As we start voting in yet another election in Nashville, it seemed only appropriate to put on a little metal and test my mettle by meddling once again in the arena where I have been previously de-legitimized (because I ran on an unusual platform with an unconventional approach). I asked a lot from those listening to the raving rambunctiousness of trying to rouse a little something-something. I can say I was pretty impressed by some members of the electorate and press, and stupefied by those who practice a prodigious productivity (mediocrity of medium need their own medals!) but still felt compelled to intervene. We can do better Nashville and you deserve better. I find it comforting to remember that the mass-man is everywhere on the march, in press and in the pens of social media, but there are others right beside him willing to stand for something.
Until then, we owe it to ourselves to stay clean and troll the power.
Written at request of the local paper, and then ultimately edited down to the bite-size bumper sticker BS more easily consumed with only two swipes of the phone-thumb, here is the original (not-even-that-long) mea culpa:
I’m Sorry I Ran for Mayor
An Exercise in Inclusion Invites Examination
That's on me. My bad. I deigned participate in the political process without pedigree or due grooming. Maybe I was suffering an identity crisis or maybe I truly am symptomatic of a deeper concern for the city shared by its’ citizens. As jeff carr frequently pointed out the baker's dozen slate included 10 non-politicians: a pretty solid showing for a demographic rarely involved on the stage (indicating loss of trust in our institutions and who manages them?). I ran a satirical platform with nuanced challenge aimed at highlighting our local problems, with tenets that could theoretically be applied to most governmental arrangements, social contract or no. I ran as the clown, the Joker, utilizing puns and wordplay throughout, peppering my manifesto with references from punk lyrics to the Frankfurt School, SDS to the Situationists, Pet Shop Boys to Air Supply, movies to Hegelian musings, and arguably plenty of hot political air to fluff. But what I didn't do was personally insult or call names, I rarely referenced individual's policies, preferring levity to libel. I asked that my arguments be dismissed on their merits and railed against logical fallacies from people and press. But t’wasn’t to be, and that's OK because it allows reflection.
Frequently misclassified, casually dismissed, I did not play the game. I detailed & denied the political theatre by breaking the 4th wall. The goal was not to get votes, it was to raise awareness and push a new style of platform, so I repeated the eponymous rhyming couplet: “Don't be a fool, Don't Vote for Sewell.” To some this indicated my arguments were invalidated. Accused of making “a mockery of Democracy,” firstly I ask, “where is the magical land whence you come and does it have free WiFi?” And secondly, I'm the effect, not the cause; the symptom, not the source. Let's not confuse cause and effect, or alternatively, causation and correlation. I approached my lot honestly: let's face it, I never had a chance; I never started any response with “As your mayor,” because that ain't me and it doesn't reflect reality. I held no fundraisers, no rallies, asked for no money and no volunteers. I ran on wild ideas from drug decriminalization to a maximum wage, converting streets to parks, and artwork as traffic calming measures. As the conduit to expand the political conversation, I even championed untamed dreams of transparency: providing a campaign website that literally included every single response to every submitted questionnaire; I'd dare to say I was one of the most open, honest, and accessible candidates running. To some that honesty was disqualifying.
While the reporting sufficed, the analysis suffered. Casually jumping between the two reveals the literary problem with including the reporter in the story. While my approach in style and substance intrigued many, others were repelled or found it repugnant. However, the ethical journalist should “Support the open and civil exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.” I challenge the idea that those who analyzed me in the press had the contextual grounding: it's more Jello Biafra, less Basil Marceaux (tho his campaign manager was a frequent consultant); more Abbie Hoffman, less Andy Kaufman (tho we're both actors who've wrestled at the Nashville Fairgrounds as the heel); less Taylor Swift flashiness, and more Jonathan Swift tongue-in-cheekiness.
It's fair to say I'm a new breed of candidate. My own modest proposal to enliven debate within the political theatre aimed to embrace, exploit, and expand the political landscape. The paradigm has shifted, so can the praxis. But the theoretical foundations still exist. Unfortunate for that strategy, we often discard theory in political debate in deference to optics and diplomatic pragmatism.
After a series of contentious civilly obligated conversations, I observe increase calls for “Inclusion.” However in context of my campaign, I call lip service on trite cliches. I am the unfamiliar and so got ignored, but my experience at every Mayoral Forum belies a greater need to engage. I often carried the room in a major hall, but can't get my foot in the door in the local political cliques: they're open for business not breaking bread. After the last forum at NOAH, my largest appeal was to women and people of color, frequently citing a “refreshing” new take. Even though I'm ironically a white male aged 18-45, I come at the issues with an honesty allowed by my satirical freedom. But I can't get engagement from the local political machine (including those that preach inclusion!), even tho I carry the qualifications: BA in PoliSci, BA in philosophy, MA from Vandy. One can argue I have a deeper contextual background than most of my detractors. “But you're the clown!” - When really they’re saying I'm the unfamiliar approach: informed substance in a satirical style, using self-deprecating attacks meant to reach an end. Inclusion shouldn't be checking demographic boxes: it's not just Ds and Rs in suits. Inclusion, like Plato’s virtue, is not a 'policy’ or name of a Mayor's office, it is a pattern of behavior: taking every argument on its merits, avoiding premature prejudice or misclassification and exploring the diversity of the human experience. So I speak up for the next clown, the next satirist, theorist, weirdo, freak, geek, comic, artist, anarchist, libertarian, socialist, hippie, hip-hop wordsmith, gangster rapper, introvert, outsider, excluded, marginalized, misclassified, edited, censored, poet, punk, philosopher, or dreamer positing big creative outlandish ideas, and who wants to share their vision of more seats at the table and bigger tables. When we impulsively dismiss what we don't understand we are all the clown.
Some people didn't like the cut of my jib, while others encouraged the direction I was sailing. Even though you don't need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows, who are we to tell someone they can't let their freak flag fly. Stay clean Nashville. See you on the other side.