Cover of the Democratic Left magazine.

I don’t consider myself a political creature. The transformation of my perspectives into political views is always a transformation of reduction. I find people too rich and nuanced, the world and its problems too complex, for the American obsession of turning everything into a competition to have any value. Ideas on ethics, rights, justice and progress, fundamental and important as they are, should least of all be subjected as fodder for a hyped-up contest with only two sides. Could there be a more awkward fit?

You might imagine that, what with my immigrant background, enthusiasm for the rights of marginalized peoples, support for maligned and subjugated demographics, and livelihood resulting from subsistence on Unions (I’ll always capitalize Union!), that pegging which voting body I vote for would be too easy. In one sense you would be right. I’ll never run out of bad things to say about Reagan, Nixon, Bush, and Trump.

But.

It’s just not that simple. There are as many attitudes co-opted by the Left that I find insufferable as on the Right. If you have to ask what those are, forgive me for lovingly venturing to suggest that you might be in too deep! The game of politics has become the game of judging others, creating distance and putting people in boxes so they can be written off. Such things wouldn’t even be appropriate on an elementary playground. What do the children think of us?

There are life lessons I’ve learned from red-staters I put into practice every day. Moments I’ve appreciated with people I know vote differently than me, people whom I respect, have worked with, listen to. I’m tired of judging people. Aren’t you? Doesn’t it feel better to find common ground together? Isn’t it invigorating rather to carry within you the Emerson quote, “every (wo)man is my master, in that I may learn from him?”

Think about this the next time you’re tempted to fall into the Game. If you’re in small-town middle America on the side of a road with a flat tire, a Republican will pull over and help you fix your tire. A Democrat will instead go blazing past without stopping, but will vote for infrastructure programs that help people with such problems. Which is the ideal solution?

Both. Obviously.

Democratic Left is a New York quarterly print magazine published by the Democratic Socialists of America. They’ve published a piece of mine in their latest issue without ever asking my political background, and for no other reason than that my piece compelled them. Maybe it will compel you too.  I’m a humanist, and humanism transcends the pesky labels we like to throw around these days.

If you live in NYC, pick up a copy! If you’re elsewhere, click below for the article, which is about Seattle’s crisis state and what we can do about it:

Give Us Shelter: A Bus Driver’s Story

Further reading on related topics by yours truly:

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Article Author

Nathan Vass is an artist, filmmaker, photographer, and author by day, and a Metro bus driver by night, where his community-building work has been showcased on TED, NPR, The Seattle Times, KING 5 and landed him a spot on Seattle Magazine’s 2018 list of the 35 Most Influential People in Seattle. He has shown in over forty photography shows is also the director of nine films, six of which have shown at festivals, and one of which premiered at Henry Art Gallery. His book, The Lines That Make Us, is a Seattle bestseller and 2019 WA State Book Awards finalist.