[Trying something new. I’m writing captions to Instagram pictures as mini blog posts. Instagram allows only 2,200 characters, which forces me to think about what’s most important to say. I won’t blog like this all the time. I’m trying it out as a good writing exercise that I borrowed from my new friend Ken.]
I met Ken Woodward when he attended the opening of “A (GOOD) AMERICAN”, an art show I curated about the immigrant experience in America and what it means to be a good American. Ken is a middle-aged, heterosexual, suburban, white, male, former military, Christian Evangelical Trump voter who says he will not vote for the president in 2020. Though Ken did not believe Trump reflected his Christian values, he could not bring himself to vote for Hillary. He’d never before questioned voting a straight Republican ballot. Politics and faith had been intertwined.
He never questioned the policies his political party espoused because those policies did not adversely affect him. When he began examining politics separately from his faith, he saw that his faith dictated a moral obligation to look out for others even when politics said otherwise.
Around the same time, the movement to support Colin Kaepernick was growing and politics became personal when he realized the policies his party supported could kill his African-American son. He began to see the ways in which he had been the beneficiary of institutions that reinforced a world in which a man like him never doubted his right to exist freely and fearlessly.
Ken began a Year of Connection to ask questions that helped him understand this power structure he had blindly accepted and to understand how people unlike himself experienced the world. He voted for a Democrat for the first time in the midterms.
Ken often fumbles as he awkwardly navigates these frank, provocative conversations using his new set of eyes. “I’m probably going to make a mess of it. I’m willing to try even though I won’t always get it right.”
Leading by example, Ken encourages others to speak with people unlike themselves. He shares questions at curatedquestions.com to help start those conversations.
“You don’t have to agree with everyone. You only have to show respect.”
I deeply admire Ken’s quest for knowledge, his humility, and his willingness to change the world order to one that does not automatically place him at the top. He no longer allows a political party to determine how to vote. This self-determination seems very American!