Miami News

(OP) Joe Biden is a Patriot

Odeimy Melendres

Less than two weeks after he tested positive for COVID-19, President Trump flew, to Florida to campaign for reelection. Trump ignored the recommended coronavirus quarantine period, even mocked it in a campaign stump, saying he could give his Florida supporters “a big fat kiss.”

Trump’s incompetence and his reckless leadership have led to the deaths of more than 211,000 Americans – nearly 16,000 of them here in Florida. Cases are going up again in Florida and much of the rest of the country. There’s no sign that things will get better any time soon, especially not if Trump gets another term. 

Far too many COVID-19 deaths have been among Latino essential workers like me.

I came to the United States from Cuba with dreams of freedom and a better life. My job as janitor at the University of Miami, where I’ve worked for more than five years, has helped me achieve those dreams. I’m able to send money home to support my two daughters in Cuba. I take pride in my work. Students and teachers put their trust in me to keep them healthy. As an essential worker, I am doing what I can to stop the spread of this terrible disease, not just for the public but for my coworkers as well.

Most of my coworkers are immigrants like me. We come from Cuba, Nicaragua, and other Latin American countries. We know that we are at higher risk of getting COVID-19, and that we are more likely to die if we do get it. 

I’m asthmatic so my risk is even higher. I worry all the time that I could get sick and leave my daughters motherless. 

So when Trump goes on television not wearing a mask, and tells people not to let the “coronavirus dominate your life,” I feel immense pain and anger.

When Trump says that the coronavirus is no worse than the flu, I hear the President of the United States ignoring the cries of all the people who couldn’t say goodbye to their loved ones as they died alone in a hospital. I hear him belittling the suffering of the millions of people who are going hungry and can’t afford to buy medicine because they lost their jobs and their health care.

And when Trump campaigns in Florida when he should be in quarantine, my heart aches for the janitors and other service workers he’s callously exposing to COVID-19 because he insists on coming to our state while he could still be contagious. 

odeimy melendres with senator taddeo - (OP) Joe Biden is a Patriot
Odeimy Melendres with Senator Taddeo

Trump is supposed to be our leader and set an example for the American people. But the president does not take this pandemic seriously. We are needlessly getting sick and dying because Trump has refused to set a coherent national policy or give us adequate protective equipment, or provide fast, reliable testing.

While the president flaunts safety precautions, essential workers like me do the work to educate ourselves. We wear masks, stay socially distanced, and do everything we can to keep people healthy. At work, we had to fight hard to make sure we got adequate PPE and the equipment we needed to protect ourselves. 

And rather than justly compensating essential workers like me, Trump and his Republican allies have denied us even a little extra pay while we put our lives on the line to keep others safe. Meanwhile, corporations have been rescued bailout after bailout. We know where the loyalties of this president lie – and it’s not with the American people. 

Many of my fellow Cuban Americans are registered Republicans. I want to tell my fellow Cuban Americans: Trump is not a patriot. He derides the suffering of the citizens he is sworn to protect. He goes on TV saying things are going great while Americans die and go hungry. 

It’s not just Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic that makes him dangerous. Trump is a threat to our freedom and to our democracy. He has repeatedly spread lies and misinformation about voter fraud to cast doubt on our democratic process, and he won’t even commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election. 

It doesn’t matter what party you belong to. This election, we all need to vote for the candidate who will fight to protect the American people. That candidate is Joe Biden.

Joe Biden takes COVID-19 seriously. He has a plan to deal with COVID-19 and to address the economic hardship Americans are facing because of Trump’s botched handling of the pandemic. And Biden has a plan to make sure Americans have access to affordable health care, even if we lose our jobs.

Unlike Trump, Biden doesn’t lie about the pandemic or try to divide us by immigration status or where we come from. Trump scapegoats immigrants, calling them rapists and murderers. But Biden actually cares about essential workers like me who may come from different countries but are risking our lives going to work every day and keeping the U.S. economy going. Rather than sew division, Joe Biden wants to unite us.

I support Joe Biden because he is a true patriot. I know that Joe Biden will bring the change we need in this country so that we can have the American dream that we’ve worked so hard for.

This is an opinion piece (OP) by Odeimy Melendres, janitor at the University of Miami

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