As a kid I saw my father enter into, and subsequently lose, two elections in the mountains of Colorado. One for Garfield County Sheriff and again for County Commissioner of the same county. Garfield County, especially in those years, but even still now, is a a rural, aging, “For Love of God and Country,” type of place. As a kid I experienced my white peers using some of the most vile and racist terms imaginable in everyday conversations. My parents, like my grandmother before them, were “Yellow-dog Democrats” and still are to this day. For a time my dad chaired the county’s democratic party, both my parents were involved in civic life, trying to make our town, our community, and our county a better place.
As mentioned, we lost. To be honest he didn’t stand a chance. I think my dad didn’t even believe he’d win the Sheriff’s race, but I know he thought he had a shot at commissioner – and he worked his ass off to get there. And nevertheless we couldn’t pull off a victory. By the time my dad was running for Commissioner, I was in college at The University of Texas (the greatest university on the planet – as stated by the commencement speaker at my graduation). I had become a citizen of Texas and would cast a ballot that November in hopes of Al Gore becoming the next president of the United States – mind you, W was governor of the state I was voting in at the time – talk about having no shot of winning – poor Al, not in Texas, buddy. That didn’t stop myself or my friends from voting for him, and later driving past the Governor’s mansion shouting “Gore Got More,” every chance we got.
I have believed in the power of free and fair elections and our civic duty to vote since before I was able to cast a ballot myself. I believe in people and that while I don’t agree with their views on certain things, those beliefs come from somewhere, some experience that means something to them. I believe in Democracy, fair discourse, and good old Southern manners. I have never skipped an opportunity to vote, I’ve voted absentee when needed, by mail, by early drop off, and by showing up at the polls. This is all to say, I hold dear that all people have a voice – and using it is important.
Early in this midterm election cycle an inspiring young Democratic Congressman from the great state of Texas began to get attention due to his bid for the much despised by people in my party, Ted Cruz’s seat in the US Senate. Now, y’all, Texas has been Red for a hot minute, and while he was so inspirational I, like many others, thought there was just no way. No chance, not in Ted Cruz Texas in Donald Trump America. Then this campaign began to pick up speed, and the name Beto O’Rourke began to be recognized by people all over the United States, not to mention the world. People like myself began to follow diligently, donate money, and pin our hopes for the future of Texas and a beam of sunlight for the United States Senate. In short, I became part of the Beto base – and followed his race more closely than some races in my home state of Colorado.
Here’s what I learned about myself watching this campaign, this man and his team, and Texas. While in the shadow of the America we allowed, the Trump America, the Cruz America, the Kavanaugh America, myself, like so many other people had become beaten by the destructive evil of our America. The racism and bullying have become a daily occurrence that starts at the top and trickles down. However, there are still people like Beto O’Rourke out there. People who still believe in others, even in the red state of Texas. There were the hopeful faces seen through his open sharing on Facebook Live where we got to meet the people of Texas and see exactly what and who he was fighting for.
And he lost. And I was heartbroken for Texas and America and what future I had to explain to my boys when once again, fear and divisiveness, bullying and lies, defeated hope and good.
Then the Wednesday after election day, Beto did another Facebook Live, this time in a t-shirt and ball cap, in his family kitchen, with his amazing team and kids all hanging around and he said:
“Losing this election doesn’t diminish my faith in Texas or in this country.”
It’s then I realized, neither does it mine. My brother-in-law once said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “It’s not our job to diminish evil in the world, it’s our job to go on being good people in spite of it.”
I had forgotten that, and thanks to Beto O’Rourke and his family, his community in El Paso, and his team, I remember.
So I vow to not be diminished and not in a “Smash the Patriarchy” way that I had been raging, but in the way I was raised: Lift your head and your voice and your hope and the hopes of others around you. Because Beto’s vision and leadership is what I want to see more of in our communities and especially in our leaders. So, thank you Beto, and Texas, for showing me and my kids there is still hope in the world and there are good people going on doing the good work in spite of all the obstacles we face. And to all of the good people out there, Democrat or Republican, thank you for committing to serving your communities, whether I agree with your policies or not.