Leaving The Odyssey would not typically warrant its own article in my view, but for my friends and audience who have read and shared these pieces of current events, frustration with a broken system, and hope for the future, I would like to leave you with a few words on why I came here in the first place. For the most part, this article will highlight the most important lessons learned through building this series and participating in the political process.
I started writing for Odyssey because I did not care for what I have witnessed through the mainstream media. As for Odyssey, the usual venting, the college life, and relationship think pieces were meritorious in their own right as they have appealed to their author's audience, but I had discovered that many political pieces were divisive and counterproductive to the author's goals. We are not professional journalists, but we must still understand that even an op-ed is based on fact, properly cited, and must be critical of actions rather than simply the people performing the action. Opinions come from an analysis of the facts, not the other way around.
After six months of volunteering for the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016, life revolved around the news. More importantly, it revolved around engaging voters to participate in the political system. Going around to schools and registering high school students who would vote in their first primary election. Making hundreds of phone calls to almost every state in this country including the territory of Guam. Crossing state lines to cities I have never been to and knocking on doors to make sure that they know their polling location and are all set to vote. Joining a grassroots activist group. These are vital aspects of democracy.
This all seems like ancient history, but it is a constant reminder that we need to do better. Every single day across all aspects of our lives, we need to do better. Politics is made for a certain kind of person. You have to get used to losing and losing badly. You have to fight the constant disappointment and frustration which comes along with it and get the urge to move on to the next state or district. You may spend 18 months invested in one race, one politician, and their loss will feel like the biggest upset of your life. Sometimes you feel like giving up, immigrating, and letting the country burn to the ground under the flames of its own anger and hate for its fellow neighbors. But you won't and you shouldn't.
The goal of my portfolio was to build a series of perspectives which you will not hear from anchors who are making $40,000 per day. Perspectives from hard-working people just like you who qualify as the bottom 99% of this country. There are a lot of us and we easily outnumber any and all opposition. However, the few are very powerful. They will not respond to violence, they will not respond to common sense, and they will not respond to you as an individual.
The only language which they are fluent in is transactional establishment business. It is a language which many of us do not speak at the same level, as we are living paycheck to paycheck without a nickel in savings for when we are sick, for when we are in debt, for when we have to send our children to school, or for when we wish to retire with dignity and security. We will never be understood by those who travel via private jet, who own homes larger than our high schools, and who have never worked hard for a paycheck or outside of an air-conditioned room for as long as they have lived.
This does not mean that our efforts are futile in creating a government that works for the many in contrast to just the few. It simply means that somehow, we must do better. We must be organized and relentless in our opposition and to say very loud and very clear, "you can't have us". Money and marches, important though they are, are not the sole deciders of an election.
The resistance movement, if it is to be a serious one, is about getting into the streets every week and knocking on every door. It is about speaking with our neighbors and doing a lot more listening than talking. As the 2018 midterms come about, the resistance must be one that is rooted in real grassroots action. Not simply putting the other party down but raising your party up. Give people a reason to vote for you and they will. Put them down, and they won't. Organize voter registration drives, hold organizing meetings, spend a few hours a week phonebanking for a candidate you trust, and most importantly, communicate.
The United States is infamous for its low voter turnouts and restrictive voting laws. There is an easy way to beat this and that is done by talking to each other and by sharing information. Real information. Your friend who has never voted in their life and doesn't care much for politics will not be convinced by a 30-second attack ad, but they just may be that much more likely to at least show up at the polls after a short conversation with you.
This is purely anecdotal, but it is an important example that has impacted me. A good friend of mine for over four years has spent much of this time as a political, ideological opposite of me. He cheered as the Tea Party Movement grew into a Republican majority in the House and Senate. During this time, I occasionally spoke with him about politics and sustainability. Each conversation did not turn into a debate, but it did spark his interest to do his own research and come to his own conclusions. A few months after Senator Sanders announced his campaign, Mike was suddenly a progressive with a seemingly 180-degree transformation.
