Political Interviews With UCF Students: Leftist Edition

Leftism is controversial. With its many ideologies, some people believe it is too utopian and always comes out as dystopian in nature, while for others it is attainable and the best option for humanity. Many reasons why we have progress globally are due to leftists such as Martin Luther King Jr and Gandhi. To learn more about leftism, I interviewed the University of Central Florida student, Victoria over a zoom call.

Victoria is a senior who was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She and her family immigrated to Orlando when she was 2 years old. She majors in Political Science with a minor in Global Peace & Security and a certificate in National Intelligence & Security.

Victoria identifies as a leftist when it comes to the political spectrum and has no party affiliation.

I’m not a liberal. Sometimes, I’ll say that I’m a Marxist. In my experience, we [leftists] don’t have one person whose ideology we follow. It’s a mixture of everything. I started with Marx and his readings.

She mentioned the importance of black radicals on Twitter. They are the ones who helped her with education and radicalization:

A lot of us wouldn’t be where or who we without them. Because of that, we owe it to them to be continuously fighting against these oppressive systems and to understand that our place will always be to uplift black and brown voices.

When I asked Victoria about her political upbringing, she talked about her childhood and the struggles her family went through.

I’m an immigrant, and my family immigrated from Argentina. Growing up, we didn’t have a lot of money. I went to an elementary school that had predominately rich white kids. I made friends with those kids. Their parents would take us out, and we’ll stop and get you McDonald’s or Burger King. It’s little things like that. I grew up in an apartment, and I’ve always lived in apartments. Going to an actual house for the first time was really impressive to me. I saw their pantry with a lot of snacks and multiple boxes of open cereals. That really shaped me in the sense where I was like, ‘Wow, people are living significantly different lives’.

She also touched upon undocumented workers and their living conditions.

I’ve seen how they’ve been treated and how they’ve been paid. How they are seen as deposable.

She further discussed her experience bringing up the effect of the 2008 recession, which caused many people to lose their houses, businesses, and jobs.

It hit us pretty hard. Neither of my parents had jobs. I saw the differences economically with my lifestyle and the lifestyle of others. In middle school and high school, I began recognizing more social differences, such as racism. Most of us knew not to be mean to people of different skin colors. But you start to recognize microaggressions. I was a freshman in high school when the Michael Brown shooting happened in Missouri. After that, I was in. I started to deep dive into what is wrong and how we can make other people aware of it.”

Victoria mostly attributes her lived experiences and the people she has interacted with to where she is now. She’s finds listening to be essential.

People can be very combative sometimes and be like ‘Oh well that’s just your life circumstance. No one else has gone through that.’ I don’t think that’s true. I think if more people shared their lived experiences, we would all come to an understanding that a lot of us have shared the same life.

When talking about her college experience, she said that she didn’t experience a liberal or communist education. She ran into more moderate and conservative people, especially during her time at UCF.

I feel that I’m probably the most radical person when I meet a group of people. At the beginning of college, it probably wasn’t like that. But now I definitely am. It’s been years in the making. It didn’t happen overnight.

When it comes to her family’s politics, her parents don’t participate in American politics. Her younger brother is still learning.

I can tell that I do influence him, in the sense that he knows. He has an advantage because he has me, and I started teaching him at a younger age. When I have conversations with them [her family] in Argentina, they are like, ‘Oh yeah, we totally agree.’

Victoria mentions when you speak to people from Latin American countries, they can be either very left-leaning or right-leaning. However, a lot of them are more moderate because of being afraid of extremity.

Originally, Victoria’s family did not attend church but did once she was in middle school. She didn’t enjoy the experience:

I had a really bad experience at church one time. I had no clue what the Rapture was because we weren’t religious growing up. One of the youth nights, they played this movie, and I started freaking the fuck out. I was like, ‘I’m gonna get stuck on Earth with my dad?!’ Because my dad wasn’t super religious, my brother was a baby at the time, and my mom loved coming to church. ‘They’re going to go to heaven, and I’m going to get stuck here.’ I found my mother in the pews. And I was like, ‘I’m never coming back to church again. This is literally mortifying.’ I hated it.

Victoria has skimmed through the Bible. However, She has a more spiritual connection. She believes in a higher power but doesn’t practice an organized religion.

The things that we can pull best from any type of organized religion is to be kind to others, respect others, and do your best to be the best person that you can be. Not just for yourself, but for everybody else.

Victoria feels that Trump’s influence has been a double-edged sword.

He’s emboldened a lot of people. A lot of racists. A lot of white supremacists. Even if he hasn’t outright said, ‘Yes, I support white supremacy.’ Even the night of the first Presidential Debate — when he wouldn’t outright say ‘I condemn white supremacy,’ — members of the Proud Boys were like, ‘Hey, he told us to stand back and stand by.’ The fact that people feel emboldened by his words, actions, and beliefs has become really dangerous. When people say ‘Black Lives Matter,’ they say, ‘Go Trump!’ or ‘White Lives Matter.’ Like why are you making this deeper than it has to be? Don’t you agree that Black Lives Matter? He’s ousted people, which is nice because I know who to stay away from. On the other side, he has pushed people almost to the left where it’s making people realize more fundamental issues that we have in the United States. It’s more negative but has pushed people to see that this is absolutely ridiculous. We need more change. We need something better and more progressive. I like that people are willing to fight against him and White supremacy. Obviously, we all associate white supremacy with the President of the United States. If you look at the track record of the American presidents, it’s always been there. It’s been an awakening for people.

When we moved onto the topic of Trump Derangement Syndrome, she thinks it’s an excuse for him not to be criticized.

I think it’s everyone’s job to criticize the President regardless of who the President is. People probably have more things to complain about in terms of Donald Trump because of his language, the way he presents himself, the way that he speaks, and the things he has said about other people and groups of people. I think that he’s rightly criticized. We should continue to criticize him even when he’s out of office. That man is not just going to disappear. He’s still a human being who has influence over others.

She also mentioned a point about how right-leaning people have been doing the same thing with President Obama since 2008.

He [Obama] wasn’t perfect, and I’m never going to say he was because at the end of the day if you’re the President of the United States, you are an imperialist. People will always criticize the President no matter what.

When it comes to the media, Victoria feels that the media conflates liberals, progressives, and leftists as the same thing, even though they are not.

Democrats are neoliberals versus a classic liberal is like a staunch Republican. It’s really interesting because I get into this argument a lot with people in class where ANTIFA is brought up. They are like ‘Members of ANTIFA: The organization.’ ANTIFA is literally antifascist. If you are anti-antifascist, what does that really say about you? What is portrayed in the media is ‘ANTIFA is this dangerous group’ or ‘They’re bussing in ANTIFA from another state.’ I see things like this, where people post on Facebook. It circulates, and people think ANTIFA is this crazy, paramilitary group. It’s an ideology basically saying, ‘I am antifascism.’

She also notices how the media and other places state that communism and socialism are two different things when, in actuality, they are not.

Socialism is a steppingstone into communism. You don’t want to stay in that forever. You want to continuously progress.

She continued on saying:

Yesterday, I was watching this mini-series about Cuba that is called the War on Cuba by the Belly of the Beast. It talks about the blockage and how Cuba has sent out doctors all over the world to help aid other countries. Trump came into office and other Presidents who were right-leaning like Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, and Bolivia after they staged a coup against their indigenous president, Evo Morales, were blocking off Cubans. It was either ‘Oh Cubans doctors are victims of communist exploitation,’ or in other countries, they were saying these Cuban doctors are awful, and they are here to spread their communist ideologies. That’s all because of the United States and its idea that it imposed on the rest of the world when it comes to communism. As a whole, it’s going to be demonized for a very long time, but I do see more left-leaning newspapers and magazines that are starting to open up to it more. Online people are becoming more open about the idea and talking about it when before people never even said the word communist.

Victoria finds it embarrassing that people think that Kamala Harris and Joe Biden are socialists:

Are you serious right now? They could not be more neoliberal. I would even go so far as to call them moderates because of their track records.

