I’m running! Not a race. Not a foot race anyway. But it’s a major milestone for me.
If you hang around me any amount at all, you know that I am somewhat politically inclined. You also know that I had a freak choking accident a couple years back that knocked me for more than a loop. In the scheme of things, I am pretty healthy, no diseases or meds at all, but if a body can be a jalopy in one wreak too many, that’s me and my body.
I have been thinking for a while though, that if I ever got over the knock down, I’d think about being more politically involved, I mean more than articles, blog posts, and memes, Facebook shares, an occasional political meeting and such. I guess I am fairly politically inclined already, but what I mean is, maybe run for something, if the time was ever right and the body able.
These last few months, I have made mega progress on the healing, starting to feel like a regular person again. And you know how it is when you have spent way too much time under the weather and you start feeling better…. No telling what a person in that condition will get into.
In the meantime, this last week, there was a lot of discussion about Alabama candidates getting their paperwork in for the upcoming elections, and then there was a nice article, in Left in Alabama, about running for a delegate position at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. I did a little bit of thinking, but not too much since the deadline was coming up quick. Plus, I’d already been thinking on running for something for a while, a looking for the right time, opportunity and body can do it kind of thing. I never honestly knew that people ran for those delegate positions, actually, in some states they are appointed and in others, such as Alabama, they are elected. So it varies.
Anyway, I had stopped by the Madison County Democratic Headquarters the other day to sign some petitions, to help make sure our folks were on the ballot for the upcoming Presidential elections. Signing those petitions is actually pretty important. We did all right this go around though. Alabama ended up with five Presidential candidates who will be on the upcoming Alabama Democratic Party ballot (Kennedy K. Brown, Hillary Clinton, Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, Martin J. O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders).
While I was there, I ended up talking to the person who wrote the article about being a delegate, Larisa Thomason. She goes by the hashtag #Countrycat. (I asked before mentioning her name, pen names, and all that.)
So anyway, unbeknownst to me, here I am talking to “#Countrycat.” How many times in your life do you read an article about something, any article, and you are thinking hard about what you read, and maybe considering following up, and then the next person you run into is the person who wrote that article. So I figured that must have been some kind of karma, or something.
I didn’t even know that Left in Alabama was local, actually they aren’t, but they got people in different parts of the state. They do such a good job covering Alabama’s political news, I had always assumed that they were in Montgomery, and some but not all of them are. It was good talking to her and by the time we were through talking, I figured it was time to get moving.
Since I’d been thinking about more politics for a while already, I figured that was just about as good as anything else for what to do next, learn about campaigning, and the business of politics, and I do believe I have a reasonably good chance of doing a good job as a delegate.
Word has it, around 300 people are running for a Democratic delegate position just in Alabama, so I sure got some competition (click here if you want to see who all is running from each district). I think it is awesome that so many people are getting excited about politics. It’s going to take that and a whole lot more to make some of the changes that need making, but it seems to me, a delegate campaign is a good place to start for a lot of folks. Some current office holders are running too, a number of active and involved folks are running from all over the state, so the competition is going to be stiff for this one.
The day after the qualifying ended, I headed down to Montgomery for some political training on running for office. I am looking at this delegate race as a learning experience. I’ll write some more about it along the way as well.
It is not just about, “Oh wow, I think I’d like to be a politician,” one thing that I learned in my career as a writer and editor is that people don’t always get good information about what is really going on, like in politics and such. A lot of that has to do with what gets covered and what doesn’t and how it all gets covered, I mean the slant on the stories. The slant is like who gets covered as the bad guy or the good guy in any given situation. Early in my career, I was most definitely on the conservative side. I still am on some issues, but most all of my friends in college at Alabama were Democrats, while I was a Republican. The change came some years after I got that first degree and I had covered one too many issues one too many times.
Politics And The Media
I remember saying to my publisher at the time, “There is no way I can stay the way I was with what I know now. I know too much to go back.” And I did. The funny thing is, he was a Republican, and there I was converting. And I sure did convert.
One thing a lot of people don’t realize about the media (TV stations, newspapers, radio, and websites too) is that for the most part, although they do have some Federal rules to follow, with some exceptions, and generally except for the smallest of the small, student media, and a few other, it’s mostly a business.
Some of the independent bloggers are really doing a good job of bringing some balance to it all these days, and I sure do like that about blogging, because when you get to major media operations, a lot of what you get when you think you are getting the news is really influenced by the business interests of the owners—what is going to get the most readers or viewers, or make the advertisers happy, not what is in the best interest of those readers. That can be hard to get your head around. Most of the bloggers I know are pretty passionate about what they do though.
