Christopher Pepe, Civic Engagement

In the spirit of full disclosure and with many apologies, this episode is about a week and a half overdue!  I was able to grab coffee with my good friend and policy activist, Christopher Pepe, on a cold Sunday.  In the wake of the political turmoil over the past few weeks, we did spend the majority of the time talking about the election, reproductive rights, what it means to be a white cis-male talking about women, and how to be civically engaged.  Listen above or read below!  Additional information to topics discussed can be found at the bottom of the post.

Note:  In this episode, we are talking about one political perspective, particularly focused on hot-button issues.  We will continue to explore a wide range of opinions and other potentially provocative topics, so please extend the same level of respect to all interviewees.  I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments, but I ask that we keep it respectful.

On Growing Up with Politics

Liz: Hi folks, I am here with Christopher Pepe.  We’re in a coffee shop in the West Village and he has very kindly agreed to take part of his Sunday to talk with me.  To walk through your resume, you graduated undergrad at NYU and then went on to work for the Center for Reproductive Rights, and now you are at CUNY Law school.
Christopher: That’s me.
Liz: I want to start off talking about politics, a little bit.
Christopher: Oh, I love it. Big fan.
Liz: You’re very engaged in politics.  Where did that start?

Christopher: I grew up in an Italian-American family in Northern New Jersey.  My parents were from Brooklyn, my brother also born in Brooklyn.  I grew up as the youngest in the family, so a lot of times, had to fight to have my voice heard.  I felt like the underdog in a lot of ways.  I was the only one born in New Jersey, so I got a lot of shit for that all the time.  I don’t know if you’re super familiar, but dinner with an Italian-American family is like a full contact sport.  It’s just a lot of yelling.  We would have guests over, and they would be like, “Wow, you guys are all really angry at each other.”  And I would be like, “Nah, this is how we love each other.”  They’d be like, “Have you considered therapy?” No, no.  So we grew up in a loud, boisterous environment and it was our duty to have dinner conversation.  We also grew up in a time before cell phones, so we were all talking to each other.  That’s what we had to do, and politics was the topic.  My parents are very politically active.  My mother, more than my father.  We have always been engaged in some kind of political behavior.  My mother participated in different marches on Washington and a lot of her career, she’s worked on access to reproductive health services, contraceptions, things like Plan B.  These were things that were, by their very nature, political.  The work that she was doing was highly politicized.  So, we grew up talking about that; that was dinner conversation.  I remember that, for years, the conversation was about roadblocks in getting Plan B over the counter.  The fight for that, even under a Democratic administration.  So, I grew up being well-versed in that, and I grew up needing to be on my shit about these conversations.  I was brought up to have an opinion and be engaged and care.  I think, also, a big part of that was my involvement in the Boy Scouts.  There was that component of being whatever the hell a good American is.  I’m not even sure if that’s a real thing, but growing up with some sense of duty and patriotism.  I think those combination of things just made me a political person.  I think the other thing is that I grew up in a town that was highly conservative.  It was kind of a Pleasantville vibe, Chatham, New Jersey.  My family moved from New York and showed up in Chatham.  None of the country clubs would let them in, because they were Italian-American.  We were kind of viewed as unwelcome.  Part of that was when I was going to school.  Everyone was brought up to be very conservative, and I remember in my 6th grade class, our teacher asked, “Who is the worst president?” All these people were like, “Bill Clinton!” and I was like, “George W. Bush!”  They all looked at me and were like, “He’s great.”  And I was like, “That’s because your parents tell you that!”  Sixth grade me was really smart, is what I’m trying to say.  There were just a lot of those different things that made it not an option to not care.

