Why me? Why Solidarity? Why now? The Long Bio
At the end of 2017, as I announce my American Solidarity Party candidacy for California’s 22nd Congressional District, I believe we are living through a realignment of our two major political parties.
On the Democratic side, the bitter division between the progressive and establishment wings has touched briefly on the issue of abortion. For many years, between twenty and thirty percent of Democrats reported Pro-Life beliefs, yet in recent years, that number has shrunk. At the same time, the reverse trend is reported among the growing group of independents. It is safe to guess that many of those newly independent voters were formerly Pro-Life Democrats, but found themselves no longer welcome in that party.
On the Republican side, the polarizing presidency of Donald Trump has driven away what I consider the best element of the party. I believe a Pro-Life ethic must be consistent with high moral standards in other areas of life, and many longtime Republicans fault both the President and our current Congressional leadership in these matters. These former Democrats and former Republicans make natural allies.
To me, respect for life begins at conception and ends at natural death. In between, my respect for life requires the provision of quality health services to every person. Respect for life animates action to combat climate change and the human disasters such change will bring. Respect for life humanizes our treatment of immigrants and the poor, and compels us to invest adequately in both our infrastructure and the education of our next generation of workers. Politically, these flow from my concept of solidarity: we are all in this together. Religiously, they flow from Christ’s instructions to care for the weak and needy.
Third parties in US history have been successful either by growing to replace one of the other parties, or by demonstrating the popularity of a set of ideas that then gets picked up by an existing party. In my candidacy, I will claim success with either result. I consider myself a steward over these ideas, not an owner. I offer them freely to any candidate who will nurture them. On the other hand, if the voters should honor me with their trust, I pledge to work with members of each of the other parties in those areas where we can find agreement.
After growing up and getting my education in Los Angeles public schools and universities, I traveled for three months across Europe, Turkey, and Israel. I came home with both a new understanding of the world and of myself, and a settled faith in Jesus Christ. In short order after coming home, I married, earned my teaching credential, and became a father.
I moved to Visalia in 1977, and began teaching 7th and 8th grade at Snowden Elementary School, in Farmersville. My primary assignment has been teaching history, but I also study it. I’ve picked up more local history than many of those born here. In the 1930s, John Steinbeck had come to Farmersville to do research for his novel, The Grapes of Wrath, and in 1966, Cesar Chavez and his farm workers slept overnight at Snowden during their march from Delano to Sacramento. I have grown to love the people and the place.
In 1979, I wondered out loud why Visalia couldn’t have the kind of public transportation system I had witnessed while traveling in Europe. The Valley Voice Newspaper invited me to write a monthly column on the possibilities and benefits of such a system, in solidarity with the many poor and disabled in our community. With my 8th grade students, we queried about 500 friends and neighbors about their needs and our student leaders presented our findings to the Tulare County Association of Governments (TCAG). Groups of shut-ins—the elderly and disabled—presented parallel needs. Out of those hearings grew the transit system Tulare County has today, delivering riders to as far away as the Fresno airport and the national parks, while reducing smog, energy consumption, and congestion in traffic and parking.
For nine of the eleven years between 1984 and 1995, my wife and I taught on a linguistics and Bible translation center on the eastern plains of Colombia, South America. This time, our solidarity was with the speakers of minority languages, the ethnic groups that had been pushed aside and marginalized by the Spanish conquistadors. These languages had never been written, only spoken. The parents of our students were developing orthographies that empowered these communities to produce their own literature, make legal claim to their lands, preserve their cultural heritage, and integrate into national life on their own terms. I think back to one indigenous fifteen-year-old that I began to encourage in 1987, when he was just beginning to learn Spanish. He has gone on to become the first university and master’s degree graduate from among his people, and the pioneering superintendent of a school system that is bringing bilingual literacy to an area of over 2000 square miles.
At about the midpoint of our time in Colombia, our family returned to Visalia for two years. While we were here, California’s most prolific abortionist attempted to open an office in Visalia, and I joined an ad hoc committee to prevent that. A San Diego newspaper had quoted him saying that he targeted Hispanic neighborhoods as a way of reducing that population. As spokesperson for the roughly 600 citizens behind me, I addressed the City Council, expressing our solidarity with both the unborn and our Hispanic community.
We left Colombia as the civil war caused the closure of our center. I bounced around for seven years, first teaching a bilingual transition program until California outlawed Bilingual Ed., then 3rd grade, and junior high English. I also taught English one summer in China, and two years of 5th grade at a Christian school. I enrolled at CSU Fresno, and earned an MFA degree in Creative Writing. My thesis was called “Friday 10:03 (Two-thirds of a novel)” which I hope eventually to finish.
For these last ten years, I have been back at the junior high in Farmersville, teaching history and a film appreciation elective that I designed, using mostly foreign films with young protagonists. We focus on both film as literature, and these films and the culture they express.
Vicki and I have been married for 44 years, and have five adult children and 13 grandchildren. Our son Matthew is involved in founding a seminary in Fortaleza, Brazil. Aileen worked many years with battered wives in Brazil, and wrote “Até Quando?” which won the 2010 “Best Counseling Book” from the Brazilian Association of Christian Booksellers. Lucien earned his PhD in Linguistics and works in voice recognition software. Rebecca is a writer for the Joni and Friends disability ministry. Timothy earned his Phd in Anthropology at University College London, and has stayed on to do postdoctoral research.
I believe my life experiences have given me both an intimate understanding of California’s 22nd Congressional District, and a broad knowledge of the world of which we are a part. I believe the American Solidarity Party has developed a solid approach for attempting to solve the many problems that face the district, our nation and the world. I don’t own these ideas. I am only a steward. If other candidates want to claim them as their own, I care only that they are put into action. But if the voters choose to elect me and send me to Washington, I have no other ambition than to serve those who sent me.