Folks need to get past the idea that the media folks are doing some kind of charitable deed by providing news, they are not. It is a job. Whether they own the media or they work there, they are in it for the money. Money is not necessarily a bad thing though; I am not saying that at all, we all like a cart of groceries every now and then. What I am saying is that because of that, every single person in this country needs to learn to sort through what they see and read from any news media source out there, even the ones that they think are on the same side. They almost all have a bias. All that’s another story for another day. However, that reality was most definitely a part of my own coming of age, and most definitely an influence on how I regard politics, media, and everything related today.
Another thing I learned is that, for the most part, we all do the best we can with what we got, the information we got, and our place in this world. For some kind of reason, a whole lot of folks like to think that they have some kind of monopoly on hard work. That attitude doesn’t help a thing. Most of the people that I know really do work hard and they do the best they can with the resources they have, whatever those resources are.
As hard as we all try, the world is not equal, and some of us start at different places and have different resources to help us along the way. Like going through college, I could talk about kids today being lazy and I worked two jobs to get through college, and a lot of people sure do, but the thing is, college didn’t cost nearly as much back then as it does now. And every dollar I made went a whole lot further back then too. Comparing my situation with that of the kids in college today doesn’t cut it. It is not a fair comparison. The world is different and so is the economy.
I also learned that the minute we close our hearts and minds to what is really going on around us, we are all in trouble. I also realize that the hardest part of it all is cutting through the mountains of media and political bull to get to the truth of the matter, whatever the matter is at the time.
The powers that be sure don’t make it easy for you to do that. Life is a learning process. But one thing is for sure, and that is that the folks, albeit the powers that be, political and media both, do not make it easy for you to get much of a handle on much of anything that is really going on politically and the teacher in me is not happy with that point. How can we be informed citizens and voters when we don’t honestly have a clue what is really going on around us?
Speaking of teaching, I spent a few years as a teacher as well. When my kids were small, I was a substitute teacher in the Huntsville City Schools. Later, after I’d gone back to school for another degree, I taught at Virginia College, also in Huntsville. Actually, before all that, I taught a few piano lessons as well. There is something about being a teacher, teachers always feel like they need to be educating people on something.
That said, many of my editorial efforts have been of an informative/educational nature as well. I spent a while over at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) (contract capacity), where I helped edit some teachers’ guides for the folks out at NASA: rocket science, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education focused. It’s not just about building a rocket and getting to the next destination; it is also about educating our kids for the world that they are going to have to deal with and it is about remaining globally competitive in the increasingly technological world in which we live. I did other out there as well, and learned much.
NASA has contributed to our technological progress in many areas that have absolutely nothing to do with rockets. The point is, I sure do believe in a good education system. We need it to compete with the rest of the world. There are big plans in that area out at MSFC, it is not just about rockets, although it is most definitely about that too. For all the attention that Alabama gets about being backwards and illiterate, a whole lot of world-class technological development is done in this state and it looks like we are going to be breaking some new ground on STEM education as well. More on that later.
My Own Education
Speaking of education: I have a BA in Advertising/Communications from the University of Alabama, a BS in Behavioral Science from Athens State College (now Athens State University), and another BA in English from Athens State College. I am currently enrolled in an inter-faith seminary program with the Universal Life Church Seminary.
Although I have no intentions of pastoring a church, for a while, I have felt a growing need for more spiritual focus in everything I do, to grow in knowledge, understanding, and spirit. Long story, very short, I am also an ordained minister. My seminary path is more the orientation of a chaplain, healing, support role, and in line with various of my publication efforts, since my goal is not to convert anyone to my own brand of religion, but to work toward common understanding, support, and spiritual growth. Although I am not going to get too deep into that now, I sure do think we need more of that. There is no doubt, my outlook as a minister and seminary student influences much of what I do.
In addition to the awareness that we seriously need some change in this country, some of my motivations for running, issues if you will, and starting with a position as a delegate, is to use the platform to educate, the best as I am able, on some of the issues that I know are important but that do not always get the attention or the coverage that they should. Some of the issues that I think are important include:
- Ending the war on drugs. You heard me. If a person has a drug problem, they need treatment, not to be locked up in a cage. Locking people in cages because they have a medical or mental health problem, or for using a healing herb that God planted in the fields of this earth, and Jesus very likely used in his own anointing oils, is a human rights violation for which history is going to remember this country a thousand years from now. It’s just plain wrong. I have written a bit on the issue, but am going to leave it there for now.
- Mass incarceration, the prison industrial complex, and prison reform. We have a whole industry of folks who think success is measured by how many people they lock up for how long, and the longer the better. What happened to our humanity? What happened to our morals? And I am not talking about the morals of those behind the bars. There is more than one reason that I think spirituality is important.