On Reproductive Rights and Being a Cis, White Male Feminist

Liz:  When you were in undergrad, did you know you wanted to go into reproductive rights?  Into politics, generally, and reproductive rights specifically?
Christopher:  I think it was always an interest, just growing up.  Everyone asks me this question of “why are you in reproductive rights?”  I grew up being pretty well-versed in it, and I wanted to use that knowledge.  So, I knew that coming out of college, if that kind of opportunity came along for me, and it was a long shot… It took six or seven months to convince people that I’m a guy who wants to work on this.  I know a thing or two about this.  I knew if that opportunity came along, I would do it. Happily.  Again, talking about abortion and contraception was dinner conversation.
Liz:  Did you get a lot of pushback when you first joined the Center for Reproductive Rights, externally?
Christopher: Yeah, people didn’t trust me.  I think, within the organization, there was a lot of skepticism about me, and rightfully so.  I represented less than 1%0 of the Center in terms of the gender balance.  It was about 10% male, 90% female.  I came in, upper middle class, privileged white guy.  Cis, also. That’s a big one.  And people looked at me and were like, “Why the hell are you here? Who are you?”  I think, as time progressed, people got an understanding of where I’m coming from.  Just that, I wanted to be there to help and support in any way I could.
Liz: How does that conversation change, as a cis, white male when you’re talking about reproductive rights?  What does that conversation look like, maybe differently than some of your colleagues?
Christopher:  It depends on who you’re talking to.  I feel like now, with the young generation that’s growing up with that reproductive justice lens… Maybe I should explain.  So, people in my mother’s generation, she’s going to be 65. I hope she doesn’t listen to this.
Liz: She’s 25, 30.
Christopher: Yeah, she’s young and effusive and wonderful.  But they grew up in this sort of feminism centered around middle class white feminism.  Now, it’s more of… Thanks to the work of people and women of color…more of a reproductive justice lens, linking the ideas of abortion and contraception back to maternal health and things like economic justice, racial justice, violence against black bodies, immigration reform.  The understanding is that these are all tied together and they are all inseparable.  With people who have that framing in mind, I think that conversation with me is “Welcome, thank you for being here.  Thanks for being an ally. I get it.”  Because when women succeed, men succeed.  When LGBTQIA people succeed, everyone succeeds.  It’s all interconnected.  So, that’s very accepting, but when I talk to people in my mother’s generation, in my experience, it’s been very condescending.
Liz: In what way?
Christopher: Condescending is maybe not the right word.  It’s a little patronizing.  I’ll be at a rally, and older, white women come up to me and they’ll be like, “It’s so great that you’re here.  Thank you for being here.  It’s just nice to see men here.” And I’m like, “Okay, I get it. But I work in this movement right now, don’t talk to me like that.”  It really depends on the conversation.
Liz: Well, it’s a different fight, too.
Christopher:  I understand it comes from a good place, and back in the day, there were no men going to those rallies.  I understand the historical context.  I’ve, also, been at parties with people who are not involved in it at all, and they’ll be like, “Oh, you work on that?  That’s pretty controversial.”  And I’ll be like, “If you want it to be.  Do you want it to be?  Let’s talk about it.”  I think it depends on the individual person, it depends on the individual’s experiences.  A lot of this is deeply personal.  And a lot of people are deeply uncomfortable with it.  If I bring up abortion at a house party, the firecrackers are not going off.
Liz: Shots, anybody?
Christopher: Firecrackers are not going off, except with a very specific crowd.  It really does depend, and everyone has their own views and their own perspectives.  I do find that generally, the younger people, are more accepting of the fact that I want to lend my support to that fight.
Liz:  There’s been a lot of talk of echo chambers lately, and you’re talking about bridging some of those gaps with folks who look at it as a very controversial issue.  Do you have a lot of experience addressing those who are on the other side?  I know you’ve done some policy work… [do you have experience addressing those] who are very far on the other side of the abortion issue or women’s rights issues or anything along that spectrum?  So you get the folks who are maybe Trump supporters, for those reasons, the Mike Pences of the world.