We then moved onto the discussion of Ben Shapiro’s event that was going to occur but was canceled because of COVID. Victoria was grateful that COVID postponed the event, stating:

I was very upset because we were using student funds. We’re paying him to come where he was promoting his book. Kaitlin Bennett came here for free. But we were paying this man with our tuition. I knew one way or another the university was gonna have to let him come because of kegal reasons and the First Amendment. People are willing to sue and make as much money as they can because of things like this. This is really shitty, because of the things that he has said about trans people when we have a huge LGBTQ community at UCF and almost any other marginalized group — which we have a lot of at UCF because there are 70,000 students.

Victoria said that if the event had occurred, there would have been counterprotests.

We would have all signed up. He would probably have a Q & A where we could have done some silent protests.

When Kaitlin Bennett first came on campus back in September, Victoria was there. She was the person in a viral video on Twitter with a megaphone denouncing Bennett.

My feelings are very clear in that video. I had no clue that she was coming the first time. I was chilling in the library and waiting for my next class. My friend told me that Kaitlin Bennett was in front of the library. I was bored, so I headed there. She’s annoying. I figured after the first time we ran her off-campus, she wouldn’t come back. But then she was at USF, and I found out that she was going to be coming back. I didn’t want to interact with her the second time. I was just watching and observing. I find it hilarious that people were marching with her with MAGA hats and flags in 90-degree weather, sweating yourself off. You’re really proud of supporting a racist man whose been awful to a lot of people for a very long time?

Victoria said Kaitlin Bennett is annoying to her because she purposely antagonizes people when she travels to college campuses.

She says really inappropriate and transphobic comments. We have such a large LGBT community where they are out here seeing her presence. She loves to make people flustered and angry because she brings out those feelings. There are people who are willing to talk to her, but she chooses people who she knows she can beat.

Victoria doesn’t like any political party since she is a Leftist. However, if she was forced to choose one, it would be the Democratic party. She sees the Democratic Party as corrupt, especially with what happened with Senator Bernie Sanders in both the 2016 and 2020 elections.

I’m not saying I love Bernie Sanders because he’s still a neoliberal, but in terms of what we could have changed and done radically, it would have been easier for it to be done through someone like Bernie Sanders in a position of leadership versus someone who is a fascist like Trump. The things they [DNC] did to prevent Bernie’s nomination, made me see that I could never see myself supporting the Democratic Party as a whole.

For the Republican party, Victoria’s views are the polar opposite.

What the typical conservative believes in is being pro-life and anti-immigration in the sense that you’re punished for coming here illegally because you broke the law. Don’t you break the law all the time when you speed? When you do drugs? We all break the law. When I talk to people who are conservative, they are always emphasizing on consequences and that you have to do things the right way. There’s no right way. There’s no such thing as an illegal person on stolen land. It’s very punitive and is always about punishment. Women are punished for accidentally getting pregnant. Or fiscally, poor people don’t need handouts. I hate that because I don’t hate poor people. I don’t hate women. I don’t hate LGBT people. It shines through their actual ideals even if they hide behind ‘This is just my beliefs.’ No, it’s a more ingrained issue that is dangerous because you hold a position of oppression against marginalized communities.

Victoria doesn’t like the idea of ‘Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps’ and sees meritocracy as a fallacy.

People will literally work three jobs their whole lives and die penniless. Does that mean they didn’t work hard enough? No, it means that the system is flawed, and people suffer through it. The chances of people moving up from their class are so small. The working class is closer to poverty than to being someone like Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos.

She thinks that both parties achieve the effect of making people more individualistic, making people only focus on themselves and not on other people, especially for foreign policy.

People say that Biden is the better option out of the two. Maybe within the United States, but what about everyone else? The bombs are still the same, no matter who the President is. We’re still affecting the lives of people across the ocean.

She further continued saying:

Liberalism supports capitalism, which upholds all of these other institutions. It supports imperialism. We go into other countries, and we destabilize them because we think that is best. We create propaganda to be anti-communist and say these countries are bad such as with Cuba. Are they really bad, or are we indoctrinated into believing that?

Victoria is under DACA, so she is not able to vote. If she had the chance to choose who she would vote for President, she would be unsure.

