MIAMI — I had an idyllic childhood in what was then Czechoslovakia, first living in the Krkonoše mountains where I learned to ski, then at age 5 moving to the picturesque rolling Brdy hills. There I swam in the river in the summer, skated on it in the winter, rode my bike all over the countryside — and picked up my first tennis racket.
But all of this happened under the inescapable current of communist oppression.
The state’s tactics mirrored those of fascism: Control everybody, repress dissent, imprison your political opponents, muzzle the press, numb the citizens with propaganda.
Growing up under a totalitarian regime is not something I would want to experience again, nor is it something I would want for my children. You can’t say what you are thinking, choose your profession, leave the country without the express permission of the government or go into business for yourself. In other words, you have no control over your own life.
In 1968, a ray of hope emerged in Czechoslovakia under the leadership of Alexander Dub?ek, who spoke of “Communism with a human face.” Not so fast, said the Soviet leadership. On August 21, 1968, I was playing junior tennis tournament in Pilsen. When we woke up there were tanks in the streets. The Soviet Union sent 600,000 of its soldiers to Czechoslovakia to crush any hopes Dub?ek might have had for a better life for our country. By the time my father came to pick me up on our scooter to take me back to our hometown, tanks rolled throughout the countryside, soldiers with machine guns were everywhere and we knew our life would never be the same.
From my vantage point in the United States today, Donald Trump is that Soviet Army. If he is elected president, I fear our life in this great country will not be the same — it could start to resemble the totalitarian regime I knew so well as a child.
Under a President Trump, there is a real risk the Supreme Court would turn back time by overturning Roe v. Wade, thereby depriving women once again of control over their own bodies.
Our recently won right to same-sex marriage would be endangered as well. What would that do to my own family?
Throughout the campaign, Donald Trump has insulted, attacked and bullied the people who had the audacity to challenge him or disagree with him. This divisiveness and negativity must stop.
Trump says he wants to make America great again. But this proud immigrant thinks America is already great, and can certainly become even greater — but not under a President Trump.
Hillary Clinton has been fighting for women’s rights and opportunity her whole life. She has sought to level the playing field for children, minorities, and the less fortunate. Is she a perfect candidate? No. That person doesn’t exist. But she has tried hard, and I have always thought — on and off the tennis court — that the only true failure is not trying.
Hillary Clinton is not a quitter. I wish she had addressed some issues, such as climate change, with greater vigor and clarity. But in a broad sense, her vision includes all Americans. So for me, there is no doubt. If one truly wants this country to be better off in four years than it is now, the only choice is Hillary Clinton.
A totalitarian regime is never the answer. We must keep our great democracy thriving. This is why I have already cast my vote for Hillary Clinton, and why I hope most other Americans will too.
Martina Navratilova is a human rights advocate, motivational speaker, and top-ranked tennis player who won 18 Grand Slam singles titles over the course of her decades-long tennis career.