Ever since I was a pre-teen, I was drawn to politics. I grew up in a family that talked politics often and the summer between eighth and ninth grade, when most kids were playing outside, I got my dad to drop me off at a gubernatorial campaign office four days a week. I had a blast and found myself in the midst of a great community of people - most of whom were considerably older than me and took me under their wing. I still keep in touch with some of those people to this day.
Over the years, I continued to be involved in politics and always considered it a civic duty to keep up with the news every day. I never questioned that it was the duty of every American voter to do so. Needless to say, I embraced the drama of the 2016 election as politics became a matter of general interest and presidential debates were looked upon with the same excitement as sporting events. When YouTube and meme culture were added to the mix, the 2016 election cycle was more exciting than any election that had ever happened...
Until it wasn't.
There was a time when the election was fun and games. And then Jeb(!) dropped out and something happened... before that, anyone - no matter what their political leanings - had been able to share a Jeb(!) meme and laugh. But without Jeb(!), that common ground was yanked out from under us and as a Trump presidency began to look like a potential reality, battle lines were drawn between those who saw potential benefits and others who saw a national catastrophe in the making.
A Nation at War with Itself
As someone with a modest internet following, I tried to remain neutral in public for a time, but like others with equally modest and still others with much larger internet followings, I eventually succumbed and joined a camp. When the battle lines are drawn, it's difficult to sit on the sidelines - especially for someone who had always embraced politics and active citizenship as a lifestyle.
I fielded my share of insults from people who didn't even know me personally, though for every insult, there was an encouraging word from someone else. Every insult from without and word of encouragement from within tied me closer to the Trump camp. The election became a distraction from my own projects, such as my YouTube channel and my website, and I became more concerned about what was going on in the political arena than about my life's passion of providing online education to the public.
Don't get me wrong. I met a lot of great people - not just in the Trump camp but also Bernie and Hillary supporters who exchanged good-natured discussions, barbs, and memes with me throughout the campaign. It was a privilege to broadcast live with Trump supporters, Democrats, and third party supporters. Often, I enjoyed the fanfare of the election, although I looked forward to it eventually being over.
But it was never over.
War Without End
Donald Trump's surprise victory was only the beginning as the nation embraced the perpetual campaign. Half a year later, political animosity continues to define relationships between Americans. This animosity has only become more pronounced, if anything, and has prompted me to want to divorce myself from it entirely. I'm beginning to question whether it is truly an American's duty to monitor politics daily - or even to care - when it comes at the expense of personal relationships and one's public standing.
These words have stuck with me ever since. What if I were to live my life on my own terms and aspire to be known for my own values and beliefs rather than my association with religious or partisan groups? Do I aspire to be remembered for my attachment to a political movement or by what I have accomplished with my own life? Now, it is clear to me that I want to be remembered for the latter. If I alienate anyone from this day forward, let it be because of a heartfelt belief that I have expressed or for my twin passions for economic freedom and educational freedom - but let me not alienate anyone by association and let me not ever look at someone with contempt because they belong to a different political tribe.
From this point forward, I want to define my life - and my life's work - by the mirror.
I teach history and government