Episode 7: What's next?
How do you feel about the future?
Do you feel hopeful? Do you feel scared? Can we move forward together as a country? In our Season 1 finale, Carvell Wallace reflects on his journey, connects with his kids about their vision for the future, and gathers insight from Alexis Frank, a 27-year old army veteran who wants to make political change.
ALEXIS FRANK was born in Hartsville, South Carolina. She went to basic training right after high school, and spent 6 years working as a paralegal in the JAG Corps. She spent time in legal assistance, assisting soldiers with Powers of Attorney and wills. She also spent time working on high profile prosecution cases when she was the Non-Commissioned officer in charge of the Special Prosecution Unit on Fort Bragg. In addition, she did two brief tours in Germany and South Korea. Alexis' husband is serving on active duty as a helicopter mechanic at Marine Corps Air Station, New River, in Jacksonville, North Carolina. She and her husband have two beautiful children, Avery (4), and Aliza (15 months). After the 2016 election, Alexis was inspired to step up and serve her country again. She ran for Congress in South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District in the 2017 special election.
Episode 7 Transcript
Carvell Wallace: [00:00:04] How do you feel about the future? Do you feel hopeful? Do you feel scared?
Ezra Wallace: [00:00:10] I feel hopeful, but I also feel like the people in power are corrupt and I know we like to think of this country as being democratic and free, but like right now that... the whole concept of American democracy is being threatened. So that's why I'm definitely pretty scared. But I'm also like hopeful that we can resist and not have that happen.
Carvell Wallace: [00:00:45] What do you guys do on a daily basis like about it? Like what do you feel like if anything you that you can do on a daily basis about it?
Georgia Wallace: [00:00:55] On a daily basis, I think that honestly the thing that I can do right now in my life is to go into school and to sit there and actually learn what I need to learn, and I need to read, because knowledge is power.
[00:01:07] And the more knowledge I have, the more power I have.
Carvell Wallace: [00:01:15] I'm Carvell Wallace and this is Closer Than They Appear. And those were my kids, Georgia and Ezra. It's a thin and easy story to shake our heads and say that we adults have messed up the world and left the children with an undue burden. But that is as true today as it was when I was a kid. So how does such a thought actually help?
[00:01:40] Isn't that just another way of adults throwing up their hands and saying I guess we're done here?
[00:01:44] Good luck.
[00:01:47] As uncomfortable as it sometimes is, I don't yet think of handing the world off to my children. Nor do I think of protecting my children from the world that we live in. That would be dishonest and impossible and for black kids operating on the same streets as armed police officers, that would be simply unsafe.
[00:02:08] Instead, I think of sharing the world with my children. And that means sharing the problems and the solutions. Really, I think of us as fighting on the same side of a battle, a battle that pits that which creates love and life and serenity against that which destroys love and life and serenity.
[00:02:39] Or if you prefer a more dramatic reading, a battle between good and evil.
[00:02:48] When I started the show, I felt afraid, inept.
[00:02:54] I wanted to ask people what the hell we should do, because I didn't know what the hell I should do. A friend recently wrote that you should never worry alone and there's wisdom in that. So maybe I started the show because I didn't want to worry alone and because I don't want you to have to worry alone. So I began worrying with other people, with famous people, with activists, with doctors, people I grew up with, asking if we can go forward together and how can we go forward together.
Ensemble: [00:03:27] We have to embrace the diversity within our family, which I think becomes a school for embracing... How can we go forward? I mean it's... But I think it's way more complicated than that... but it also as simple as that. You can't... we're not going to...lead a country dismantle the government...that you don't love. I'm a survivor, man. I mean, it's not going to help... [multiple voices] There was so much going on.
Aunt Bea: [00:03:53] It's like, my one opportunity to be a mother. And I think I fell short in many ways.
Carvell Wallace: [00:04:05] This all is a lot to process and yet, it's still not enough. So before I answer these questions for myself, I feel like I need to talk to just one more person.
