Thursday, October 12, 2006

"What if you don't win?" And some thoughts about the commercial...

In the past 24 hours or so my first campaign commercial has been getting a lot of attention. Tuesday afternoon its page on YouTube had registered about 280 viewings. As I write this it's now up to 1,416... something like 600% more than what it got on the first three days of being online put together.

So, it's out there. And from what I've heard its evoked quite a wide range of reaction. Since Friday evening a lot of people have said they like the ad and that based on it, they will definitely be casting a vote for me in November. It's been called the most unique political advertisement for this kind of election that this area has ever seen. There's been plenty of positive word about it. And then there's been the negative: some people saying that I'm a "nut" for making this ad. One person said that I look "evil" during the disclaimer at the beginning. More than a few have said I went too far in showing a schoolhouse exploding. And there's been the share of trolls that this ad seems to have brought out of the woodwork since putting it on YouTube: the ones who don't do much else than attack others' work that they would be too lazy to attempt on their own. But those were pretty much expected anyway.

Was it a mistake to have created this commercial? Have I shot myself in the foot by putting this out there and on the air?

What can I say? It's a Chris Knight commercial. It's not the only thing I plan on doing so far as a TV ad goes but it definitely was the one I wanted to do first. It's as reflective of who I am as a person as I could manage to put into one minute of airtime: the central concern I have about where public education is going, my determination toward doing something about it, my being a fiscal conservative and supporter of the arts and athletics... and a little of my more human side. Namely that I'm a Star Wars fan (and will never apologize for that) and that I like to engage myself creatively. This was the commercial that was screaming in my head to get made, or else I would regret denying it life years on down the road.

And it had to be done in my personal style. A commercial that I like even more than my own is Eric Smith's ad: the one where he's speaking toward the camera while the video for Pink Floyd's "Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2" is playing in the background. I love that ad! I don't know if I could do something like that though, at least not for a first commercial. It works great for Eric though. But as individual candidates, we do what we each feel led to do that'll get our message out.

Is this commercial perfect? Heck no. I ran into more than a few technical problems while making it and it does show. There were some things I shouldn't have done in light of the experience I had with making Forcery. Admittedly there are some "rough edges". But given what I had to work with and the time available to produce it, I think I gave it my best.

Running for office isn't something you follow the instructions for like from a cookbook. There is no "do this then do that" plan that is guaranteed to give you a margin for victory on Election Day. There is no "right" way to go about doing this, and there's no "wrong" way either. There's just what you feel led to do, as honorably as you can, and let the chips fall where they may. That and give it your best effort.

What a lot of people outside this area aren't realizing is that there are sixteen people in this race... which has necessitated it being that everyone involved is having to do something unique in their own way to try and stand out. I'm hearing about a lot of campaign styles going on in this race: some seem to be focusing on using yard signs and others are doing their best to go door-to-door. One candidate is doing something that though I personally wouldn't do this, I understand how and why it is that they are doing it. Some are relying completely on word of mouth and I think at least more than one of those might win a seat. A few candidates have gone full-tilt with trying to cover all the bases, including TV ads. And like I said before: those that do TV ads are making them as best as they know how to reflect their personality and beliefs. Again, there is no right or wrong way to do this. There's just the "doing it" and hoping that it'll convince the voters that you're the right man or woman for the job.

And I may be violating a lot of precepts of political science but I find it impossible to consider my fellow citizens - the ones who will be casting their votes a few weeks from now - as impersonal assets to be manipulated and coerced into voting for me. No, if I'm going to win this school board election it has to be done honestly, without trying to cast any illusions about who or what I may or may not be. There's no way I could compromise on who I am if I end up taking a seat on the school board... so why would I want to compromise myself in the process of getting there?

In light of this commercial, some people have sent along word that they are actively praying that I lose in next month's election. I've never really thought of it as being that anybody "loses" an election. That kind of thinking is anti-republic in my mind. It implies that the winner automatically receives a mandate to do whatever the heck he or she wants to do with the office. This "winner take all/first past the post" mentality may be what dominates American politics, but it isn't a sentiment that a real servant of the people is supposed to share.

