Lessons Learned from Sons of Wichita

After watching documentaries such as Park Avenue, The Billionaires Tea Party and Citizen Koch, I unflinchingly assumed that the Koch family is, for a lack of a better word, evil. Understandably, bankrolling a movement that promotes radical free market thinking, denies global warming, and works to diminish the rights of workers did not make my first impression of the family a good one, given my political and ethical proclivities. However, after finishing the detailed biography of the family, Sons of Wichita, I will admit my initial assumption of the Koch’s was unfair (kind of).

I failed to see the obvious biases in the mediums in which I used to learn about the brothers. I did not realize that each of the 4 Koch brothers is highly intelligent and business-savvy, to say the least. For example, when Charles Koch took over Koch Industries after his father passed away, the company was worth millions; now the company does $115 BILLION in sales, per year (Charles is still CEO). Additionally, Bill Koch, after leaving his brother Charles at Koch industries, started a business of his own that in just a matter of a few years began to amass billions in annual sales. It is hard not to at least acknowledge incredible dedication and hard work when you come across it; and the Koch’s accomplishments in the business sector reflect such attributes. Furthermore, the brothers have used their economic success to create and implement a comprehensive strategy intended to reshape American culture and policy to reflect what they truly believe to be the best way to live. Again, it is hard not to acknowledge and respect such commitment and passion toward a specific set of beliefs (a set of beliefs that derived from their father and his firsthand experiences with communist Russia, and additionally a set of beliefs that were personally confirmed through their huge business successes).

After learning about the brothers, I still do not agree with the ideology they are so vehemently trying to integrate into American society. However, said point is only a reflection of deeper lessons to be learned from reading Sons of Wichita. First, it is important to separate an individual’s ideology from the rest of said individual’s human qualities and characteristics. In other words, disagreeing with someone’s worldview does not automatically constitute a disliking for said person, or worse, a wholesome disregard for said person’s words and actions. Second, it is important to be aware of the biases existing within one’s own political mediums. A lack of such awareness can cause us to miss opportunities to see merit in, and learn from individuals who we sometimes unfairly assume have nothing to teach us.

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