Christopher:  Maybe this is a little defeatist of me, but I think there’s a point of maybe no return.  I’m not going to be able to have a rational conversation with the vast majority of the people who were at the March for Life two days ago.
Liz: I see.
Christopher: Mike Pence, certainly not.  A guy who calls his wife, “Mother”.  You’re not going to convince that guy.
Liz: I did not know he did that, that makes my stomach turn a little.
Christopher:  I think that, with people who are on the fence, or a little queasy about it, or with people who are very quick to judge other people for their decisions and don’t necessarily think it through first, I think there are a couple of ways to have that conversation.  It’s a personal decision.  The idea of government infringement on people’s personal decisions is an idea that resonates strongly with a lot of Americans.  I think that a lot of people don’t necessarily understand or see the hypocrisy in wanting a limited government, but then, when it comes to reproductive health, abortion, contraception, [having] tons of legislation, tons of government interference.  People don’t think about that, people don’t see that connection.  Helping them to see that connection can be powerful.  I think it’s also a strong economic argument.  If you don’t have access to safe, legal, and affordable abortion care, that has economic repercussions.  It has very serious economic repercussions.  I certainly know people that if they had to have a kid when they were 17, 18, 19, they wouldn’t have the careers now that they have.  It’s about each person wanting to plan out their family when they want and what to do with their own bodies and leaving government intervention out of that. I think that resonates with some people.  I think what also resonates is when you say, “I know that you might personally be against abortion.  I know that you would never want it for yourself, but if other people need that procedure or want access to that procedure, let them have it.”  I think that is also understandable.  I know a lot of people who try to say that when they go home to their Red State families that that resonates a little bit too.  “I understand that you don’t like it for yourself, but try to open up to other people.”  The harder argument is, of course, getting people to support public funding for that procedure.  That’s a whole different thing.
Liz: Sure, that makes a lot of sense.  Now, I know you went to the Women’s March with a lot of your friends from law school.  One of the things that came out after the Women’s March was this criticism around disinviting or banning pro-life groups to attend.
Christopher: I would call them anti-choice instead of pro-life, because it’s not really pro-life, it’s more pro-birth and then let’s cut Social Security and privatizing education.
Liz: But I think part of that argument is, if you’re not bringing those folks to the table and you’re not inspiring that sort of participation, that makes it harder to approach those conversations.
Christopher: And I respect that, but I think the argument they were trying to make was disingenuous.  In that, the mission that they had was not in line with the mission of the Women’s March and the core beliefs.  Really, it’s an affront, particularly to low income women and women of color and LGBTQ people, who need access to things like Planned Parenthood, and safer abortion care, and contraception, cancer screenings, pap smears or whatever you need.  You cannot be an anti-choice feminist.
Liz: Why?
Christopher: Because if you are anti-choice, then either by silence or by funding or by going out and marching, you are condoning violence against women.  You are condoning violence against abortion care providers, who have been killed:  Dr. George Tiller, killed in a church in Kansas. [You are condoning] clinic violence, harassment outside of clinics towards people who are going in.  If you are a part of that anti-choice movement and you are vocal about it, then you are pro-shaming women for their healthcare decisions, you are pro-violence, you are pro-antagonism.  You stand against the values that so many feminist champions have fought for over decades.  It’s an affront, a total affront to people who are marching there, and it’s all based on this attempted appropriation of feminism.  I don’t see how the two can coexist.