I wouldn’t vote for Trump ever in my life. I would go to vote for local and state officials. I would have to decide then and there if I wanted to vote for Biden. I would have to think, ‘Is it worth voting for this person?’ ‘Would it change anything?’ They [Joe Biden] are still very similar to Donald Trump.

Victoria believes that mail-in voting is secure and that when politicians mention the problems with voting by mail, they are discouraging people from voting.

It’s very ableist to say things like that. Now you are inciting fear into people who can’t physically go vote. I think people should feel encouraged to vote by mail if they can.

Victoria is new to getting involved in local politics, but it has been difficult with school and the pandemic. She’s specifically a part of the Dream Defenders, an abolitionist group.

Victoria’s top issues are immigration, abolishing law enforcement, the environment, trans rights, and giving indigenous people their land back:

I would love a pathway of citizenship for people under DACA and anyone waiting to get confirmed for a green card. We know that the immigration system hasn’t worked for years and is a failed system. People are in cages in ICE detention centers. We should abolish the prison industrial complex, ICE, police, and the military. They are oppressors, and they are a part of the institutions that uphold white supremacy in the United States. The violence that the trans community experiences is not going to stop until we have these discussions and have actual politicians pushing for trans rights. We can do more for the trans and non-binary community.

Victoria believes that people skim over the Environment and don’t recognize the effects that we will see in our lifetimes.

EPA was completely destroyed from the inside. A lot of people who are conservative say that climate change is a hoax. If Biden wins, I hope we find a pathway to slow down the effects of climate change. Earth will continue to go, but we’ll [humans] will be the ones suffering the most.

Since Victoria is vegan, I asked her if people’s large consumptions of meat are largely contributing to climate change. Victoria doesn’t like the energy of blaming individuals rather than corporations.

Obviously we’re a consumerist society. When we consume, we consume in large amounts. It’s more about being wasteful than what we are eating. I suggest to my friends to get the veggie option rather than one with meat. The bigger picture is, what are these corporations doing to the planet? When people farm, they’re destroying forests, and cows create a large amount of methane that goes into the atmosphere or ozone. There’s an article that says 100 companies in the world are creating 70% of the emissions of greenhouse gases for the planet. It’s because they have no restrictions.

She argues that she would push people to go vegan for personal health and would not shame people because she thinks it’s unfair.

I would advise against it[meat] because of a lot of the antibiotics they pump into animals these days. If you’re going to do that, eat organically instead. In seafood, there are microplastics. If you can, try the alternative. Try meatless Mondays.

Victoria also believes that people deserve a living wage and disposable income to put back into their communities and mutual aid.

Almost all of my friends are living with their parents and if not then they hold two jobs. Rent is incredibly expensive. People who have bachelor’s degrees apply to places where the minimum starting is $15 per hour. Why go to school for four years to get paid $15 per hour when you can go work at an Amazon warehouse — and that’s still not enough money.

With her views on abolishing law enforcement, I had to mention the protests. Victoria thinks that property is not worth more than human lives.

I follow Black activists, and they say ‘You looted us our whole lives. For generations, you robbed us of everything.’ To burn down a Wendy’s. To light a cop car on fire. To break windows. What does that mean in actuality? It’s not just ‘I’m taking this tv because I want to take this TV.’ No, there is a deeper meaning behind it. It’s symbolic. They are taking it because of ‘I can, and you’ve done this to me. Now, I’m going to shove it in your face and take some power back,’ in a sense.

Victoria doesn’t care if people burn buildings because it can get the attention of lawmakers.

I understand that people are angry, and they need to express it. People have caught undercover cops who are the ones creating the violence. In Minneapolis at the AutoZone, a cop was the first one to break the window. Who are the ones starting it? Are they our people? Or are they outsiders who want to incite violence so someone can be blamed later on? If people have to be heard that way, then I hope they are heard, and people continue until something changes.

Due to the pandemic, Victoria lost her job. She feels that the response from the Trump Administration and Gov. Ron DeSantis was an absolute disaster.