Alexis Frank: [00:04:22] My poor mother, you know, she she raised me the best way that she could but it wasn't... it wasn't easy for her. And seeing how racially divided we are as a country now in 2017, I can't imagine what she faced being this single white woman with these two brown babies walking around with people just looking at her.
Carvell Wallace: [00:04:47] This is Alexis Frank. She's 27, a biracial Army veteran whose name you might know because earlier this year she decided to run for Congress in South Carolina. The open seat was in her home district and reliably Republican. Frank ran in the Democratic primary against a Goldman Sachs banker. She'd never even been in politics, but she had been to the Women's March just a few months before. What made you decide to go?
Alexis Frank: [00:05:20] I was like, this is how passionately I feel about this. I need to be a part of this. I need my daughter to be a part of this. And I need her to know when they talk about this in the history books that we were there and that Mommy was you know, there to protect her and there to speak up for her and for her, you know and for Mommy and for all the women who are going to come after her and you know, if my daughter has a daughter, for all of that that's what I was there for when I was like you know what? I can't be scared. I can't... I have to start. If I'm going to be a strong mom and I'm going to raise a strong daughter, this is where it has to start.
Carvell Wallace: [00:06:00] Less than two months after the March, she filed to run in the primary. It was late. It was sudden, but she had to do something.
[00:06:13] Her whole campaign lasted just 54 days. She had 54 days to raise money and to build a campaign and to try and win. And if this were a movie, she would have done the improbable, right? The impossible. She would have won and everything would have changed for the better. But this is not a movie. She did not win, but she did get about 20 percent of the vote.
[00:06:40] Her campaign slogan: "Protect what you love."
Carvell Wallace: [00:06:47] Did you are you...? So, it's almost like you're doing politics the way that they tell you it's supposed to be done in the movies. Which is that an inspirational candidate with a message and a belief in their community is supposed to enter politics and and believe they can make a change. That's what they always tell us is supposed to happen.
Alexis Frank: [00:07:07] It's the way it's supposed to be done, period. It shouldn't have to be the movies that tell us this. And that was the point that I always had to drive home and that's what I told people when they were concerned about my age. I'd be like look, as you see everybody else on this stage, I said, some way shape or form all of these people decided to do good by themselves first, before deciding that they cared about the American people.
[00:07:30] I said, I am a veteran. I said and then I decided to run for Congress. I've done nothing but try to serve this country. I said, I didn't wait until I was in my 60s to say hey, you know what? I think I'm going to go try to you know, help the country out a little bit. I'm like, so I've always tried to do good by the American people. And for me, it was more like a listening tour when I would go talk to people. I wouldn't just say well, I'm so and so and this is what I want to do. The first thing I'd go up to someone and say is hey, I'm Alexis Frank and I'm running for Congress.
[00:07:59] What, you? You're so little, you're so young.
[00:08:02] And then I'd say to them, what's one thing that's important to you?
Carvell Wallace: [00:08:05] Yeah.
Alexis Frank: [00:08:06] And then they'd say, well this is what's important to me and I'd say this is how I want to help you protect that right or protect this or protect that. And that played well with people. I had people who voted for Trump who voted for me because they're like well, she gets me. She listens.
Carvell Wallace: [00:08:22] Alexis didn't have the option of only talking to people who shared her politics. She was trying to flip a Republican district, but it was a Republican district that was also her home. So she had to do more than just talk with people she didn't agree with, she had to connect with them, believe in them.
[00:08:41] She had to assume the best of them. It was a leap of faith. And sometimes, though not always, but sometimes leaps of faith can be surprising.
Carvell Wallace: [00:08:58] So I was driving north in California. I was, I was in L.A. and I was coming to the Bay Area and I decided because I had a little time to kill to take the scenic route, to go up 1.
Alexis Frank: [00:09:08] So like, Pacific Coast Highway?