On Law School

Liz: So you’ve left the Center for Reproductive Rights to pursue your law degree.  You are not interested in becoming a lawyer.
Christopher: No, I tell people, “I don’t ever willingly want to be in a courtroom.”
Liz: The law degree is in service of what?
Christopher: To be plainly honest with you, before I went to law school, I knew I wanted to do policy work.  That’s what I did at the Center for Reproductive Rights, things like lobbying and veto letters, bill amendments and tracking thousands and thousands of pieces of horrible legislation.  Most of which were signed by Mike Pence.  Indiana is the worst.  Sorry if you’re from Indiana, but it’s a hellhole.  I’m not that sorry.  I’m from New Jersey, come fight me.  Anyway, I was looking at law school, and I was also looking at doing an MPP (Masters in Public Policy) or MPA (Masters in Public Administration).  To be quite frank with you, I looked at people I know who got MPAs or MPPs and people I know who got the law degree, and you can see where those people ended up.  People with the law degree end up in higher level positions more quickly after graduation.  So I looked at that and said, “I want to create policy. I want to draft policy.  I want to advocate for policy.  And I want to be at a higher level sooner, so that I have more input and more power to put my ideas out there in the world.  The law degree is going to help me do that.”  I think it further legitimizes you, by the way that our society is constructed, to have that JD after your name.  Just being totally straight about it, if I tell people that I’m a lawyer…
Liz: It legitimizes your argument on another level.
Christopher: There’s a certain level of privilege that comes with having that and that’s what I decided to go for.   I didn’t go because of some great love for the law.  It’s kind of a miserable experience so far, honestly.
Liz: But people say law school is so much fun, though.
Christopher: Yeah, that’s what I heard from nobody.  That’s kind of it though, I wanted to have that recognition, to have more flexibility to do what I want to do on a faster timeline.  It’s also a cost of living.  Living in New York City is not cheap.  We live in a capitalist system, at least right now.  That’s a reality.
Liz: Yeah.  So in your class, you’re 1L, right?
Christopher: 1L, right.  Which is first year, if you’re not familiar.
Liz: You’re surrounded by folks who are as passionate about policy as you are, I would assume.
Christopher: Quite the contrary, actually.  I’m really in the minority, when it comes to being a policy head.  A lot of people are really interested in arbitration and litigation and settlements and negotiations, that kind of thing.  Once the statute is out there, they’re interested in that.  I’m interested in creating the policy, so I’m kind of in the minority there.  But people are very politically charged there.
Liz: And I would assume that in the week and half since the inauguration that it’s amplified.  I wonder if your law school experience is a little bit different than some others.
Christopher: Yeah.  Just for reference, CUNY School of Law is very lefty, in comparison to other law schools.  A lot of law schools, particularly the top 20 law schools are typically very conservative in how they approach the law.  They’re not necessarily politically conservative, but they are conservative in how they teach doctrine and how they approach the material.  At CUNY, I think there is an honest attempt, I don’t know how successful it is in practice, to look at the law in other ways: through a feminist perspective, through a racial perspective, through a more progressive perspective, or more socialist perspective.  I think there are efforts made my different professors there, to varying degrees of success, that I think is good.  They still have some work to do on it.  It’s also an incredibly diverse law school.  If you go to Columbia or NYU, they make an effort, but it’s not nearly as diverse as the body that we have, which is really over 50% people of color in my class.  That really changes the conversation and changes how people interact with each other, and it certainly changes how white people need to talk about things.
Liz: Within the context of the law?
Christopher: Within the context of the law, of politics, really how we talk in relation to other people’s experiences.  You have some people in that room who have really been through some traumatic things in their lives, or they grew up in very different circumstances than the circumstances I know.  It’s a really inspiring and interesting mix of people.  There’s a lot of improvement that needs to be done in that kind of environment.  There’s also a lot of awareness that you need to have about what you’re saying and how other people interpret what you’ve said.
Liz: Have you had personal experience around, I’m going to use the phrase, tripping up around it?
Christopher: Yes.
Liz: Can you speak to some of that, if you’re comfortable?
Christopher: Yeah, so I supported Hillary Clinton in the election.  I did it because, while I don’t think she was nearly as inspiring a candidate to as many people as Barack Obama was, and I have to agree with that, though I think that the fact that she would have been the first female president is, in and of itself, something that should not be overlooked.  She didn’t have the same fire, but I supported her strongly because I really wanted to avoid the alternative.  I try to look at these things in a practical way.  You may not love her.  You may think the system is inherently fucked. It is.  But, within what we have, you cannot tell me that it was a lesser evil, who was the lesser evil.  That was my opinion.  People did not agree with that opinion.  People were in a very strong Bernie camp at CUNY, but people also had issues with him not bringing in as many people of color as he could have.  Sort of promising the pie in the sky to everyone.  We also had people like, “The whole system is fucked. I’m going to vote for Jill Stein” or “I’m going to not vote”.  There was a lot of that going on.  People are entitled to that, but when it came around to the election, it got very heated.  I had to be careful about what I said.  The practicality argument didn’t work for people.
Liz:  It was a very emotionally charged election.
Christopher:  Well, and it didn’t work for people because I would say, “I understand your perspective, but we have to vote for her.”  A lot of people had a lot of very legitimate issues with the Clintons’ role in expanding the prison population in the ’90s.  This is something that’s very fresh in people’s minds, and when you have a class like that where some of these people’s parents have been in prison for extended periods of time or they know people who have been in prison for extended periods of time, that resonates a lot.  I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t been in the room with a lot of those people, before I went to law school.  How many people do I know that went to prison? Growing up in suburban New Jersey, not many.  So, people had different perspectives and it got pretty heated.  I got checked quite a few times.  It’s made me more careful, I think, in how I talk to people.  I think it’s helped me, even though I’ve kind of hated it a little bit, to be honest with you.
Liz: Why do you hate it?
Christopher:  Because I just get impatient.  I don’t want to walk on eggshells, but sometimes you have to.  And it’s a small group of people, you’ve got to get along these people and you’re going to work with them in the future and you’ve got to make it work.  We’re supposed to be a team.  We need each other and we need to support each other.

