As Gina, Remy and I made the twelve-hour drive to our Florida beach cottage from our Tennessee country estate, we listened to an audiobook How Democracies Die: What History Reveals About Our Future by Steven Levitsky. This book shook both of us to the core. As we crossed the Florida line the guilt I felt for abdicating my expansive social network platform (over 40,000 followers) was overwhelming.
I mused to Gina, “Why must I wage this battle? Let younger folks do it. I am not a reformer at my core, I am an encourager. Why can’t I enjoy our early retirement in the wilderness and on the beach and let well enough alone? Why me?”
Why Me? Why Am I Back?
1. Because my personal mandala (see my latest book The Loss of Belonging to find yours) reveals that the single most important essential of my being is freedom. And I believe my freedom—your freedom—and our democracy are dying.
2. Because the past three weeks has revealed that I have hundreds if not thousands of voyeur readers and followers. Many who are afraid to speak out or comment, unable to like a post, or unwilling to admit they have been wrong, because of reprisal from their friends and family and church, because of religious repression, or because of pride.
3. Because I realized I have let a few well-meaning friends, my family who are hopelessly addicted to the outrageous lies of the Fox News propaganda machine, my former tribe who are primarily white nationalist evangelicals, and my pride—pressure me into not openly speaking the truth as I believe it in the hopes of future reconciliation and relationship.
4. Because in many ways (and for many years) I was one of them. A white male from the deep south. I vividly remember as an impressionable ten-year-old nailing homemade George Wallace signs up everywhere in our neighborhood—as a naive little kid having no idea how utterly despicable that man was.
I was a lifelong card-carrying Republican from 1976 until 2019 and I voted Republican in every election until 2016 when I voted Independent. I still have a gun carry permit and own several guns. I was an evangelical minister in two of the largest churches in the world for thirty years. Hell, I am still ordained.
5. But in many ways, I have changed. As the first person in my family to graduate high school (not to mention college) I gained a love for reading deep and wide and I became a voracious student of history. I missed a perfect score on the history section of the American College Test (ACT) by one point—a test score that earned me a full-tuition academic scholarship. The single greatest influence in my education was Mr. Thomas, a black man with a huge afro—my eighth-grade history teacher—who was the most intelligent man I had ever known. Mr. Thomas (not by his words but by his very existence) singlehandedly exposed the hideous lies and teachings of my racist religious and political upbringing.
I am now a registered Democrat. Do I agree with every facet of the party? No. Do I feel they have culpability in helping a demagogue like Trump get elected? Yes. Do I believe the Republican party and Evangelical Christians are killing democracy and taking away our freedom? Yes.
I support gun background checks and I detest the NRA and its vitriol propaganda with all my being. I believe religion is the single most destructive movement our world has ever known. And my view of god(s) and spirituality has evolved in ways I would have never dreamed.
But Why Me?
Perhaps because I am one of the few people I know on earth who has read the Hebrew Bible completely through several times including translating the New Testament from the original Greek. I have read the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, the Tao-te Ching, The Wealth of Nations, the Declaration, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, Churchill’s History of the English Speaking People, Plato’s Republic, Machiavelli’s The Prince, All The King’s Men, The Once and Future King, and the entire freaking Mueller Report, to name just a few.
Does that make me special? No. Does that make me smarter than you? No. But it does give me a political, religious, and historical context that few Americans have. A unique life experience from which to speak and objectivity that hardly any people share.
I have no idea where this will lead. But at least for the next 483 days, I pledge to fully exercise my unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To treat ALL people as equal since we are ALL human.
You would think these truths would be self-evident.
We must never forget that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.