Carvell Wallace: [00:09:09] Pacific Coast Highway. So I decided that I was going to keep driving north until it was like maybe three or so when I left L.A. proper and I decided well, I have like maybe a few hours, three or four hours before the sun sets. So I'll just keep driving along the water until the sun sets and then I will stop and watch the sunset somewhere. So I stopped to watch the sunset in a little town called Pismo beach, which is a little tiny beachside town and I had heard from another from a friend who grew up there that there is this like pretty intense roiling undercurrent of like of like conservative white stuff happening in Pismo Beach, which I sort of expect in every town a little bit. And I don't live in fear of it. I don't think people are going to like jump out. I think it's you know people aren't just gonna like come flying out of their houses to get me if I drive through you know, whatever. So I wasn't too worried about it.
Alexis Frank: [00:10:04] Get outta here!
Carvell Wallace: [00:10:04] Exactly, that you know, but again it's the flip side of what people think happens when you come to Oakland, that you come to Oakland and all of a sudden gang members just stab you and everyone you're with and that's the end of it and it's not like that. So anyway, so I pull over to watch the sunset. I'm on this beach and the sunset sets and it's gorgeous. I mean just tremendous sunset. And this... the sky gets dark.
[00:10:25] And I realize, I'm out there a lot longer than I planned to be. And now it's officially dark like, street lights are on. I'm on this remote highway road you know and there's no one around. And then this pickup truck slows down next to me. And I'm like...
[00:10:42] Uh oh. What have I done here? So. So the truck slows down and the window rolls down and this dude this this older kind of like upper middle aged white dude, kind of heavyset, huge white beard, wearing a baseball cap looks at me for a second and he calls me over to his truck and I'm like, what should I do here? And he's like, I have something for you and I'm and I'm like really weighing what my options are, because this could go really bad and we're living in a time of tremendous fear where it does feel like... I mean, I'm I'm 43 years old. I lived in America for that long. I feel more physical terror right now than I ever have about race right now.
Alexis Frank: [00:11:26] Yeah.
Carvell Wallace: [00:11:26] Right now, I feel that more than I ever have at any point in my life.
[00:11:28] So this guy calls me over and I'm like all right, well, here we go. So I slowly approach his car and he reaches beside a seat and he pulls out a little tiny wooden cross.
Alexis Frank: [00:11:41] Oh my goodness.
Carvell Wallace: [00:11:42] And he goes, anyone who stops to watch the sunset must be a lover of the Lord. So here, take this. May God bless you.
Alexis Frank: [00:11:49] Wow, that's so poetic.
Carvell Wallace: [00:11:51] And he hands me the cross and he drives away. And I still have the cross, and I to me in some ways... I mean, I think about that.
Alexis Frank: [00:11:59] Yeah.
Carvell Wallace: [00:12:00] You know, we had he and I both have reason to fear and hate each other given one narrative, but we also given another narrative have reason to love and support one another.
Alexis Frank: [00:12:12] Lately, I've had this feeling and I've talked to my husband about it and I'm like, I have to find a way to stop feeling like this. So you know military community is very close knit. One of my neighbors across the street, her husband deployed right now. So I went over and mowed her grass.
[00:12:31] I got a new hose and I didn't need the thing that the hose hung on anymore. So I went and gave her mine. And she watches my kids for me occasionally, like very close knit community. But she's not really aware of a lot of the like the political things that are going on. But she knows that I'm deep into it. So she asked me a lot of questions and I think I think she's into Donald Trump because she just doesn't understand like everything that he stands for and stuff like that and it sucks because when we're talking about regular life and our kids and getting a good education and you know, how we bond over things, we're all just regular people.
[00:13:09] But then we have this huge thing that just looms over us, like if somebody cuts me off like, on the road, and I get this like road rage, they'll like cut me off and then we'll be like stuck at a stoplight together or something and I'll see a sticker that that'll be like "Don't Tread on Me." I'm like, oh yeah, I bet you voted for Donald Trump too.
[00:13:30] I don't like feeling like that.
