I registered to vote for the first time in the fall of 2012.
Honestly, it's a little embarrassing to say that. I have always been opinionated, I have always been willing to speak up about my point of view when people around me started talking about current events or the latest political firestorm in the news. But like nearly half the adult population of this country, I thought that actually casting a vote was unlikely to make much difference. I worked 12 hour days in an ironworks factory. I was a new father. I counted change leftover at the end of each pay period. Weighing the possibility of putting my weary feet up, against spending what little I had to get on another bus to go stand in line to vote seemed like no choice at all.
In 2008, while the entire nation was set ablaze with passion—for or against—towards the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama, I was deployed to Iraq. Even there in the desert, 6,000 miles away, there was talk of little else. After that election, for the first time I began to realize that the decisions of elected officials actually impacted me directly. With that awakening came a desire to dig deeper into the issues, and into the people championing them. I wanted to begin to understand, to learn, and to express my choices behind it all.
That awakening is now happening across this region, and the nation, in dramatic fashion. Record numbers are turning out at town halls, at marches, in grassroots action meetings, and even in voting booths with the few special elections that have taken place in the last three months. We are a nation of people humbly saying, "I am apathetic no more."
On January 21st of this year, I marched in Washington D. C. I was overcome with emotion. As when I was in Baghdad, I had another sudden understanding of what was happening on a grand scale. This time, though, it wasn't just about how it impacted me. It was the realization that millions of people in this country are terrified. We are terrified of what could happen to everything we've fought for, literally and figuratively. Civil rights. Environment. Education. Decades of blood, sweat, and tears could be erased in moments and pen strokes. But these millions are not only terrified. We are angry. And we are motivated.
In the days after the Women's Marches all over the globe, cynics said, "It's just whining. It's just sour grapes. It's just lazy people crying who won't actually do anything." Over and over I heard in person and in the media, "Yes, but what comes next?"
We study. We build. We prepare to fight in ways that can impact lives for the better.
This is what comes next.