I no longer consider myself a liberal. I am an independent and I declare my freedom.
My declaration of independence from the duopoly came at a pivotal moment. Summer 2020 was my—and many’s—quiet tipping point. When one’s freedom to protest becomes one’s freedom to riot, I couldn’t help but express mixed feelings.
The change and healing that must come from all these movements is so important. Movements for change are happening for righteous reasons, deep inequalities, and real pain. It hurts my heart that such separation exists.
I struggled to express this support while my full self didn’t meet the loudest narrative. I was left on the sidelines with questions.
I wondered: Why aren’t social justice advocates giving equal attention to Black people across the political spectrum? What happens when the response to injustice becomes unjust itself? Should I just stay silent?
When the Lines Blurred for Me
Rather than sit back, I leaned in. I attended a Black Lives Matter protest in my little hometown, here in Pennsylvania—a swing state. As my mom and I ran with our signs to catch up with the BLM crowd, a man with the counter-protest holding his All Lives Matter sign sacrificially cheered, “God bless America!”
My instinct was to send it back to him. I smiled and said, “God bless America!” Then my mom and I moved on to join what may be written as the right side of history.
Suddenly, the pastel flags, the block-print of the contrasting signs, the sideline chants in favor of the police, and the gratitude we had for the police who were keeping the peace that fateful day, they all… blurred for me. I had arrived anxious and angry, and as we chanted “This is what America looks like,” I grinned.
Yes. This is what America looks like. And if I can feel at peace here, so can many. So can the collective.
I flashed back to my early birthday parties when we’d parade these same streets that the KKK had marched not long ago. Every fall, my mom, who is an immigrant from Iran, would teach my small group of friends that this long weekend for Columbus Day was not all it’s cracked up to be in public school. Columbus was lost. The Native Americans found this beautiful land first.
Nonetheless, this is what America looks like: lost children parading streets their ancestors commandeered. I heard my inner child and the friends of decades ago playing flutes and ringing bells. In June 2020, I heard pieces of the past, the present, and the future. I heard hope. And I can’t for the life of me, let that go.
At the BLM protest I turned to my mom in tears and said: “Everyone finally came to the party.”
Since then, I came out as an undecided voter and I’ve walked across the political spectrum with love and curiosity, from left to right to center, up and down and upside down.
Today, I do not identify with any political party. I am free.
I don’t need everyone to worship me as a patriot or a progressive. My heart broke for both U.S. elections, 2016 and 2020, and so I am finding bridges where unity feels real and true for me and many.
Discovering the Bridging Community
There is a way forward. Like me, many of us are living “in between.” Many can serve as a bridge between the pain and the love. Being a bridge is a big responsibility. Bridges are not always strong. Bridges break sometimes. And if you’re ready to break free, let’s learn how to rebuild them together and light the way home.
Building bridges starts with bridging within. It starts with fighting self-censorship. It starts by unifying the private self I hide with the outer self I show to the world. It starts today with me writing to you. I want to feel free of any aggression I still hold.
So if you’re ready to even think about unity, but are feeling uneasy like I am, I invite you to do this work with me. Real unity is possible in a place in between where we stop wholesaling ideology and stop filing ourselves away in boxes, where we instead tend to each other like flowers and encourage each other’s growth.
As you grow, you might find yourself torn by the two parties, on the sidelines, or simply resting somewhere between the two.
Independents like me are rising beneath the surface. We’re talking.
We’re reclaiming power through flowing kindness in the Bridging Community, in groups like Living Room Conversations. We’re debating, songwriting, discussing the nuanced meanings of “fact,” “truth,” and “belief,” and workshopping to “depolarize within” at Braver Angels.
We’re seeking truth through trust, trust through honesty. We are ready to rebuild the trust needed for truth to be seen. Independents, libertarians, moderates, and everyone in between could be the new progressives to unite the parted sea and sail forward. If only we weren’t so afraid.
It’s scary to be sovereign in the binary of the duopoly. But maybe it’s finally time to accept that you might be the villain in someone else’s story when you become the hero in your own.
Does political sovereignty still exist in the USA? Do you think unity is possible? What would “real unity” look like?
Listen to my story of becoming independent in a polarized world on Free the People. Watch this short video, and if you’re feeling inspired to tell your story of finding political sovereignty, post your words or video on social media with the hashtag #IDeclareMyFreedom.