When I decided to run for Congress five months ago, I knew from the outset that I did not want to run a conventional campaign but to try something altogether different. The last thing I wanted to do was to become another politician, instead, I yearned to do my part to change the callowness of our public discourse and offer an alternative to the “us vs them” rhetoric that is Balkanizing our country and tearing society apart.
What I did not mention at that time was that I was enduring a family ordeal that made the two-year bout of homelessness I encountered in 2015 seem like child’s play in comparison. It was in the throes of this hardship that I decided to run for Congress, the echoes of my father who passed away in 2001 rang in my ear as his spirit beckoned me to turn a moment of difficulty into an occasion of inspiration.
That is when the idea of running for Congress dawned upon me, instead of seeing myself as a victim of life’s circumstances, I refused to give my hand to ennui and acted decisively to pursue a goal that I thought about a decade earlier. Challenging moments in this way are a blessing as long as we don’t let our hearts become infested with bitterness, instead of pointing fingers, I was forced to look in the mirror and become introspective in order to learn and do better going forward.
It was then that it dawned upon me the folly of our politics and the flawed way of my outlook that would end up transforming the way I viewed life and formed the basis of my campaign. What I learned during my two years of homelessness is that division is the source of inequality in America and beyond. Seeing a sea of humanity suffering from poverty and hopelessness made me realize that the only way we can alleviate strife and stand up for justice is by speaking up for our common humanity. As long as we seek redress through the lens of our differences, we only end up enhancing the very iniquities we think we are fighting against.
I spent the next seven years fighting against the status quo while seeking unity and writing about the commonalities of humanity’s pains. Yet, without realizing it, I became divisive as I was speaking against division. In all honesty, I became anti-establishment and spent an exorbitant amount of time writing against the status quo while offering little by way of solutions. Without realizing it, I became the very same things I railed against because focusing on the outrage of the world and pointing out the transgressions of “the ruling class” only incites emotions while taking us away from a common purpose that is needed to advance justice.
Over the course of the last five months, as I was running for Congress, I walked further and further away from my old views and arrived at this new outlook. The only way we can course correct as a country and as humanity is if we realize we are all in this together. From prince to pauper, and all in between, we need to understand that our fates are intertwined. In this way, any form of “us versus them” only adds logs to the fires that threaten to mushroom into something that seemed unimaginable only a few years ago.
I started campaigning by vilifying billionaires and those who hoard riches while most of us struggle to keep up with inflation. Now I realize that all of us have our hands in the current mess we are in, the issue is not about amassed fortunes but the poverty of the heart that is infected with unquenchable greed instead of finding joy through collective prosperity. It is easy to bash Bezos or Zuckerberg but most of us have our hands in a system that rewards self-attainment above communal wellness.
We can march all day, protest until the sun goes down and demand that our government enact laws that will address our plights but all of it will be for not unless and until we treat each other as brothers and sisters in a common walk. E pluribus unum has it wrong, truly we are many from one, only by understanding our oneness can we realize the promises that were enumerated in the Declaration of Independence.
It is with this in mind that I am course correcting, no longer will I play into the divides and will only speak to our connective humanity. I understand that doing so is not the best move when it comes to being competitive in an election because our politics is all about fracturing society and demonizing “the other side”. But I’ve said from the very beginning that I would rather make a difference instead of winning by becoming a typical politician.
What I want voters to take away from my campaign, no matter the outcome, is that a “regular person” just like them did his best to represent their interests while living their struggles. Langston Hughes once wrote “Life Ain’t Been a Crystal Stair”, I ponder this beautiful poem as I write this article at Busboys and Poets in Shirlington. Very few, I dare say no one, reading this can look throughout their life and say they’ve had it easy, yet the beauty of living is that even the hardest journeys can lead to profound gratitude when we realize that adversities birth purpose and gratitude
Though I’ve been through a lot in life, I have much to be grateful for and chief among them is that I have an amazing son whom I want to understand that love is the only antidote to the vagaries life can deliver and that the only difference between victor and victim is the perspective one takes after setbacks. This is the wisdom that I’ve learned over time that has enabled me to rise above one heartbreak after another, gratitude has been my saving grace. The full story I will detail in a book one day, but for now I am going to campaign for Congress and pursue a dream that is only possible because my parents sacrificed everything in order to arrive in America as immigrants exactly 40 years ago.
As for the road going forward and what happens going forward, I’ve learned to take things as they come. If there is a place for someone who speaks of empathy and the imperative of solidarity that transcends our differences, only time will tell. As a person of faith, I will do my part and leave to God the rest, whatever the outcome, I will count my blessings and do so with humility. Because the greatest lesson I take away from this journey is that the division that is gashing society will never be lessened unless we first tame our egos.