The thing is, politics is people. We’ve forgotten that element crucial to the whole purpose of representative government in pursuit of partisanship, preferential treatment for certain well-connected folks and complicity in the cause of violence to protect us from our most irrational fears. And what are people? People are stories, plain and simple. Every moment of every life is the creation of a tale, too often for too many never told.
Running for the Democratic Party nomination for Mayor of Lancaster City this spring got me thinking a lot about narratives and stories. I encountered so many people in the community and was shocked by whose stories are told and whose are ignored or outright suppressed. I ran for office, so now people call me a politician. But to me, politics is simply another vehicle to help build each other up. Though the power is systemic, not symptomatic, the opportunity is just another one for us to build better narratives together for ourselves and our companions on the journey.
Yet, there are barriers to politics as a social good. The influence of money in politics is neither new nor caused by recent political buzzwords like “Citizens United” even if the recent trajectory has become accelerated. In many ways, money in politics was historically something we couldn’t fight or avoid. Today isn’t yesterday’s history though, and the advancements in mass, accessible, uncontrolled information mean the big five or six media companies cannot sell the official record to the highest bidder. There is a greater influence than money in politics. The art of politics is the art in politics. Unless you’re paying voters, money itself has to buy its influence from somewhere else, a commercial on TV or the radio, a speaker to come talk at a fundraiser, “greeters” at the polls pretending to love a candidate they know little about.
"My generation and those to follow won’t stand for the politics of shit."
But we wanted to do it differently, so we took in-kind donations instead of begging for cash. The influencers in my case (amongst others) would be, the poetics of a candidate (me), the graphic design (my sister-in-law Aly Pursell), the videographers (Star Bunner, Adam Serrano and Paul Hunt), the content curator and peddler (Communications Director Phil Cabassa) and the organizer keeping it together (Campaign Manager Oliver Truong). We believe politics can be insulated from being bought.
The future of politics isn’t the person who raises the most money to buy propaganda to assassinate the character of well-meaning neighbors trying to become civil servants. That’s the dead and dying past. My generation and those to follow won’t stand for the politics of shit. The politics of hope and aspiration will be driven by the innovators of content in a world where the Art History of today shifts in mere days the way it used to in decades. Kids in basements with cell phone cameras catching millions of YouTube views before they’re mimicked out of the zeitgeist unless they change and keep up. What hasn’t been told before and how? The future of politics will dig deeper and the thirst of the voter will require more depth, not secrecy.
The only disappointment from my time as a candidate is that it ended before all the bands wanting to play free community concerts had the chance, before more artists wanting to create digital content could be showcased, before our events helping highlight people wanting to share their poems and stories. No need to worry, you don’t have to run for Mayor to tell your stories or to help create a platform for your neighbors to tell their stories. There’s more to come, but I’mma need your help. We change the world together. What’s your story? What’s your neighbor’s? This community isn’t this community without everyone who lives in it.
The future of power needn’t be money, and honestly we’re all damned if it is, because those who take the most for themselves don’t really ever put the interests of others first. But the storytellers, the artists? The only thing the creators know is how to highlight the plight. The future is now—capture and disseminate the truth, my friends.
Written by Kevin Ressler
Photo Credit: Aly Pursell and Adam Serrano