Mike has told me on several occasions that speaking with him about the issues was perhaps the most important aspect of this change. There was no brainwashing involved and he had come to his own conclusions on his own accord. I hardly taught or told him anything. It was the simple act of speaking with someone about something you care about. This does not happen to everyone you will meet on the campaign trail, but it does happen every day all over this country. If you do not engage with your friends and your neighbors, somebody else will. Likely the party of your opposition.
I would like to end these remarks with passages from my favorite piece that I have done for Odyssey which I believe are more relevant now than when I had written the piece. "We Can be a United Country". In Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, as well as all over this country, people are struggling. When jobs are leaving, wages are declining, benefits are cut, the gap between the rich and the poor is growing, factories are shutting down and leaving, people are paying attention.
The majority of Americans, 61 percent, believe that the rich pay too little in taxes. The majority of Americans believe that this is not right, that it is a cause for concern regarding their struggle to support their families, send their kids to college, and to get the care they need when they are sick. We are beginning to find it unacceptable how so many have so little in one of the richest countries in the world.
Social Security, healthcare, income equality, economic reform, educating our children, these are not small issues that Americans ignore. This is what we are concerned about regardless of where we place on the political spectrum. We might have different ideas on how to accomplish what we want to accomplish, but we have roughly the same goals. Not many people actually want to see people sick and dying in the streets. We do not want our youth to drop out of school and end up in jails, disproportionately targeting people of color, we don't want a predatory student loan system, we don't want 52 percent of all new income going to the top 1 percent, and we don't want to lose our raises, wages, jobs, and benefits.
This is not the time, however, to only talk about what the next four years of this government will mean. Historically, relying on the government to create real positive change without the people has not been the case. It is not the time to fall victim to partisan politics on what should be bipartisan issues with bipartisan solutions. We cannot fall for the tactics of politicians, mainstream media personalities, and the powerful billionaires who fund them, to divide us up. When we politicize the issues in the wrong direction, we may become divided and weak against an agenda that only has one goal: keep the people divided.
The people running this country, those politicians and the very wealthy, have a strategy that involves manipulating the American people. We are conditioned to point fingers at each other and not at those who have set the rules in opposition to us. Instead of standing together against a rigged economy, we are being told that our neighbors are the enemy.
Our neighbors who, regardless of their background, their race, their religion, their sexual orientation, are in the same situation as we are. We live and work in this country because we have found opportunity here and it's pretty safe to say that most of us do not have plans to migrate. We continue to work, pay taxes, vote, and maybe even try to make this country a better place while doing so.
We're still here, we're not leaving, and we will not accept the idea that we should turn against each other. In our darkest times, the United States has found a way to abolish slavery, to give women and people of all ethnicities the right to vote, to end segregation, grant marriage equality, and more. These were not the ends to our problems, but all of this happened because of millions of people who stood up and demanded that it be done.
"A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history." - Mahatma Gandhi
Public servants are hired by the people. Elections are job interviews and voters are the real bosses. Our taxes pay their salary and we only give them one main job: represent the people who hired you. If they listen to the majority of their constituents, they keep their job. If not, we fire them from office.
Whatever party you belong to, even if it's none of them, we need your voice. If President Trump, the Senate, the House, or your state's elected officials are trying to do something that you don't agree with, organize and make your message heard until you are heard. You will win. You will be louder than the voices of your opposition because you will be organized and united while they are disorganized and divided from their fellow Americans.
You will face vigorous opposition by those who don't share your beliefs, but while they are spending time on you, you are spending time dealing with the people who actually have the power to create real change. For every one of us who gets involved in politics, shows up at town halls, makes phone calls to our representatives, and overall lets those who represent us know what we want, we will hold those in power responsible for representing the people.
We will find a way to take care of our neighbors regardless of their income, age, race, religion, political beliefs, sexual orientation, immigration status and so on because we the people have been fighting for freedom since the birth of this country. It is our heritage.
This has always been a marathon, not a sprint.
It's time to keep running.