I used to love politics, but then I grew up. That’s not a dig at adults who still love politics. It’s simply to say that as I got older and more aware of my personal experience, my affinity for the political world diminished.
In high school, I loved to debate. I had one teacher, who after I spent hours defending a fellow student who had been removed from the drama club, tell me I should be a car salesman. I’m not sure he meant it as a compliment, but my friend was allowed to return to the club.
My school encouraged debate. We had civic classes where we were given opposite sides of an argument and we fought for our causes. We held mock trials in our English class using the facts of our last reading assignment to persuade a jury our side was right. With both of these scenarios, we were all working from the same set of facts.
College was much of the same. I was a nonreligious gay boy attending a Southern Baptist school in the mountains of North Carolina during the reign of Jesse Helms. I guess one could say I like a challenge.
There was a great deal of adversity there, but I found support in friends and faculty and argued my way into the college president’s office with the goal of organizing an LGBTQ-related support group. I was successful.
After graduation I focused a little more on building my future and fighting the good fight, but I always stayed in touch with my political self. Of course this means I voted and watched Bill Maher and Jon Stewart.
Although I can definitively say it’s been during my 21 years at Watermark, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when my relationship with politics began to wane. In 2002 the LGBTQ community didn’t have the support it does today and the community engagement wasn’t as strong. We were building that community on a grassroots level. We were advancing our rights and it felt good.
So what changed everything for me? Was it the Tea Party? Newt Gingrich? 24-hour news? The internet? Maybe it was a combination of all of those, culminating in the battle of extremes — MAGA versus Woke.
When extremes prevail, tribalism prevails and the truth is no longer the truth, facts get distorted and hyperbole becomes reality. It becomes harder to discern the crazy. In a binary world of conservatives versus liberals, I don’t think either side is immune from this threat.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s always been like this and I am just now seeing behind the curtain and realizing the wizard isn’t what I thought he was.
The one thing that hasn’t changed though, is your right to be heard. It’s time to vote, so vote. Collectively we have a strong voice, but only if we take advantage of it and use our vote. This isn’t the time to sit on the sidelines. I won’t succumb to the notion and regurgitate the sentiment that this is the most consequential election of our time, but I will say it is as consequential as they all are. Our rights are on the line, your rights are on the line, vote for them.
It’s not just important to look at the governor’s race or the senate race, you need to be educated in all of them. What happens in a school board meeting affects your life, whether you have kids or not. What happens to trans kids affects your life, whether you are trans or not. We are all in this together: The L, the G, the B, the T and the Q. The very least we can do is walk into a voting booth and anonymously vote to preserve the rights of all of us.
If we can do this simple task and stand strong together, wade through the lies and misconceptions to help our vulnerable community and the most vulnerable within our community, then we might find a reason to love politics.
In this issue of Watermark, we take a look at who is on the ballots and ask the candidates five simple questions to help you decide where they stand on the issues that directly affect our community. Please take the time to read through it and supplement it with your own research.
We strive to bring you a variety of stories, your stories. I hope you enjoy this latest issue.