On Civic Engagement

Liz: Absolutely.  That’s great.  On Facebook a little bit ago, you posted a status stating how excited you were to see a lot of folks who hadn’t been involved in politics get involved in politics.  Now, we have an entire generation of folks who are getting engaged I would say, whether it’s on the right or the left.  For me, my Facebook newsfeed is filled with a little bit of both.  For those folks who are maybe new to politics and not familiar with the policy or the avenues to best engage their representatives, what would your suggestions be?
Christopher: So how people should get involved?  If you’ve never been active before, it’s important to find an issue you care about. If you have a personal story about something, if you’ve experienced something, I think that resonates with people pretty strongly.  I think if you go out and try to advocate for a bunch of different issues, it can get tiring.  If you have one issue that you’re really passionate about, really take a hold of that, read about what’s happening on it right now.  Read the news.  Read the news every day.  The New York Times, The Atlantic, the Journal.  ProPublica does good long form journalism.  The New Yorker.  The Economist.  Get well read on these issues and then go out there.  Do a little research; there are a lot of great groups out there.  It’s a quick as a little Google search.  Groups will come up, go read up on them, sign up for their newsletter, and they’ll send you information, they’ll send you events.  Another great way to get involved is to engage with the political process.  A lot of people have been using the word “resist” when they really mean civic engagement.  Sorry, it’s been pissing me off.
Liz: No, explain that a little bit.
Christopher:  I think a lot of people are couching this idea of being engaged and contacting your representatives and telling your government what you think as some form of resistance movement, which I think further radicalizes it in the long term.  I think they couch it in that because it sounds sexier than, “I’m doing my duty as a citizen. Yay! I feel great about myself.”  Partially, it’s selfish.  “I’m resisting.” No, you’re not, you’re calling your representative.  They’re supposed to represent you. Call them. Tell them what you think.  But anyway, call your representative.  It’s easy.  That’s a Google search too.  Call them, tell them what you think. Be honest.  Don’t be afraid to share your opinion and share your personal stories, which I think are often the best way of leaving a mark with people.  You’ve got to remember the people who are answering phones for your senators and representatives are hearing a million different stories, so it’s really about making it you and using talking points, but not making them verbatim.  If you find talking points on an issue or someone posts something on Facebook like, “Call your representative, here’s the script.”  I think you can use that, but it’s got to come from the heart.  Calling is the best way, other than in person visits.  Not everyone can do an in person visit, but calling really is the best way to get your point across to your electeds.  And not just your federal electeds, your state and local electeds too, who, a lot of people don’t understand, have a lot more influence on your day to day life than the federal government ever does.  Particularly at the state level.  These people control a lot of how you live.
Liz: Sure.  What about the petitions and things that have been going around?  There’s the one to impeach Donald Trump.  There’s ones to have him release his tax returns.
Christopher:  I think it’s good.  Sign those petitions. It helps, it certainly doesn’t hurt.  But don’t just do that.  Don’t feel like you can just do that and it’s enough.  Some people can only do so much, and that’s great.  You’ve got to put in what you want to put in, but I think you should maximize that, that time that you have.  People have to work, people have kids, but maximize that time.  I think if you’re doing the petition thing, that’s good.  I would personally supplement it with something like going to a protest, calling your representatives, writing letters.
Liz: Does protesting work?
Christopher: People have been trying to figure that out forever.  I think that peaceful protest can work.  It doesn’t always work, but I think it can work and I think there’s evidence of that in what just happened this past weekend with the Muslim Ban, that our esteemed president, Don Cheeto, put in place.  There were organic protests that happened with thousands of people at airports across the country, and I think that really threw the Trump administration off.  They’ve definitely been retracting from that since then.  There’s a lot of internal confusion around what that thing even means.  It’s not even clear to me that the executive order got any kind of review by anyone even approaching a lawyer.  It got the attention of the ACLU.  The ACLU went in, they tried to get a block on it, and it worked.
Liz:  There were teams of lawyers going up to each airport.