Carvell Wallace: [00:13:35] She doesn't like feeling like that, but it's the way she feels.
[00:13:40] Even after running for Congress, after going out and talking to people and looking for common ground and really wanting to find it, she still has this instinctive reaction that the person with the bumper sticker is just against her. She doesn't want to take it personally, but she can't help it.
Alexis Frank: [00:14:00] I think the hardest thing for me is my mom. I don't want to make her feel like it's all white people who were doing this and make her feel like I have some type of you know, festering hate against her. I don't.
[00:14:13] It's just... I've been trying to tell her mom, you got to get people who look like you to stick up for people to look like me and that look like you know my husband and that look like my kids. You have to. Because you know, black people, brown people, we're tired of sticking up for ourselves. You guys, white folks, you have to do it. And she's learned a lot especially from me running for Congress about how she needs to be as a person. You know, not just as my mom but as a political activist who is also a very conservative person, but was a conservative white person who was in the South who was involved with a black man who had mixed children and that changes a lot of things for people.
[00:14:54] And so I like that term I learned about calling people in and saying you know, you may not understand, but this is how I see it. This is why I see it this way. And I hope that you can see it that way as well one day and you probably will.
Carvell Wallace: [00:15:11] Do you have hope that this country is getting better or can get better?
Alexis Frank: [00:15:19] I have hope that we can get better. We are hurting right now.
[00:15:26] My husband the other day you know, he you know served in Afghanistan with a good buddy and they disagreed on the NFL protests. He unfriended him. This dude started talking about how he was going to teach my husband a lesson and some and I was like whoa, whoa you guys are you know, Afghan war vets together.
[00:15:47] How are you...? How is this happening?
[00:15:50] But we've lost a lot of sight about what makes us human and what makes our bond so strong. You know, we all want our kids to have good education. I want them to be happy, to be healthy. You know, we all just want to have decent lives. Why can't we bond over that? Why have we forgotten that's how we've gotten so far and humanity is not right killing each other off but by loving and nurturing each other?
Carvell Wallace: [00:16:17] And so what is that.
Alexis Frank: [00:16:19] Go ahead.
Carvell Wallace: [00:16:20] No, I was going to say the picture you paint sounds... I mean, I agree with it and I'm sitting here going... We're really, really screwed here. So I guess the question is like, like, what if that's the case which I think you're right, what gives you personally hope?
Alexis Frank: [00:16:41] I think it's just the person that I am. And I have I have two beautiful children and I just look at my kids and the problems that they have are so minute. Like my son is on restriction, all of his toys are in the garage, because he's not grateful for his toys. He always wants go play with somebody else's toys. I was like, alright, let's see what happens if you don't have any toys. And I'm like oh, to be four again.
Alexis Frank: [00:17:11] So Avery, what is your favorite thing in the world right now?
Avery Frank: [00:17:19] Bumblebee?
Alexis Frank: [00:17:19] Really?
Avery Frank: [00:17:19] Yeah. This bumblebee.
Alexis Frank: [00:17:20] Your toy bumblebee?
Avery Frank: [00:17:24] Yep.
Alexis Frank: [00:17:24] That's your favorite thing in the world. Not Mommy, not Daddy?
Avery Frank: [00:17:30] Nope.
Alexis Frank: [00:17:30] Not Nana?
Avery Frank: [00:17:31] No.
Alexis Frank: [00:17:32] Not your sister?
Avery Frank: [00:17:33] No.
Alexis Frank: [00:17:34] Your toy bumblebee?
Avery Frank: [00:17:41] Yeah.
Carvell Wallace: [00:17:41] Just like Alexis Frank's 4 year old son, I have a couple of favorite things in the world.
[00:17:48] I like the way snow looks on trees, solo piano songs with wrong notes played by Thelonious Monk, hugging a pillow when I lay on my side and sleep. I also like feeling like I'm not alone. I like feeling like we all have some favorite things in the world, some favorite things that don't involve hurting one another or lying to one another or trying to stand against that which creates love, life and serenity.
