Progressive View Introduction

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By Barbara Byram

You don’t often see a newspaper column written by two people, but Terry and I believe that together we can introduce readers to the local aspects of a wide variety of topics that make national headlines. This column will appear twice each month, and we will be trading off authorship. Hopefully you won’t find this confusing—you can assume that we agree on an issue unless we state otherwise. Here’s the story on how Terry and I came up with our idea to work together….

To most folks, the word “politics” invokes a negative reaction, with visions of gobs of money changing sleazy hands, clandestine back-room deals made by the rich, and public glad-handing to accompany the lies about caring for the common man. Indeed, these visions seem to have been proven time and again throughout history, regardless of place or time. And so it was that our founding fathers guaranteed the right of free speech and a free press, to act as watchdog over the less than honest—and sometimes illegal—dealings of politicians. This, alongside the system of checks and balances, is what makes for a democracy. Part and parcel of having rights in a democracy, however, is the obligation of exercising them from time to time in order to ensure their continuing existence.

It is this sentiment that led to my meeting Terry one August afternoon last year in Chiefland. I decided to do voter registration, so I put out a call for volunteers to help, and Terry and his wife, Ilene, showed up. While we didn’t register too many folks, we ended up having a pleasant—though hot—afternoon getting to know each other. Our life experiences are quite different.

Terry was born on Puerto Rico to a U.S. Air Force family, while I was born and raised in the Chicago area, spending summers on my grandparents’ farm in Iowa. After spending the first 12 years of his life traipsing around the country, Terry lived in Miami for almost 40 years—except for his own stint as an employee of Uncle Sam’s Air Force—before moving to Williston with Ilene in 2005. I, on the other hand, started traipsing around the country after achieving adulthood, living in Wisconsin, the Virgin Islands, California, New Mexico and, finally, Hawai’i before becoming a part-time resident of Levy County.

While our education levels are similar—some college—we have had very different experiences in the work force. Terry has been in the medical field all his life, beginning as a medical administrative specialist in the Air Force, then working in hospitals, most recently as a staffing coordinator. My experience has been quite a bit more erratic, including food and beverage service, general office work and self-employment, first as a freelance writer and editor, then as a clothing designer and manufacturer.

Another difference between us is our histories of political activity. Terry was spurred to action in early 2007, after reaching his frustration level with our military casualties in Iraq. He began supporting progressive anti-war groups and eventually attended an anti-war march. Soon after that, he volunteered to support Barack Obama in his presidential bid. That volunteer work led Terry to learn about a wide range of progressive causes, and, finally, to founding the Progressive Voices of Levy County, a group committed to community service and progressive change.

My political action history dates back to 1970, when my older brother was involved in protesting the Vietnam war. While I did not join that cause, I became active in the women’s movement and have volunteered my time to a wide range of progressive and environmental causes over the decades since.

Terry considers himself politically moderate while I consider myself more radical. Common to both of us, however, is a sense of pragmatism about how life works and societies evolve. We’re both old enough to have seen many changes, on both the political and societal levels, and to have come to the understanding that progress does not happen from the top down but from the bottom up. And at the bottom are folks like us—regular folks—who know what works for us and what doesn’t, because we live it every day. We know the problems we face, and most of us have ideas for solving those problems.

Terry and I hope that this column will inspire all readers to get engaged in the discussions necessary to improve our daily lives, our neighborhoods and, by extension, our country. We welcome your comments and ask that you write a letter to the editor any time you feel so moved.