Amherst Wire

Bernie shirts that say the words we can’t

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(Robert Rigo/Amherst Wire)

(Robert Rigo/Amherst Wire)

(Robert Rigo/Amherst Wire)

Sarah Robertson, Contributor

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Anyone, right now, can donate to Bernie Sanders’s campaign and receive a trendy T-shirt delivered to your doorstep in two to three weeks. The $25 for the “Bernie For President” shirt is spent on the materials, labor, and distribution of said shirt, with all profits benefitting Sanders’s campaign.

The product description reads:

White T-shirt, union-made and printed in the U.S.A.

Union-made. I frown, but it’s hard to say why.

I grew up in a staunchly anti-union household, my ancestors having built their lives around an ailing New England factory town. They hate unions, blame them for scaring jobs overseas — but what do they know? I’m in college; I’ve taken courses on globalization and Marxist economics. Unions? Of course I support unions. Protecting the rights of the working class, fighting for a $15 minimum wage. Yes, that’s what we need. Unions are good.

Nobly I punch in the digits of my debit card and the blue glow from the laptop illuminates my face, hurting my eyes. I did not take this decision lightly. First, I had to grapple with all the things I could buy with $30 that would give me instant gratification. Food, alcohol or illicit drugs; for these, there’s no two-to-three-week delivery. I could order a pizza on the Internet for half the price, and get it delivered in under an hour. But this is a revolution, and I forced myself to push past the distractions. Hungry, I clicked ‘complete purchase.’

I’d be lying if I said my motivation to buy a Bernie shirt came from a deep-seated belief in the democratic institutions of our country, some searing sense of political responsibility, or even the slightest hope that Bernie could actually be president. More powerful than anything else is the motivation to prove that I am something more than “just a millennial.”

The frustration of feeling like we have no control over the future, then being blamed for it, has pushed so many of us to the extreme left. We yearn to do something (or wear something) that will give us a sense of control.

I asked my friends — all University of Massachusetts Amherst students and obvious Sanders supporters — why they were voting for Bernie on Tuesday.

“Hillary Clinton is the Mitt Romney of 2016!” yelled my roommate behind the door separating our bedrooms.

I had heard a lot of talk about good policies, bad policies and most agreed with nearly all of Sanders’s policies. Phrases like redevelop the political system and erase all student loans seemed like tangible goals. Everyone said he seems “genuine.”

100 percent pre-shrunk high quality cotton, heavy weight 6.1 oz. fabric.

There are knockoff Bernie shirts out there, too. Don’t buy these shirts.

Granted, they are a bit more creative, with logos pleading “Help Us Bernie Sanders You’re Our Only Hope” and “Unf*ck the Country.” But, like me, fumbling to explain to my family why I support unions, the wearers of these shirts can’t quite explain why they support Sanders, or how one might “unf*ck” a country. They don’t have the words; they just have the shirts.

I began to think: what if every college student in America bought a Bernie Sanders T-shirt?

Sanders’s campaign has received more individual campaign contributions than any presidential candidate in history. He has raised $93.6 million with the average donation amount just $27. Lacking access to the traditional Democratic fundraising networks, the second best thing is the purchasing power of trend-saavy college students.

Curious, I decided to look at Trump apparel. I was surprised to see that his prices, too, were reasonable, marketed to the average working American who just wants to “Make America Great Again.” I read the T-shirt description emblazoned with a ‘Made in America’ logo, but absent was the proud title of “union-made.” Are unions the polarizing issue between Democrats and Republicans? I thought about my parents. Would it be enough to sway them? They always hated unions, and always will. But I never ask why.

We don’t have the words. We just have the shirts.

Email Sarah at [email protected].

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Bernie shirts that say the words we can’t