Christopher: I don’t think there would have been that kind of momentum and that kind of energy around advocating for those 100 or 200 people who were sitting in limbo without those protests, without people saying, “Fuck this. I’m getting on the A train.  It’s going to take me an hour and a half to get to JFK.  I hate going to JFK, and I’m not even flying out of there” and doing that.  That created pressure and it drains resources.  It cost the city a bunch of money to send police over there and send all of those resources there, so it also becomes a financial situation for the city, for the state.  I’m sure there must have been federal law enforcement.  Port Authority definitely had to step up their security.  So in a lot of ways, it can work.  Also with the Women’s March, it sent a strong message.  People are watching.  People are together.  The progressive movement is not defeated, it’s not dead, and it won’t be.  And we’re going to be watching this guy.  I think that that’s strong and I think that it empowers a lot of people that may not live in these big blue cities, but live in these small towns to have a voice.  You matter.  Your opinion matters.  Get out there, do something about it.  I think there’s a very strong message there.
Liz: Yeah.  I have a weird, hypothetical personal question for you.  As someone who wants to affect change and affect policy, if Trump or one of his cronies were to come to you and ask if you would join their team, is that something you would do?  Is that a bridge you would be willing to cross?
Christopher: To join the Trump administration?  I actually applied for jobs with the Trump administration.
Liz: Did you?
Christopher:  Well, it was easy to do.  They had a website up that said something like “Come work for the Trump Administration!”  I think I filed like 90 applications for different jobs.
Liz: Why?
Christopher:  Well, because it was easy.  Because you could just select everything and submit the whole resume to the whole thing.  I did it as a joke.  I never heard back.  Probably because I had Obama For America on my resume, and he’s not an American so… He’s a traitor.
Liz: But if they were to approach you?  Say they finally got to your application, is that something you would be willing to do?  Would you be willing to cross those excessively partisan lines?
Christopher: If I could be me and tell them what I think and fight for my beliefs?  I think I’d be a fool not to try.  I’d give it a chance.  I’d be in there for two days and then they’d fire me.  It depends what the position was.  I think if there was an opportunity to influence people in a certain way, we need those people.  We need good people in government.  I would do that, I would try.  I don’t know if I could do it, but I would try.
Liz:  I did hear a lot of his staff are starting to jump ship.
Christopher:  I think the word is that Reince Priebus wanted to resign, they really reeled him back in.  I don’t think he’s going to last long.  Poor guy.  I don’t know who names their kid Reince.
Liz:  What scares me more than the administration itself is the societal implications that have happened throughout the election, throughout the entire campaign, from both sides.  It’s gotten very emotionally charged and personal and people have revealed their ugly sides.  Is there a way that we can fix the country?
Christopher: I think that this happens in cycles.  I think that it’s being exacerbated by the media landscape and by how people get their news.  I don’t necessarily see anything fundamentally different with how people in this country are after the election.
Liz: Really?
Christopher:  I think it’s just more brazen, more out there.  People are being more honest about their racism or sexism or their misogyny, all of their deeply held biases.  It’s not being covered up in the same way that it used to be.  A lot of that decorum is gone, but it’s really just been a veneer.  We’ve pretty much always been this way.
Liz: So is it better to expose the wound and deal with it or is it better to bring back that veneer?
Christopher: I don’t know that we’ll ever totally heal our original wounds or our original sin in this country.  I don’t know that we can ever bridge that, unless we have a much stronger foundation for public education and unless we return to a media landscape that doesn’t thrive off of our division.  And a political party system that thrives off of our division.  I kind of hope that we would move towards a multiparty system, proportional representation, like in Germany, for example.  I think that would greatly change how we talk about issues and how we come together and how we interact with each other, but right now everything is two sides.
Liz: Well, what about all the folks in the middle?  I feel like it is the polarized voices that are heard the most, but there is a huge portion of the country that sits right on that middle.