- Healthcare reform and Medicaid expansion. The other day, one more time, I heard somebody talking about this country having the #1 medical system in the world. We did at one time, but now the only thing we rate #1 in medically is the most expensive. As to overall care, we are at the bottom of the list among other developed nations, and the last time a tally was made, we came up #37 in the world for the ranking of our medical system. The purpose of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), which even I admit has problems, is to start taking steps toward bringing our medical system back up to the standards of what is considered the civilized world. We’re not there yet.
- Ending the war on women’s health and access to healthcare. This war started under our noses and it is already escalating in many different and ominous directions. You’d think we’d be working to improve the care, #37 and all that, but not us.
- Education. We absolutely must keep up with the rest of the world when it comes to education. This is critical to the future well-being, not just of the individuals in this country, but to the country as a whole, and Alabama is lagging behind most of the nation.
- Get more money into the state so we can do a better job on all of the above. There are a number of options, but somehow or other, when it comes to such, our leaders perpetually shoot the foot of our entire state.
- End the frivolous lawsuits being filed by our legislators. When something has already been ruled on by the Supreme Court, our state spending the money to file a suit against them is a frivolous waste of our resources. Might as well flush it down a toilet. We could be spending that money on education, or better healthcare, or resources for our elderly, or to take care of our Veterans. Folks in our prison system filing lawsuits have been labeled frivolous, but I am not so sure that their lawsuits were ever frivolous at all, it is the politicians down in Montgomery filing frivolous lawsuits who are the problem.
- Reform our prison system. By the way, Alabama has an international reputation for some of the worst prisons in the world, under Federal orders to clean up their act and cut the overcrowding too. We got some serious changes that need to be made in that area as well. It is our people who are behind those bars, and if you don’t realize that yet, you get out even less than I do.
- Take care of our Veterans. Pushing homeless Veterans to the side when their bodies are no longer able to serve the needs of our defense industry is a blight against the humanity of our entire country. We must do better.
- Etc., I could definitely keep going, but I am going to stop there.
This is my first campaign, I got a lot to learn, and a delegate at a convention, even the Democratic National Convention, is not going to be getting in too deep from that end but it’s a start and that’s where I’m coming from politically.
We Need More Political Involvement
This is not just a me thing though. For the good of the state, Alabama seriously needs more folks to get involved in politics; good folks are needed at every single level of the system. I mean in both parties.
Another truth is that we seriously need more than one political party. Anytime you have a situation where there is only one real political party, that is not a real democracy; in fact, that particular situation is dangerous to the very survival of democracy. And it is pretty close to what we got here in Alabama. We all need to get past the idea that the folks on the other side are demons, or evil, or something.
We are so divided in this country, nobody wants to work together politically at all—no matter how much good they could be doing for the country. It could be that some of those realities have also influenced my inter-faith seminary path. It seems to me that people of faith, whatever the faith, should be able to come together to work together for the common good. From my heart and soul, I believe that.
Many of the early immigrants to this country came here looking for religious freedom, because they were persecuted for their religious beliefs in their own country. With that as our legacy, we surely do need to learn more tolerance toward those of other faiths, we all do, and we most surely need to learn to come together as fellow citizens on the things that are important to the well-being of us all.
For the well-being of this country and the people in it, we seriously need to both embrace and respect the differences between us. We really do need at least two political parties, but it’d probably be better if we had a few more. If there is only one party represented in any election, even if you are thinking, this is my party, this is a good thing—it is not a good thing at all. One unopposed candidate on any ballot is not a real election. And the elections have to be real to call it a democracy. No matter if it happens here or in some foreign country that we call a dictatorship, one name on a ballot is not indicative of a democracy.
The other thing is, if everybody sits around waiting for somebody else to do it, well anyway…. It is up to us all to do our part to make sure that the precious thing we call a democracy is passed on to the next generation. A whole lot more of us need to get out there to make the system work: i.e., we need a whole lot more names on those ballots.
The way I talk, you’d think I was running for president, or something, I’m not, but running for a position as a delegate is something that I can do. Although I have written about various political and social issues for years, and I have learned much about the issues along the way, I have never run for any office and I got a lot of things to learn about how political things work on a day-to-day level. My paperwork is in. I’ve been to my first training and I’ll be on the ballot in the spring, Alabama District #5. Y’all vote for me, vote for Larisa Thomason. #Countrycat, too.
It could be you see some other familiar names on the ballot as well. The political fire has been lit in Alabama. It is pretty clear that I am note the only one who is ready for some change. Come join us.
Copyright 2015 Regina Pickett Garson
All Rights Reserved