I didn’t care about politics two years ago. Every politician I saw on television was interchangeable. I knew, like many people, that we vote every four years and that one-third of the Senate and the entire House of Representatives were under the microscope for slights real or imagined against any number of interest groups. I was vaguely interested if only because of the sideshows that usually develop during Election Season: Politician A says something foolish, Politician B gets caught up in a sex or ethics scandal and Politician C claims that America is on the way to theocracy/socialism/anarchy. Listen to CNN, FOX News, NPR or any other alphabet station and pretty soon your choices are A) go insane or B) stop caring.
When the Tea Party originally rose to prominence and started unseating moderate office holders across the nation in the 2010 midterm elections, people noticed that something was going on. As the Tea Party became a powerful force and ideologically pure voice, the idea that grassroots activism actually worked spread like wildfire. The Tea Party received both praise and criticism from the public and political spheres. At that point, I still considered it a form of backlash from having a black man elected as President of the United States and kept moving. I was raised in a moderate Democratic household and seeing a president that looked like me showed that it could be done and that many of the dreams and goals I had weren’t a waste of time and energy.
I wrote the Tea Party off, at first glance, as a group of angry old people that couldn’t get over the fact that America was changing(re: they lost) and I didn’t look into them any further. I freely admit that it wasn’t the deepest thinking I’ve ever done but it was deep enough for me until one day in September of 2011. I was working as a Homeowner Concern Center Associate in Las Vegas as the first stirrings of the Occupy Wall Street movement started coming in. I wasn’t sure how I felt about them yet but the idea of starting a movement with like-minded people to engage in conversation about the issues of our day and solutions to solve them caught on to me. Before I could bring myself to agree with Occupy Wall Street, however, I had to know more about the group I’d written off.
As I looked into what the Tea Party’s indicated goals of smaller government, lower taxes and more individual freedoms, I couldn’t help thinking that I agreed with most of those ideas. All of them sounded like worthy ideas. When I balanced that against the less-than-clear ideals of Occupy Wall Street, at the time, I couldn’t understand why more people didn’t agree with the Tea Party. I started talking to my friends, people I knew, and asking them for their thoughts on the matter. I didn’t realize it then, but the fire was lit and I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life: shape public policy and governance while promoting rational discourse between people of different groups.
I jumped head-first into politics, reading more books on the subject in 2012 than I ever thought I would. I thought conservatism was the way to go and that it was the only thing that made any sense. I kept talking to people but I found myself running so far away from all of the things I used to believe in that everyone close to me noticed the change. I’ve spent the last year re-thinking and trying to understand my values through the lens of my upbringing, discussing ideas with others and trying to figure out how I can make a difference. Insanity isn’t an option and I think about these things too much to simply stop caring. Yes, America is in trouble but not in the way the pundits paint the picture. In fact, the pundits are a very big part of the problem.
Talk to the People is my third way, my choice C, and my way to help shape the dialogue in this country. Everything I’ve watched, learned and experienced over the past two years tells me that America has become so divided by partisanship, race, generation and social class that we’re looking at a split more alarming than one simply between Left and Right, but between Fantasy and Reality. The purpose of this blog is to start a discussion between people of all viewpoints and build consensus on the issues of our time that inspires others to step into the breach. I’m not naïve enough to believe that this will happen overnight or even in the first few months, but I’m resolving to put forth the effort and trust in my fellow Americans to come together and help us weave a new story that we can all tell our children and grandchildren in the future.
This is where I start. Let the conversation begin with my first question to you, The People:
Is America’s educational system failing our children? If so, how do we address this issue?