All politics is local.
A friend of mine tagged me on Facebook last night in an interesting thread. He had announced he was considering a run for city council. He said this:
“Looking to run against those that don’t see Redding as an opportunity. City Council first.”
Folks in the thread were encouraging of him, and he kindly responded to each in turn. The announcement happened earlier in the day and the tag for me was later in the evening. It said this:
That was it. Just a single line. Two words, to draw my attention. I asked him about it today and he told me he just wanted to hear what I thought about the idea. He’s not the kind of guy to waste words so he didn’t overly explain himself, he simply said that. He wanted to know what I thought.
I stumbled through a few words with him, telling him I thought it was a good idea. I asked him what he hoped to accomplish and I asked him, because I don’t know, what a city council does. We got sidetracked so he didn’t say. “All politics is local,” I eventually said, quoting some old phrase I’d heard.
I never got to say what I really wanted to say. I’m not even sure what it would have been.
Can we change the world?
The city of Redding is a terrible place. At least that’s what I’m told time and time again. In fact, as I told my friend today, I’ve heard that from several people just this week. I found myself saying, on each occasion, “I love this town.”
Each time I said it I was surprised. Is that true? Do I love this town?
There might be some people reading this today that think it isn’t possible. We have a homeless problem, some will say. We’re too conservative, others might argue. Too stifling to education. To growth. But I love this town. And I love California.
Redding has the weather I love. The summers. The winters. And it has the friendliest people I’ve ever met in my life. I’ve said it before, if I could go anywhere in the world at any time I’d go into my backyard in the summer. I love this town.
“What can I do to help?” I asked my friend.
I probably don’t ask that question enough.
But what about this town?
I tend to focus on the big picture. I know how to improve the nation. We need universal health care, quality affordable education, and stronger, more sensible gun laws. We need a plan to mitigate the damage of climate change. We need a progressive agenda in the United States. I’m on board with these things.
But locally, I’m stymied. Without national policies to correct economic inequality and to educate the masses, how can I make a difference? How do I help Redding become a better town?
I want to reach out to my friend and tell him I have good ideas for the city that I love. He reached out to me, and I am humbled by that. But as of today, I don’t know. I’m a smart and reasonable and learned man, but I really don’t know. At least not yet.
But I intend to be here, in this town, for a very long time. Probably the rest of my life. I help to run a local business here, and I intend to own that business someday. I intend to feel the Redding sun on my face for many years to come.
I can’t affect things on the national stage. I am not Beto O’Rourke or Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez. I’m just Tom.
But the fact that a friend of mine, who is seeking to make a change – seeking to improve the community he has adopted as his own – reached out to me … well, that changed me a little inside. It taught me.
I can make a difference.
Maybe a small one. Maybe I can help a friend make a decision. Or help a city improve. Maybe I can be a leader, too.
I ran a very small business some years back, and a cousin of mine would come out and help me run it on days when I ran behind. He used to tell me all the time that I missed my calling. That I should have been in politics.
I’m a slow learner. Not out of stubbornness but out of deliberation. I tend to think about things for a long time, try to see all sides of a situation, before I commit to a conclusion. That certainly doesn’t sound like modern politics to me. We go for the gut check in America. We shoot first and ask questions later. If ever.
I’m going to wind down. I’m going to go watch a TV program, maybe a movie, eat some Mexican food and sit with my wife and our golden boys. I’m going to let today sink in. I’m going to deliberate. And then whatever my friend needs I’m going to do. I haven’t decided that I know how to make Redding a better place, but I have decided that I want to try.
Redding is an opportunity. California is a great state. America can lead the world. The end is not near.
In point of fact, this is just the beginning. Please. Stay tuned.