To acquire wisdom, one must observe

How to love home

The election undoubtedly has made a lot of people think about all sorts of things in different lights and viewpoints. I have found myself looking at my home in one of the worst lights I’ve ever seen it in, and trust me, I’ve seen it painted pretty poorly. It genuinely used to be a dump. But no matter the light I saw it in, I loved it. It was home, it was where I was raised, where I met my best friends, where I grew up to be who I am today. But now I am disgusted by it, I can’t find it within myself to be proud of it, and yet I even feel guilty for loving it still. 

I was born and raised in Staten Island, New York. This is not a statement I usually say. I typically say I was born and raised in New York City and pray that no one asks any further questions. Most don’t, some do, and whenever people ask where in the city I’m from their response back always seems to start with an “oh,” like they’ve found out some dirty secret about me. 

You see, it’s always been a running joke that Staten Island is the forgotten borough; it is drastically different from the other four boroughs that make up New York City. It also just so happens to have been dubbed the worst borough, and this is something that everyone has unanimously agreed on, even people from Staten Island. Pete Davidson, a Staten Island native, once made a joke that Staten Island should just “fall into the sea.” But despite knowing our ranking on the totem pole I still loved my home. Yes, it was a dump, and yes, our soccer fields got shut down because they were radioactive, and yes, my high school had multiple bomb threats every year—but all those places built me. They hold special memories in my heart; I can tell you all the trails and bus routes like the back of my hand. I’ve never been embarrassed by my home, and you wouldn’t get it unless you lived there. 

But the election made me so incredibly disappointed. Now I know a lot of people voted for Trump in 2016, and to be fair I think a lot of people didn’t really know what they were signing up for. But in this election, on Staten Island, more people voted for Trump than in the 2016 election, making us the only red borough. And it wasn’t even like it’s all that close of a margin, no, there is a significantly higher percentage of our population who voted for Trump. These numbers are from before mail-in ballots have been counted, but still the gap is way too large to even make it close or to pardon. 

Even our Congressional Representative, Nicole Malliotakis, won by a landslide. My fundamental disagreement with her does not stem from our differences across party lines. I was disgusted by her basically unrivaled campaign win because she held a Trump rally just weeks before the election where practically no one wore masks, and she still won. Albeit, the other option wasn’t that great either, but you would just think that, during a pandemic, you wouldn’t vote for the candidate who holds a super-spreader event that played a role in why the island had its highest positive COVID-19 rate to date. Not to mention the fact that the rally was fueled by white supremacy and the oppression of minority groups. They had flags saying “LGBT,” as in, “Liberty Guns Beer and Trump,” completely disrespecting so many individuals who identify with that acronym with pride. And I look at these photos of this rally and it isn’t in some random, nowhere place in Pennsylvania, it’s in the streets that I know; it’s in my home.   

Now I understand that my home has historically been a red district; this isn’t new to me. But the island’s conservative values have changed over these four years. What were once disagreements on economic redistribution and public policy has become a more dangerous version of how we treat those around us. It is harder to be conversational and constructive on the island when the discussion is no longer how to work together but how to assert your views over others.     

So I ask myself, how can I possibly love a place that makes me so ashamed? How can I love a place where I have to rethink who I looked up to as a child?

I would be stupid to assume that this is a unique situation, I know there must be people who feel this same sentiment about their respective homes too. I know how frustrating and confusing it can be to love a place that does not hold the same values as you, and how it can feel like a betrayal to your beliefs for loving a place which is so contrasting in its ideals. It is terrifying when you know home is not safe for everyone and you can feel powerless in what you can do to change it. 

So why do I love Staten Island?

I love Staten Island because I know it can change, because it’s been changing my whole life. That dump from when I was a baby is now park land which has been cleaned and opened to the public. Those soccer fields have been shut down so no children play on that soil so they are kept safe. We have the capability to change for the better. 

I can tell you that I don’t love Staten Island for what it is currently, I don’t love it for what it supports from the election results, I don’t love it for the hatred it incites. But I still love it for what it has made me become, and I love it for the people who share my sentiment and are actively seeking to change the island for the better, for the people who help us clean up our beaches and parks, for the people who help us advocate and campaign for change. Because at the end of the day, as someone very wise once told me, you don’t have to like something to love it. Sometimes we can’t make ourselves un-love things. And that’s okay, because that love is what drives us to see change to make things better even when we despise it.  

I, Victoria Morrongiello, was born and raised in Staten Island, New York, and I love it, so I will see it change. 

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