I was the only one in my house receiving unemployment benefits for the summer. My mom lost her job, and my dad had significantly reduced hours. I was helping to pay for groceries, rent: everything. It was nice because I was getting a steady stream of money, but it stopped. The unemployment system is a disaster to apply. They had to create a new one because the other one was so outdated. There are people who still haven’t gotten their first check [stimulus check]. I had weeks where I never received money, and now I have to see if I can get that back.

She believes opening everything back up was a mistake.

Had we quarantined from March to June, we would’ve been okay. Everything is closed down except for the grocery stores. I think we would’ve been so much better as a state and a country. Ron DeSantis has done a terrible job of taking care of his people. It shows in the numbers. Florida was the epicenter of the world. People were being loaded into trucks in New York into U-Haul trucks with dead bodies. Those were human lives. Now they are not wearing any masks and are just high-fiving people. They care more about the economy than actual human lives.

Victoria doesn’t know who will be winning the election. Regardless of the results, she will be disappointed.

Part of me is saying ‘Great, were going to get another four years of Trump,’ — and it’s going to be miserable. But also maybe Biden will win because people have changed their minds about Trump because of his plans and policies. They are willing to vote for Biden since they see him as a moderate.

Victoria states to be a leftist, you need to be anti-capitalist:

As a leftist, you should be reading leftist theory. It’s important because there are people who don’t have those lived experiences. You have to understand what capitalism means for the world as a whole and what is its impact on other people besides us. There’s no happy medium. You have to be anti-capitalist.

When I asked Victoria why people should be leftists, she said that it’s not something that happens overnight.

I would recommend reading first and talking to other leftists. The best way to understand why people think the way they do is to have conversations with them. If you know in your heart that you want people to feel happy, good, and live lives that are not miserable or exploitative, then you would want what is best for the collective. In those terms, that is what leftists want. Leftists want people to not have to struggle to live every day. We don’t choose to be born. Once we’re born and grow up, you have to pay for the things that make you survive, like food, water, shelter, clothing, education, and medicine. You’re forced to have to pay for these things because if not, you either die, your lazy, your stupid, or your nothing. That’s unfair. When it comes to leftism, you have to think, ‘Why are people leftist?’What have people lived through?’ ‘What have they witnessed?’ ‘What have they experienced?’ ‘What have they read?’ There can be a better life for the collective where we don’t all have to suffer or feel exploited. We can still do things that we want and enjoy. I think both of those things can exist together. I think we are allowed to live happy lives and still care about other people.

She recommends rap artist, Noname, and her book club on Twitter @NonameBooks as someone who has great resources regarding leftist literature and resources.

Victoria thinks there is a huge misconception on what truly communism is, stating:

People think we all wear the same clothes. That we’re all authoritarian government, and we can’t think for ourselves. No. That is not what it is. The point is to have this freedom from being exploited.

My final question for Victoria was, what would she say to people who connotationally see communism as evil?:

I would ask do you think people being healthy, or people receiving universal healthcare is that radical? Or is that something you never understood before because of what you lived through? It’s not a radical idea to support basic human rights. It’s not radical to want people to live good, healthy, and fulfilling lives. The issue is that we’ve always been accustomed to people having to work for crumbs. We have this idea in our head that it’s radical for people to want more. It’s radical for people to want better things for not just themselves, but other people.

Victoria said that doesn’t mean leftism cannot be violent, but that right-wing people have been violent, as well as capitalism.

You have to fight for the things that matter the most. If that means we have to fight for human rights and fight for a better life, then people are going to have to do that at some point. It’s not all violence. The point of leftism is to get rid of the violence that capitalism creates — the violence of living a life that you don’t even want to live. You have to wake up every day and go to a job that you hate. That creates other issues for you, such as resenting their own families, themselves, the people around them, and the world they live in. We don’t have to have that. We can have a better world. We can live a better experience. I think leftism can provide that overtime.

Victoria thinks universal leftism might not happen even in her lifetime but is something to be worked toward.

If people are afraid of it, then they can dip their toes into it, little by little, and come to understand why people believe the things they do. And why people are leftists. People don’t have to be afraid of it when they start to understand it.

After UCF, Victoria plans on moving to California to pursue writing and acting.

Deborah currently attends the University of Central Florida where she double majors in political science and psychology with a minor in journalism studies.