and that to do this, we have to provide sexual education (not only abstinence), and make contraceptives more widely available. On the issue of marijuana, I have since changed my mind and believe that legalizing it is the better way to go. This was not due to talking to Abdul, but after talking to some psychiatrists who convinced me that decriminalization will not allow for effective regulation, nor will it necessarily reduce crime and violence tied to buying and selling marijuana. Now this does not mean that we don’t advocate in our communities about the harms of marijuana use, or that we all should take up smoking pot as a new hobby. We can still oppose something, while also legalizing it to better monitor and regulate it, and in this case, the ‘it’ is marijuana.
Finally, onto the sexuality education, this is a complicated topic, especially because it has cultural and religious undertones. But in short, no one in school deserves to be bullied, hurt, or made to feel less human due to their sexual orientation or gender expression. We as parents bestow onto our children the values that we want to teach them, as that is part of the parenting process. But we cannot use schools as a leverage in any cultural war. If a policy is enacted that will encourage dialogue and understanding, with a focus on decreasing bullying, then I support such a policy. Schools must be safe for all races and all lifestyles, so long as a student is not causing physical or emotional harm onto another student. Actually, that should be a rule for society. We aught to be able to live as we please, without causing harm onto another person. We can and should (if we choose to) accept or reject things according to our convictions, our religious teachings and/or cultural norms, but we cannot turn a blind eye to bullying or violence against another human being based on personal life choices. It appears to me that Abdul wants to create a more tolerant environment in our schools, in conjunction with working and discussing these sensitive issues with local school boards. This is something that I welcome.
To end this piece, I’d like to say that it is important to take Michigan in a new direction. It is important to hold your values near and dear, and to critique politicians and policy, even if you support a specific person. Support is not blind following, nor does it mean to become a political template. As for Michigan’s gubernatorial race, I believe that this year, Michigan needs someone new, someone young, and someone as articulate, passionate, humble, and effective as Dr. Abdul El-Sayed. Abdul’s candidacy not only presents the best option for Michigan, but more personally to me at least, it opens the door for electing the first Arab and Muslim governor in the United States, and it sets a precedent and an example for future Arabs and Muslims, of various political persuasions, to become civically engaged and excited about politics. That is why this year, come August primaries, I will be voting for him. To get him elected, we should donate if able, and we should clarify Abdul’s positions in the Arab and Muslim American community if there is some confusion or contention.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Dearborn Blog or Abdul El-Sayed.