My grandmother, Mya Mya Thant Gyi, was born in 1917 in Pakkoku, Burma (also known as Myanmar). She came of age as the country was emerging from the shadow of the British Empire to reclaim its national identity, but when she immigrated to the United States in 1965, my grandmother adopted not just American citizenship—she adopted American politics. She was still interested and active in the Burmese pro-democracy movement, (no exile could not be, given the historic bloodshed and violent oppression), but the political battle she was most keenly interested in was America’s, not Burma’s. She read every newspaper, listened to every newscast, held an opinion about every major player on the stage, from Karl Rove to Julian Castro. When she passed away last summer, the very last thing she spoke to me about in the hospital was the prospect of a Trump nomination (she didn’t believe it would happen) and a Biden candidacy (she badly wanted it to happen).
And yet, as enthusiastic as Mya Mya Thant Gyi was about her adopted country’s politicians, as invested as she was in the American horserace, she very rarely expected of its contestants anything more than the spectacle itself. No one she admired spoke to her, an Asian immigrant, with any specificity. There were no policies articulated on the stump that might be targeted towards people like her. In fact, there was very little acknowledgment that she—and others like her—even existed at all.