If I'm not elected, I will not have "lost" the election: it will simply mean that I wasn't elected to serve on the board this time. That my offer to serve was considered but politely turned down. And that's it. There are sixteen people running for five seats and although based on everything I've heard they are all wonderful and sincere people, only a few will be able to go on to serve on the board. That doesn't make anyone not elected "losers" by any count. If anything they are winners, in that they were willing to step forward and go through the strenuous demands put on a candidate.

Maybe it's the fear of "losing" that discourages a lot of people from considering running for office. If so, they need to get over it... 'cuz I would love to see a lot more people be willing to run for office. The Founding Fathers left this country to the people, and it's been darned too few of us that have stepped up to accept the responsibilities given us. After all, it's we the people who own this country, not a secluded elite of politicians and journalists inside the beltway of Washington D.C.

If I win, I will commit nothing less than complete devotion toward fulfilling the office that I'll be swearing to uphold. But if I don't win a seat, it won't be that big a deal. Seriously.

If I don't win, maybe it will be that it was not in God's will that I win this election. If so, I'll be very fine with that. And I want to write more about this later after this is all done with, but God has been revealing a lot of things to me during this entire process the past few months. Being a candidate for public office has been a growth experience that has radically expanded my understanding of things in a lot of realms, especially the temporal and the spiritual. I've been trying for the past six years to write a book about Christianity and politics, and... the best I can say this is that something was missing from the perfect vision of what it is that I've been struggling to say with this. I know what that is now, and I can finally move forward with that project. But it's not just that: as a person who is a follower of Christ and is an American citizen trying to uphold his part of the stewardship we have over this country, I've a vastly widened perspective on things that is going to be a part of me for the rest of my life. I don't know if I could have had that, had I not jumped feet-first into this election.

A few months ago the thought of being in this school board race was the furthest thought in my mind. Today I'm a candidate, facing all the challenges and responsibilities that come with that. And these past few months - and no doubt the weeks ahead - have brought out a side of me that I had no idea was there before. A lot of my closest friends have told me that they are really seeing the best in me shine through during this whole thing.

The biggest thing that's happened to me since becoming a candidate is that I have come to rely on the grace of God more than I ever have before in my life. Especially in the past several days: the first time in my political career that I've encountered real nastiness thrown my way. I could have become angry or even discouraged by all of it. Instead I have asked God to lend me His strength and to give me a spiritual shield against the fiery darts. I have asked Him to help me that though some are showing hatred toward me, that I not return hatred toward them in kind. There are some people in this world who seem to get their kicks from trying to hurt and destroy others. As a follower of Christ who is striving to put aside the old nature, I am constantly asking God to keep me from yielding to the temptation to reciprocate accordingly.

Maybe God has something better for me a long time from now, years down the road, even if I don't win this election. If so, His subjecting me to this is another growth opportunity. He is leading me through the fire and hardening me so that when the time comes, I can face bigger challenges. I really believe that with all my heart. Ten years ago I was an entirely different person than the one I am today. God led me through fire then... but He also brought me out of it. And He didn't give up on me either even though there were times that I felt like I had given up on Him. But He was faithful and He made me emerge from the trials a much stronger, more confident person. It could very well be that God led me to make this commercial, just so it would bring on a barrage of attacks on me and that I would ask Him to help me stand up against it. If so, I will be thankful to Him that He is doing this... and probably a lot more so years down the line.

Well, there is more that I could say about this and some other things. But the gist of it is: since being a candidate I have grown as a person, as a friend, as a husband, and as a servant of Christ. I am a completely better person since having the courage to put myself in the line of fire. Even if I were to know way ahead of time that I'm set to not win this election, I would absolutely have put myself through this process all over again, for the growth that I have experienced these past several weeks.

So from now until this election is over, I'm going to try my best to emulate one of my favorite heroes from history: Robert E. Lee. And decide in my heart that whatever happens, it will be God's will. That, and try to do my best in the meantime.

And in that meantime, I've got one and maybe two more commercials in the pot. So as we say in television: "Stay tuned!"