[00:18:21] I'd like to believe that, but I know it's not true because there are people who mean me harm, who mean my kids harm. I once heard that the real definition of humility is to have a proper sense of your own size in relationship to the size of life, of the world. That is, to neither believe that you are so big as to single handedly save the planet, nor to believe that you are so small that nothing you do matters. And for me to be in touch with the right size, that is, to right-size myself, in a sense that's really what I've learned over the course of this podcast.
[00:19:05] Mahershala talked to me about prayer, not as a tool to get what I want, but to remind me of my size, so I could be most effective. Eva reminded me to call in the ancestors so that I wouldn't have to fight a cosmic battle with only terrestrial power. Shereen reminded me to spend more time talking with people in real life than on Facebook and Twitter. Shamrace reminded me to stay positive and stay close to your friends and be honest and grateful about where you came from. Van and Rabia reminded me to get to work, because no matter how bad things are, rootless despair is still a far worse option. And my Aunt Bea, well she reminded me not to be afraid.
[00:19:49] Because life is a brief shadow anyway. Your present will become your past. Your fears and agitations and desires will become scrapbook pages and memories that change even as you speak them.
[00:20:06] But it's something that Dr. Virji said, that I continue to think about.
[00:20:12] Do you think it's possible for someone to be virulently anti-Islam, to wish harm for you and for your family, and also to be a good person?
Dr. Ayaz Virji: [00:20:27] Yes. I do.
[00:20:31] Or let's go back to the guy who said I was the antichrist. OK. And... Lets, you know, I will never change him. He just he has that stance and that's it. He could be the same guy who has adopted a child with cerebral palsy and has spent his life taking care of this individual. He could be the same guy who volunteers at a soup kitchen. He could be the same guy who goes on a mission trip to Africa and helps build houses for people, you know. So people who I think sometimes minimize their religion to just a belief, versus the whole package, they'll get the package of the heart and the mind. And many people have a great heart, but their mind has been distracted or diluted because of ignorance.
Carvell Wallace: [00:21:20] Many people have good hearts, but it's where their minds are, that determines at any given moment whether the cosmic balance tilts ever so slightly toward good or toward bad.
[00:21:33] And here's the kicker.
[00:21:36] You are that person. I am that person. It's not just someone else. It is us. I may have a good heart, but a good heart is not enough.
[00:21:48] I have more learning to do, more misconceptions to let go of, more prejudices to disentangle, more false narratives to dismantle, more fears to overcome, more internal lies to smash. And so do you. So do many others. If you're a person with power, be honest with yourself about your complicity and when it's time to choose between ego and kindness, then choose kindness first and if you can't do that, if you can't do that because your ego screams I mean, actually screams for love and attention and tells you that you were being threatened and that your very existence is at stake...
[00:22:35] Then deal with that, for the sake of all of us. Deal with that. And if you are a person without power, if you are and have been for your whole life on the receiving end of this nationwide trauma, this nationwide violence, this gaslighting, then the work is to allow yourself to be healed, to become whole, to believe in your value and in your right to be. You have a right to be affirmed. This in your community with your friends, with your God, with your higher self. Pet dogs, kiss babies, lay in the sunlight, make friends, dump toxic ones. Hug yourself. Look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are beautiful. Most of us are some combination of these two.
[00:23:47] The oppressor and the oppressed. Very few of us are all one or the other. We must start with ourselves.
[00:23:58] Challenge yourself. Assuming that you are part of the problem, somehow assume that you still have much to learn about how to be as good as the world needs you to be. Go forward with honesty and humility.
[00:24:15] Know that you are not God. Know that you are not evil. Know that you are a human with the ability to choose to be better than you currently are. So, every day, however you can, be better than you currently are and help others to do it too.
Carvell Wallace: [00:24:49] You think things are getting better or worse?
