This post also appears in Pierce's Medium blog.
I am not always sure where to begin one’s story of sociopolitical identity. Figuring out how much generational context to offer is itself something of a puzzle. Here are the pieces, and we will go from there:
My parents are socially liberal, with mixed views on fiscal policy. Growing up, however, neither I nor my parents had much of an understanding of systemic oppression. Most of the egalitarian, anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-classist education I received was along the lines of Be Kind to All, and Mindful of Those Less Fortunate — noble, necessary, and ultimately insufficient.
I learned bits and pieces of social justice throughout high school and college. But my understandings did not really deepen until after I turned vegan. Looking at the world through an animal-rights lens, I was able to see the ways we perpetuate Human Supremacy, though removed enough from the oppression to understand it more sociologically than “reactively”. This set me up for a better understanding of other issues.
Thus was my situation when I entered grad school with the Institute for Humane Education. I took a course each in Human Rights, Animal Protection, Environmental Ethics, and more. I got involved with Youth Empowered Action, where I currently teach activist-education every summer to young activists. Grad school and summer camp supplemented each other very well. They say teaching is the best way to learn something.
It was in the midst of studying the intersectionalities and nuances of all these injustices and justice-movements that my mom passed on. She also passed on her wealth, which is much less personal and much more of a process than the sentence implies.
While reflecting on the responsibility I would also be inheriting, it was the executive director of my grad program who connected me to Resource Generation, a non-profit that organizes folk with privilege to leverage it for the sake of those without.
We will always have gaps in our understanding of social justice. RG helped me fill in some of mine: processing, learning, and collaborating with folk asking similar questions, and doing similar self-work. I dove in, writing about my experiences with family and financial advisors, and serving on the National Campaign Committee. It was in this social circle that I first learned about Patriotic Millionaires. When they sent me some literature, I called to ask them to not send me any more mail (I hate mail), and we got to talking.
Erica and I hit it off immediately. We talked politics. She talked about what the Patriotic Millionaires do. I talked about my upcoming Great American Activist Road Trip, primarily across the South, to interview community-led initiatives to soundboard/highlight their work, while (micro-)demonstrating in front of places I believe need more critical feedback. Erica and I both talked about the platform that this could provide in furthering the voice of Patriotic Millionaires across the US.
Those are the pieces. Here is my bottom line:
I have admittedly put a lot of energy into critiquing this country. I enjoy problematizing in general (I think a lot of us do). Many of my more conservative family and friends cite this as a problem when we discuss socio-politics. I do not. Though critiquing can be done in harmful ways (and there are plenty of folk who practice that — from all political parties), critiquing does not, it itself, have to be problematic.
I want to clarify when discussing these issues with any and all, conservatives or liberals: I love the communal values we generally hold dear as citizens and residents, including those espoused in the constitution. That is precisely why I advocate for all the things I advocate for.
Loved ones care about what happens to those they love. Patriots do not ignore what happens to the country. They get involved.
I love that my country does not arrest me for criticizing it. At the same time, I am not going to settle there. That is a low bar for inspiration. Guardians want their children to be lawyers because they want their children to be fulfill themselves, and because they value lawyers. I want my country to care for all its citizens and residents because I value care, and because I want my country to fulfill itself.
The more I learn about finances, the more I realize how expensive it is to literally do anything, let alone run a nation.
We need infrastructure. We need schools and hospitals and housing. We need parks and green spaces. We need support systems for small — actually small — businesses. We need services, and we need a government sufficiently staffed to efficiently provide all these things. Currently, a DMV appointment might take the whole day — and I do not fault the DMV for that.
I fault our unjust tax system. If we are going to achieve all the things we need, then we need equitable taxes. Of course we all have different ideas about what that means. And that means we need conversation. As a Patriotic Millionaire, I believe equitable taxations means progressive taxation, that rises far more proportionately than it currently does. It means a tax that honors the edifying value of work, and not simply the insidious value of wealth. It means taxation that justly funds the things we need to get done as a united country: not as rich, or as poor.
I have not solved the puzzle yet. The point of any puzzle is the mental exercise, not the final image.
You will hear more from me as I continue to blog for the Patriotic Millionaires, and embark on my coming road trip. I hope to hear from you, too. Conversation creates the space for change, and change is what we need. And in addition to being a Patriot, I am a social justice nerd.
Thank you for showing up.