Community Engagement

I'm not a fan of social media and the messages I see back and forth on the internet, especially in 2017. Rhetoric from the right, with just as much rhetoric coming from the left. Arguing to be perceived as correct seems to hold more importance than actually being correct. Furthermore, it seems as though with more and more voices being spoken through the many outlets of social media, there are fewer individuals willing to actually work to try and bring change to that which they do not enjoy.

Everybody knows I'm a fairly liberal guy. I'm pro LGBTQ rights, I want to see the federal government stop demonizing marijuana use, I feel that women have the right to make independent decisions involving their livelihood and should be compensated equally both in personal and professional endeavors, and I also believe that something as random as the production of melanin determined prior to birth should bear no weight on the way others are to be treated in their professional lives or in their personal pursuit of happiness. I also hold conservative values to be true, I believe in paying taxes to pay for a police force that makes my neighborhood safer, but I also believe that government will never be able to keep me safe at all times, so I should have the right to own a firearm to protect myself from those who would do harm to me or my family. I believe that hard work and determination can make great things occur,

Two things I heard constantly growing up. Don't judge a book by its cover, and become the change you want to see in the world. If I were to simply be labeled as a liberal, the value that I could have added to the conservative community could be lost on them entirely. If labeled as a gun nut, people who fear gun owners could question my motives altogether. Labels are easy. It's easy to compartmentalize people as crazy and avoid them. It's easy to not create conflict with someone you know you disagree with. What is difficult, is creating relationships and communicating with others in the space they occupy. It's challenging because, at best, all you can do is hope to bring them halfway home. It should never be my goal to change someone's opinion, but rather get to a point where we can mutually see the context to the "why" that lies behind the opinions we hold true to ourselves. If you can come together in that middle ground, then it is easier to deal with the fact that "I'm not changing his mind" because you are still growing as an individual. 

Every time I go into a situation with the attitude of "I want him to see why I'm right and change their ways to be in line with my thinking," I leave myself vulnerable to the frustration of them still not agreeing with me at the end of the conversation. Clearly, I'm right, so why is it that they continually choose to be wrong? On the contrary, approaching an identical situation with the attitude of "Why do they believe this to be true?" can leave us open to the opportunity of finding out where our similarities truly are.

Not finding this online, I've been busy in the real world. I reached out to GOP gubernatorial candidate, Tommy Ahlquist to come in and share his conservative blueprint for Idaho's future. Yes, we disagreed on a lot of social issues, but his background as an ER doctor and my history of managing support for the Affordable Care Act made for a great conversation about why he wants to see a change in the current health care system. We also passed around ideas of how small business needs to play a part in the growth of community.

Tommy was willing to talk to me, and that really surprised me. Other candidates could have thought I was a waste of time, just some tattooed liberal with one way of thinking. At the end of the day, I'm more interested in the person who is willing to meet others halfway. Outside of the great experience, I think it is important to note that the only way this can work is to be genuinely willing to have a conversation with somebody you might not agree with. If you hope to make any progress that benefits everybody, but you find it difficult to achieve middle ground, find ways to involve yourself with the success of things you do support, and that is a principle that needs to begin with normal citizens like you and me.

Real Talk - Nobody wants to talk about abortion. The pro-life/pro-choice discussion is seldom productive online, and difficult to not get heated over while face to face. Planned Parenthood is an organization that is synonymous with the word "abortion." When I was 17, I volunteered with an organization called Rock for Life, and I held signs on the side of the road and in front of what we called "Abortion clinics." Disgusting imagery and shame were being used to deter women from making an already difficult decision that impacted the rest of their lives. Fast forward to 31, and I have a much better understanding of what services are offered at Planned Parenthood, and how they create safer communities through education and assistance. It's not the abortion factories I was led to believe they were. Yes, they do perform a service that sparks controversy, but they also offer many other affordable services to low-income communities to ensure sexual health and protection. I keep reading news articles and get text message updates that constantly keep me informed about the danger they face with the current administration. Despite the fact there may be a service that we disagree on, there is a tangible good to the community that is at risk, and I ask myself, "What can I do?" I'm no politician, my label is nothing more than "that tattooed liberal" I recognize that I don't have much of a voice against those who don't want to hear it, but I had an idea and some follow-through.

I may not be able to change the world, but I can contribute to the parts that I want to see grow. If more of us spent less time arguing over Facebook & Twitter, and a few moments talking to someone outside of our own bubble, I truly believe we'd start forging the change we all want to see