Today I began my first public campaign for office. I am running for city-council district 9 in Indianapolis, in one of the most Democratic districts in the city. Currently the incumbent is leaving, a right-leaning Democrat, and the only candidate running to take her place is currently on a local board of education. Why not give him some competition? I am a professor of sociology/international studies at three local universities (Butler, Marian and IUPUI), so being steeped in the social science research literature I should have the background to provide an intellectual challenge to current ideas about tackling our social and economic problems, which have for far too long been addressed abysmally by market fundamentalists from both parties.
Today began with a meeting with a local political activist who has taken me as a cause and motivated me to stop being lazy. We met today for what I thought would be a discussion about my politics, but turned out to be a day of street canvassing, my first. I thought it would be dreadful, since it is stressful and draining for me to talk to strangers. However, it was actually fun. We canvassed several streets for 5 hours. About half of the houses were vacant, and another quarter appeared to have occupants, but nobody was home. The houses where we actually had people talk to us were exciting, because almost every person signed my petition for candidacy, and many of them had insightful questions, comments, and stories. We were in one of the poorest areas in my district, but also one of the lowest crime rates.
After 20 years of being a religious protester against politics and voting (Mennonite-leaning), ten years of studying the sociology of poverty as a researcher/professor, and two years of living in a blighted area where unemployment, vacant houses, and a government that ignores the poor while subsidizing large corporations, I've come to the realization that while we never read about Jesus advocating that anybody go into public office, he clearly wanted us to serve the poor, and since contemporary U.S. poverty is perpetuated on the structure of poor governance, stepping into governance seems like a good place to start.