Since I announced my candidacy, people have said to me repeatedly that my running is such a “brave” or “courageous” thing to do. I’ve heard it so many times that I’ve gone from thinking, “Yeah, no kidding,” to “But why should this be so?”
I understand where they’re coming from, of course, which is why it took me a year of very serious inquiry before I made up my mind to do this. I know politics is emotionally brutal; I’ve already had experience with the reality of smear campaigns, so I understand there will not be a path of roses laid before me.
But brutal…? I’ll tell you what I think is brutal. Brutal is being stoned to death for adultery. Brutal is being told you can’t go out of your house without a male relative accompanying you, and even then, you better have a burka on whether you want to wear one or not or you could be arrested by the morality police. And possibly lashed. And so on.
Perhaps we need to raise the bar on what we think is brutal. Humiliating lies, embarrassing stories and someone printing ugly pictures of you shouldn’t quite make the list. Just as a pregnant woman is often told she is “eating for two,” every woman who lives in a free society should consider herself speaking for millions of women who are not allowed to speak for themselves.
I would not be running for office if I thought that the mid-term elections of 2014 -- either in my district or most anywhere else -- were going to feature a meaningful debate about the things I feel matter most. Will getting the money out of politics – the corruption that has turned our government into a government “of a few of the people, by a few of the people, and for a few of the people” – be high on the list of debate topics? Let’s see…I think not. Will income inequality be discussed in a real and meaningful way, as in a serious discussion of the unjust policies that have created it in the first place? Will child poverty – America’s rate is second only to Romania – even get a mention? Not likely. Will the corruption of our food supply -- GMO’s particularly -- rate a paragraph or two? Will our incarceration rate – at 2.4 million, the highest in the world – be front and center as a discussion of what it truly is: the horror of unjust and unnecessary human suffering turned into a profit center? Sort of doubt that. And what about the NSA spying, the National Defense Authorization Act, the Trans Pacific Partnership, the domestic use of nuclear energy in the age of radioactive energy spewing forth from Fukushima, or domestic drones that are on the way to pretty much everyone’s neighborhood?
I’ll tell you what I think is brutal: the feelings many of us will feel just a short while down the road if we do not start telling politicians what we think the discussion should be, rather than waiting for them to tell us what the discussion should be. And remember, most of their decisions are not based on radical truth telling; they’re based on protecting a political status quo.
One more thing people have said to me bears further deconstructing: that even if I don’t win the election, I will have “begun the conversation.” Can we please wake up from our slumber now? If I just want to “start a conversation,” I don’t need to run for office. As a matter of fact, it could be argued that many people are more open to hearing you if you’re not running for office. But America is not in a kinda-sorta-just-a-little-bit-of-trouble today. The issues I outlined above speak in a very real way to whether or not our democracy -- and in some cases human civilization as we know it -- will survive for another hundred years.
A nation, like an individual, is as sick as its secrets… as unhealed as its unlooked at places… and on its way to transformation to the extent that it’s willing to take a good look at itself and change course where needed. This is no joke in an individual’s life, and it’s no joke in a nation’s life. We need to do more than simply start a conversation. We need to start a movement. And the time to do it is now.