Christopher: 46.9% didn’t vote in the last election, registered voters.  It’s a huge issue.  It’s an issue that we talk about after the election and then everyone goes back to doing their usual thing.  I think a lot of people think that they don’t have a voice in government.  Also, I think a lot of people don’t participate because our civics education, generally in this country, is a mess.  So, there are real problems here.  I don’t know how we bridge a lot of that, but I do think that education is something that really needs a lot of work.  Public education, and teaching people from the very beginning of their school careers that civic engagement is not a privilege, it’s a duty.  It’s something that you need to do, you need to engage in your government, because it doesn’t speak for you, if it doesn’t know what you stand for.  It’s something that we really need to work on, it’s something that I really want to work on at some point in my career: how do we get more people into the political process?  How do we get more people engaged?  How do we get more people to run and be exciting candidates, who energize people who typically are disenfranchised or don’t want to be involved in the system, because they don’t see themselves in the candidates who are running for office?
Liz: How would you approach that?
Christopher:  I think there are a lot of great programs doing it right now.  Certainly, since the election, there have been a lot of people who want to run for office, which I think is great.  But, again, it has to start from a young age.  I’m not really sure about programs that are set up to get more people engaged in politics from a young age.  I know there’s Model UN, people have high school Democrats, high school Republicans, that kind of thing.  I don’t know if there are any groups doing that work from the beginning.  Getting their proper civics education.  And grounding their beliefs about politics in the facts of how the system actually work and how it serves or doesn’t serve the population.  I don’t really know, and I want to learn more about it.
Liz:  Addressing public education from a young age and starting with the next generation?
Christopher:  Yeah, it’s going to have to be some kind of effort, and it’s going to have to be in the community.  It’s going to have to be from people that people know.  I don’t know where that starts.  I don’t know where that comes from.  I will say that that’s not a fight that I’m particularly engaged in.  I think I’m more engaged in lifting up people who have typically been abused and mishandled by the various systems that we have, really since the founding of this country, that’s women and LGBTQI individuals and people of color.  I want to be an ally in that fight.  Because how these sort of white working class people have felt for the past 8 years, is what everyone else has been living with for the past 800.
Liz: That’s an argument that’s not easily heard.
Christopher: Because people don’t want to have conversations about privilege.  They get turned off by that, and I think that’s something we need to fix.  There’s a different way to have that conversation that isn’t so eye-glazing for a lot of people.  It is eye-glazing for people.  I understand that, so I don’t know how we have that conversation, how we get people to understand that.
Liz:  So is there a silver lining in the political climate right now? In general, the trends that have happened in politics lately.
Christopher:  I’ll tell you what though, I’m very inspired.  If there’s a silver lining to any of this garbage, a lot of people are going to hurt, so it’s really hard to talk about a silver lining when a lot of people are going to suffer over the next four years.  If there’s a silver lining, it’s that people are giving a shit and that people are standing up and that people who previously were not getting involved are getting involved.  I also think it’s incredibly inspiring to see how much of center stage women have taken in this resistance, in this idea of not being silent, and standing up for what they believe in.  If people can get more civically engaged, and the New York Times can get more subscribers, and if real journalism can recover somewhat because people want to be informed and they want to get involved, and they want to have the tools necessary to go out and resist, and demonstrate, and be good citizens, then I think that that’s good.  And I think that also is a good sign to young people now, people who are in school, to see that this is what you should be doing.  This is how you should be acting, this is how you engage with your government.  This is how you stand up for what you believe in.  I think that that’s not a disservice.

For More Information About:
Center for Reproductive Rights: Official Website
CUNY Law School: Official Website
New York Times: Official Website
The Atlantic: Official Website
Wall Street Journal: Official Website
ProPublica: Official Website
The Economist: Official Website
ACLU: Official Website
Contraception and the ACA: Planned Parenthood
Birth Control Repeal: Forbes
H. R. 7 – No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance: Congress
Hyde Amendment: ACLU
AllAboveAll: Official Website 


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