There arrives a time when knuckles get weary. After knocking on the same wall over and over again, the continuous rapping at an immovable object becomes the very essence of insanity. I am just rephrasing Einstein and the wisdom he imparted a long time ago, there is nothing to be gained by doing the same thing over and over again and yet expecting a different result. At some point, an inflection point has to be reached. If we truly want change instead of outrage, we must reassess our approach and see if there is another way forward.
What I just outlined above, the need to reflect and reevaluate, can be said of many things in life. Yet what I’m speaking of today is the current state of our political affairs and how ideology is having toxic effects in the broader public. Maybe it’s always been like this, the feeling of constant strife in the culture where it feels like the tenseness between the citizenry can be cut with a knife. In reality though, it does feel different; everyone is in a defensive posture and it seems like half of our nation is gloating with glee while the other half is seething in antipathy—at the core it seems politics is the source that is fracturing this country.
We keep doing the same thing; every year we get upset about the state of our politics only to end up voting the same bums back into office that we were a few months earlier raging against. If there is one thing that binds the most fervent liberal to the most ardent conservative is the feeling of frustration all sides feel and being fed up with politicians who pay lip service to outrage only to get elected and partake in the outrage. We keep electing career politicians who have perfected the art of raging against the career of politics. Perhaps we need to look in the mirror; if we willingly stick our hands in a cage full of vipers is it a wonder when we get injected with poison?
So let me propose a modest idea. How about we stop depending on career politicians and disregard political parties all together. Instead of thinking that the change will come from DC, maybe we need to understand that the change will only happen locally. I used to think a while back ago that the answer was to elect “my side” of the political isle to take on the bums in DC. The problem is though I was voting for bums blinded by partisan loyalty thinking that my party would only do more if we get more of them in power. Alas I was part of the problem myself, my partisan blinders led me to feeding into the intentional fractures that our political system keeps birthing.
Instead of accepting the lowest common political demonstrator, let me introduce you to the way politics is done in Fort Collins. The local elections here are not based on parties; the elections are open which means that the candidates have to run on the strength of their ideas. Imagine that, instead of voting for a political platforms, the citizens of Fort Collins actually vote for platforms of the candidates. This make a world of a difference; perhaps the corrosive nature of our politics could be lessened if we started voting for people instead of voting for personalities and parties. Remember how I said we need to pause and reassess? Instead of raging against the system, maybe we need to actually adjust the system so that we can finally have a government that is accountable to us—the people.
It is with this in mind that I had the pleasure of running into Kwon Atlas, a mayoral candidate who is running for office in Fort Collins, Colorado. I met him in the most unlikely time; while I was writing an article at a pizza shop, I ran into Kwon and his staff talking to local constituent. Political insiders call this retail politics; political pundits and insiders are so jaded that everything becomes transactional in nature. In reality, what Kwon was doing was getting a feel from business owners and employees as he walked up and down North College Street hearing the concerns of every day people. This is what separates local governance from national politicians—the mayors and city council members live right in the very communities they serve.
Let me not bury the lead here, Kwon’s youth is evident from the picture alone. But I submit that maybe it’s time we let youth be served for it seems “experienced politicians” are experienced in the very politics more and more are feeling repulsed by. This is not in any way to relegate the “older generation” to the sidelines; what I’m advocating is that we occasionally inject a new set of eyes and ideas so that we can tackle the issues before us. Sometimes it takes a younger generation—the Joshua generation let’s call it—to get us over the hump because those who have been burned by experience can find it hard to look for a new way forward. Or perhaps we can stop judging based on youth, looks or ideology and instead assess politicians based on their ideas.
I sat down with Kwon last Saturday and we discussed a broad range of subjects from small business empowerment to building a sense of community where the community can take care of the least among them. Below is the first part of a the conversation, this is the launch of “Walk about Fort Collins” where a weekly broadcast will be presented featuring insights and ideas political candidates to local residents on ways to ensure that Fort Collins thrives and that all flourish in the process.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.
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