Teddy Fikre’s Closing Reflection: A Resounding Rejection of the Politics of Division

It took nearly two and a half years of homelessness to understand this one immutable truth that is the foundation of my Congressional campaign—pain doesn’t differentiate based on our differences. There was one particular event while navigating shelters and soup kitchens that taught me the interconnected nature of human suffering.

The heartrending yet clarifying moment occurred in South Carolina when I witnessed a seven-year-old white girl by the name of Samantha eating in a cafeteria among the rest of us broken souls. Seeing such a young child having to endure poverty and eating donated food deeply impacted me, I cried uncontrollably for nearly twenty minutes.

In that instant, I shed tribalism from my eyes and learned to have empathy for others irrespective of their differences. Before I met Samantha and prior to experiencing destitution, I used to view life through the prism of the very divisions I now actively campaign against. I fell into the trap of identity and ideologically based politics as I clapped on the Democrats, bashed Republican voters and collectively placed the ills of the world at the feet of white people.

Homelessness opened my eyes to the deception of our political system and how We the People, on all sides of the social and political spectrum, are continually gaslighted into believing that others who struggle just like us are our foes. Instead of realizing that the vast majority of us are being fleeced by a system that enriches a few while impoverishing so many, we are conditioned to bicker with each other while depending on those who are thriving through the status quo to change it.

After escaping the abyss of destitution and rejecting the politics of “us versus them”, I spent nearly four years bemoaning the state of our politics and railing against the establishment. Without realizing it, I was fueling the very antipathy and indifference that is leveraged by politicians and media personalities to prevent any meaningful changes from coming to fruition.

A moment of reflection last winter finally led me to understand what my father used to tell me all the time. We have a choice in life, we can either point out the ills of the world or we can be a part of the solution by offering our ideas. It was that moment of clarity that led me to run for Congress eight months ago; no more would I rant about the transgressions of our government and the injustices that are being committed in our names by those we entrust with power, I decided to take Mahatma Gandhi’s advice and to be the change that I want to see. 

I took the unconventional path instead of relying on politics as we know it to make my case before constituents as to why they should entrust me with their votes. The easiest way would have been to run as a Democrat or a Republican and to raise boatloads of money from corporations and special interests, but my aim from the outset was not to be a politician but to offer an authentic alternative to an electorate that is fed up with the brokenness of our governance. My decision came with a burden, I had to continue working while campaigning and I had to wear many hats in order to field a viable campaign.

Never one to shy away from an impossible task, I went about collecting 1500 signatures on my own in order to qualify for the ballot and talking to thousands of constituents along the way. I did so while working full-time as an IT Project Manager and driving Uber part-time to make ends meet. Built on equal parts faith and hard work, I did my part by dedicating as much effort as I could muster over the past eight months in order to get my message out to the broader public.

Here we stand a day before Election Day and I continue to work relentlessly in order to meet as many voters in between two jobs and caring for my three-year-old son. The rest I am leaving to faith as I put my trust in people just like you to spread the word about my candidacy. I’ve been saying all along that the power of a united people can more than match the power of the few who thrive by dividing us. 

If you take a step back from the never ending outrage and sensationalism that are being spun up to medicate us into compliance, the cunning of our political system comes into clear focus. Demagogues are propped up by both parties to weaponize the legitimate pains of people who are suffering under the weight of economic anxieties and social inequalities in order to blame the “other side” and fracture America along tribal lines.

Instead of addressing the root causes that are leading tent cities to proliferate in cities and towns throughout our country, Democrats and Republicans offer platitudes and gaslight their constituents into pretending that they are fighting for them by demonizing others who are equally powerless and struggling to make ends meet. As long as we remain polarized, both parties get to blame each other for the dysfunction taking place in DC while they collude behind the scenes to enrich themselves and their wealthy benefactors.

In this paradigm of divide and distract, social justice has been turned into a wedge issue in order to prevent a coalition of people from coming together in order to defend our collective right. Social ills, ranging from racism, sexism, crime, and a wide range of issues that are impacting the lives of so many people around America, will continue to get worse. If we want to alleviate suffering and the anger that is leading to more incidents of violence and strife, we must do so by addressing root causes and enacting policies that empowers people to fulfil their potential.

Ultimately, if we are going to make a U-turn away from the path of social and economic implosion we are seemingly on as a nation, we must do so through a path of inclusion that transcends all divisions. Though I make a point of highlighting the economic disparity that is evident in our country, my aim is not to vilify the rich nor to demonize anyone. 

All of us, from billionaires to the homeless, are ensnared by a system that is robbing our common humanity and replacing it with greed and selfishness, the only way we can course correct is by valuing our interdependence instead of castigating each other and thinking that animosity will alleviate suffering and drive out darkness. In the end, both science and faith affirm this one principle: we are many that came from many. Only by striving towards common bonds can we truly bend the long arc of history towards justice.

Beyond the connective tissue of injustices that affect so many people around the world and the commonality of our pains and hopes that rise beyond our differences, there is one other lesson that I learned that I want to close out this campaign with. I would not be standing before you as a candidate nor would I have risen out of homelessness and have a blessed son who is the light of my world if I gave my hand to anger and bitterness.

I do not blame many who turn towards rage and animus, after all, I too once harbored those feelings when I lost everything. I learned in time that anger and grievance are prisons that lock us up into a perpetual feeling of hopelessness and helplessness. Yet that is precisely what our politics is about as solutions keep taking a back seat to incitement and demagoguery. It is time for us to move beyond the tribes of “blue” and “red” states and the way we keep being Balkanized through the soft apartheid of partisanship and instead embrace the notion of inclusive justice.

This message is one I sought to deliver from the very moment I decided to run for Congress and is one that I based my closing reflection on in my last campaign video below. No matter what happens on Tuesday, November 8th, I am hopeful that the message of unity, empathy and love that transcends our differences will continue to grow long after the last ballot has been counted. 

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr