-Slaying the Giant of Apathy-

A few days ago, I was talking with the mother of a 38-year-old man who was calling me because her son was battling “the giant of apathy.” He was in need of hope. I could relate. Sometimes I get apathetic when my life isn’t progressing the way I want.

Like most of our stories, this man’s story was not simply a story about apathy. As his loving mother told me, her son is a formerly convicted person engaged in a real struggle to make progress. He is trying to do all the right things. He is staying out of trouble. He got a college degree. Yet his only real employment option, according to his mom, is his current job delivering pizzas. Having been through a similar season in my life, when I struggled to find work because of my own felony conviction, I could empathize with her son’s feeling of apathy.

At the same time, I was reminded of my friend John, who recently shared with me how he broke through similar feelings of apathy with the help of his friends, family and community. Like me and the 38-year-old man I mentioned earlier, John is a returning citizen. He made some mistakes decades ago.

Unlike me, John is a legend in the motorcycle community. And I mean a legend. He even has his own nickname: Rogue.

Rogue is a member of the National Motorcycle Hall of Fame in Sturgis, SD. Rogue earned the distinction of “freedom fighter” from The Hall for his decades of advocacy on behalf of the biker community and for motorcycle rights, especially his work in Connecticut, Florida and in the Congress involving activities like helmet laws and motorcycle-only security checks.

I had the privilege of hanging out with Rouge recently at a biker bar in Brevard County, just before Bike Week. Walking around with Rogue was like walking around with a celebrity. Everyone seemed to know him, care about him and appreciate his role as a leader in the motorcycle community.

Rogue and I talked about his service in the Air Force, and his belief in being involved in the community. We also talked about his time in jail, and how it has been decades since he got out and got back on track.

“Sometimes you have got to be stupid to get smart,” Rogue told me with a laugh.

It was during this time of reflection that my friend brought up the topic of apathy. Rogue did so in the context of the 2016 election, a time when he was especially interested in voting in the presidential primary and general election. Unfortunately, because of his former conviction, Rogue is one of the nearly 1.5 million people who have paid their full debt back to society for past mistakes but are unable to vote in Florida, he was not able to fully participate in his community. That and the fact that Florida is one of only four states that permanently bans folks like Rogue from voting for life had him feeling a little apathetic, at least for a little while.

“Talking with the state and being told I couldn’t vote was frustrating,” said Rogue. “I wanted to be involved and encourage others to be involved,” he continued.

Not being able to vote myself, I could feel Rogue’s frustration, and appreciated his desire to fully serve his community. That was when I asked him how he dealt with the apathy.

“I know that I am not the only one in my community who has to fight this fight,” he said, in response. “Sharing my story can help thousands of other bikers,” Rogue continued.

It was inspiring to watch my friend light up as he talked about his family and friends in the motorcycle community, and how he could help them by breaking through his personal feelings of apathy. I’ll never forget that moment.

“I model my advocacy after Martin Luther King,” my friend continued. “He was about hope and people.”

That moment warned my heart even more. In a very practical way, it also reminded me how to break those cycles of apathy in my own life when they inevitably appear – namely by focusing on people and having hope. For that lesson, I will always be grateful to Rogue, my friend and legend in the motorcycle community. I hope his lesson might also be helpful to others who battle “the giant of apathy” as well. If that is you, please have hope and keep fighting.

Neil Volz is the Political Director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. 

Neil Volz

Neil Volz has more than 25 years of experience working as a public servant and community advocate. This includes work as the Chief of Staff for a Member of Congress and Staff Director for a full Congressional Committee Read More .....