Saturday, May 22, 2010

"Why I'm an Independent": Bryan Puertas, NYC Independence Party

Greetings. My name is Bryan Puertas. I’m an activist and organizer with the New York City Independence Party.

I read and enjoyed the piece by Randy Miller on why he became an independent, and thought I would take a shot at doing something similar. It’s important that independents tell their own stories. Certainly there are already plenty of stories being told about us. You may have heard some of them. Undecideds. Spoilers. Soft Democrats. Soft Republicans. Flip floppers. None of them get it right. Yet if we don’t speak up and tell our own stories, we hear theirs so often that we may even start to believe them. I respectfully submit some new labels. The New Majority. The Deciding Voters. The Nonpartisans. The Youth Vote. Stories are how we share our values and culture, how we have a group conversation as a community. I talk to you every day on the phones, and there are more of you out there than you know. I challenge all of you reading this to not let other people tell you what your independence means, to share your own story here. I’ll go first.

Growing up in Queens and Long Island, I did a lot of reading. There was much I didn’t like about my life and about the world, and stories provided the escapism I needed to stay sane. Science Fiction, Fantasy, Adventure, I devoured everything I could get my hands on. The medium that made the biggest impression on me though, was comic books. Here was something exciting! Characters with incredible power taking matters into their own hands to fight injustice and corruption. This was something to aspire to. While I may have been drawn to the colorful costumes and epic battles, it was the ideas of Might in the service of Right, Great Power coming with Great Responsibility, the never ending battle, that transformed my young brain as much or more than any church sermon or boy scout lesson I sat through.

By the time I hit High School, several things happened to pull me back into the larger world. I joined JROTC, which taught discipline and how to work in a group. The second thing was that in September of my senior year two planes struck the World Trade Center. This was something out of a comic book, happening in real living color. While there might have been no one with a flashy costume to stop it, I did learn later of the extraordinary relief efforts that took place at St. Paul’s chapel adjacent to the site. If you have never been, I highly recommend visiting. It made an impression on me to see how something so good could come out of such heartbreak. I resolved to find some way to serve my country, planning to join the military. As an afterthought, I registered to vote, joining the Independence Party. Politics in my mind was a dirty business. The Democrats and Republicans fought for money, power, and influence, not truth, justice, and the American way. I didn’t think much about it though. I was just one man. I had no power, and so no responsibility.

A year and a half later, things were not looking good. I had lost an ROTC scholarship for medical reasons, had to leave school due to the cost, was depressed, and was slowly atrophying away at minimum wage. How was I going to serve my country now? Out of the blue, (or not, if you believe in providence) I received a call from the Independence Party for a survey on Politics. They patiently listened to my jaded answers, and asked at the end if I’d like to get involved. I said, “Sure. I need a job. Do you have jobs?”.

So began an eye opening time for me. I learned that while my basic assumptions about politics had been correct, reality went so much deeper than that. I learned that the Democrats and Republicans are a political duopoly, an electoral cosa nostra that has inserted itself between the people and the government. They have changed the rules to keep themselves in power, making competition from outsiders all but impossible. They force good people who want a seat at the table to be brokered through them, to pay them tribute and promise them favors. Truly these are villains fit for the Legion of Doom.

While there are villains certainly, there are also those who oppose them, those who take matters into their own hands to fight injustice and corruption. They may not be faster than a locomotive or leap tall buildings, but they have what history has shown to be the greatest power of all. The power to organize people. There is a movement building across the country to reform the rules the parties have written to keep themselves perpetually in power, to break up the duopoly the two “families” have on the political process. And it’s the organizers who are leading it, on the phones, the street corners, the blogosphere. The power of conversation, the power to organize people to work together for their common good, to dream the same dream, that is the greatest superpower, and I’ll take that any day over heat vision.

So that’s my story. While I still read Superman and Spiderman, I read Henry David Thoreau, Martin Luther King Jr., and Jackie Salit now too. I think they’d get along well together. Why am I an independent? Because I’m a comic book geek, and I know who the good guys are.



Bryan Puertas is an activist with IndependentVoting.org and an executive committee member of the Queens Independence Party of New York. He currently heads up the citywide college campus drive for nonpartisan elections in NYC, which has collected over 2000 signatures from young people in favor of nonpartisan municipal elections in NYC. You can reach him at bowerman84@yahoo.com

6 comments:

Harry Kresky said...

Thanks for this Brian. It means so much to the independent movment to hear the voice of and work with a talented young organizer.

cathy said...

Thanks so much for telling your story! Honored to work with you. Glad to have you as a leader among the "good guys"!

Marian said...

Great story of an Ordinary Super Hero doing the hard work of building the independent movement - you inspire me and so many others. Hooray for comic book geeks and every other ordinary super hero with the guts to break out of the two party paradigm. With your leadership we can leap tall buildings in a single bound - look up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane, it's US! Right on Bryan!

Tony G. Rocco said...

That was great, Bryan. It was good to hear your story and know how you connected with indy politics. I really appreciated you sharing this. It's great working with you at IP/CUIP.

Best wishes,

Tony

bowerman84 said...

I very much appreciate the comments. I wrote the piece to encourage other people to tell their stories. Who's next?

Jan said...

Hi Bryan -- Glad to read your history. You're our next-generation independent super hero. Neither rain, nor sludge nor phone static stops you. Jan