The point of it all

Why write about the controversial?

What was the point of it all?

That’s a difficult question to answer, especially in light of the highly controversial stories I have written. With near every article there has been squabbling and outrage, disbelief and ostracization. But that wasn’t the point, at least not exactly. 

The point of it all was to inspire thought. That’s what it boils down to. The path was long, narrow and tumultuous, and before you can really understand why I did it, you have to understand how.

In October of 2020 I began to write Letters to the Editor for the Hagerty Journalism website. I wrote because political events were picking up with increasing intensity, and for the first time I saw a real potential for helping kids understand what was happening around them by writing stories from a student’s point of view. The crazy thing is that it worked. As I covered the absurdity of debates and elections, thousands of folks tuned in. But every silver lining has its cloud.

For the hundreds and hundreds of views that my writing garnered, there were dozens of comments and posts slandering my name. It was not an easy thing to deal with. 

I have had my family, relationships, education and even my life threatened. And it wasn’t just kids – last year multiple teachers protested the administration to take one of my letters of our journalism website. I remember thinking how crazy that was. How crazy it was that the small spark of a 16-year-old kid writing from his old laptop could ignite our little corner of the world.

After teachers and parents and students complained, Hagerty understandably refused to publish my letters. Unwilling to give up the fight, a friend and I started our own website to pick up the slack. The Daily Discussion was born, and with it, the ability to publish anything and everything.  My laptop and I reached thousands of people in locations including the United States, Ireland, Chile, Taiwan and even Nigeria. For those of you counting, that’s five of the seven continents. The Daily Discussion got people involved in the conversation – in all sorts of conversations – all across the globe. 

It was at that point that I decided to join Hagerty’s newspaper team and start a two-sided political column. I chose the name Politick, the archaic spelling of the modern politic, which means “to engage in political activity (Oxford English Dictionary).” And that’s exactly what we did. 

I say we because it wasn’t just me. Every time my opinion was published, a person from the other side of the political aisle was also invited to have their writing featured. Politick became a conversation on two halves of a paper and screen and ideological divide; it became ground zero for a school and society better informed. 

The idea was to provoke thought. And provoke is a fitting word considering the nature of political discussion. 

It is foolish to think it probable that any conversation which cuts deep into a set of previously held beliefs will not conjure up some sort of antagonism. It is only when people are rubbed the wrong way that real progress is made. So I made it my goal to ruffle feathers in the most productive way possible.

Even if you disagree with every word that I have ever written, if you have read them and then disagreed after, that is good enough. You have thought; a novel thing in a world where too often others think for us. You have entertained another idea, even if only by running a slurry of consonants and vowels quickly past your eyes before looking away.

Agree or disagree, right or left, it matters not. Never stop thinking. Never relinquish the ability and joy that is coming to your own conclusion. The choice is never binary – there is always a third route, always a better option. But you will never find it if you never push yourself to become independent from others. I earned my independence in a crucible of disagreement and anger. The outrage over what I wrote was a necessary birthing pain of a larger thing.

I hope that in my writing I have opened the door for others to follow in my footsteps. Please disagree with me. Or agree with me. Or find happiness in between. But go out and share whatever it is with people. Talk to people you would never talk to; do things that you would never do. Push your limits, push the limits of what people expect, and always push the limits of what people are comfortable with.

If you won’t write about it, speak about it. If you won’t speak about it, think about it. Whatever it is, whatever the fight. Never stop the conversation, especially now that it has been opened here at Hagerty. 

In fewer words, thank you for thinking with me these past few years. It has changed my life.

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