Ezra Wallace: [00:24:58] Better, always. We're gonna evolve and we're going to get better as a country, as a race, or whatever you want to call humans, humanity.
[00:25:14] Like, we're gonna get better. It's just a fact. This is the best time to be a human in history.
Carvell Wallace: [00:25:21] You mean, compared to all the other times?
Ezra Wallace: [00:25:26] Yes, compared to all the other times. I say in America. I'm going to say in America right now, is the best time to be human anywhere in history, anywhere in the world. I know it's a controversial opinion but I, but it's what I think.
Carvell Wallace: [00:25:43] What about you, do you feel like things are getting better? Maybe you don't know.
Georgia Wallace: [00:25:51] I don't know. I mean, see... I mean, yeah I don't know.
[00:26:06] It depends on who you are. There's no way for everybody to say it is getting better, it is getting worse, we're saying in the same place. Nobody's ever going to agree. We're conscious, meaning that we're never going to agree with everybody else.
Carvell Wallace: [00:26:22] So how do you make peace with that?
Georgia Wallace: [00:26:27] Well, you kind of don't. It's always in the back of your mind. There's no making peace with it. It's not... It's not something... it's something that every human is always going to have to live with.
Carvell Wallace: [00:26:44] Let's do IDs real quick.
Georgia Wallace: [00:26:45] I'm Georgia, like the state.
Ezra Wallace: [00:26:53] This is resident fourteen year old Ezra Wallace coming at you with the deepest thoughts you'll ever hear out of a random 14 year old.
[00:27:06] Signing off.
Carvell Wallace: [00:27:09] Thank you.
Carvell Wallace: [00:27:18] With kids like this, what choice do I have? What choice do I have but to be on the side of good and to bring them along?
[00:27:29] So please, come with us.
[00:27:43] Even though this is the last episode of the season, we still want to hear from you. You've come with me all the way through this journey and I'm wondering if you've learned anything. How will you go forward? Call our voicemail box and let us know. The number is 949-522-5587. That's 949-522-5587 and we may use your message on our social media platforms.
[00:28:22] This has been Closer Than They Appear, from Jetty Studios. This is our final episode for now, but we still want you to talk to us. We're on Facebook and Twitter @closershow and you can always find links to episodes and full transcripts on our website, CloserThanTheyAppear.FM. A lot of people made this show possible. And right now I want to thank them all. So here we go. Sophie Feller, Silvio Carrillo, Hugh O'Connor, Amanda Shareghi, Raja Shah, Lisa Morehouse, Tresca Behling, Jillian Robertson, Brandi Howell, Marylee Williams, Geraldine Ah-Sue, Joe Presser, Elie Khadra, Jason Drakeford, Jonathan O’Brien, Kat O’Toole, Mineko Brand, Youssif Hussein, Trent Temple, Chia Liu, Chris Dare, Holly Gibson, Shreen Khan, Kai Tang, Hugo Lopez, Christine LaMonaca, Michael Zipkin, Conner Jay, Alessandra Ram, Zainab Khan, Hadley Robinson, Seth Samuel, Moeed Ahmad, Alex Wolf, Nikki Reyes, Michelle Klug, Marilyn Lee, Carlos Van Meek, David Hostetter, and Yaser Bishr.
I also want to thank Jo Townson, Ezra and Georgia Wallace, and Porochista Khakpour. I love you guys.
[00:29:55] Our senior producer is Casey Miner. Our producer is Lacy Roberts and our editor is Leila Day. Graelyn Brashear and Paulana Lamonier run our social media and our associate producer is Meradith Hoddinott. Special thanks to Vince Winckel for recording Alexis Frank. Our show is engineered by Mark Behm with mixing and sound design by Ian Coss. Music is by Antique Naked Soul. You can hear more from them at Antique-Music.com. Megan Jones runs our podcast operations and Jessica Wang is our senior video producer. Jetty's executive producer is Julie Caine and the general manager is Kaizar Campwala. Thank you so much listening.