I Don't Want To Be A Liberal...
I Don't Want To Be A Liberal...
I first became a Republican because my parents were Democrats, and I didn’t want to be like them.
In retrospect, that wasn’t entirely fair, but I was a rather pompous teen (not warm and fuzzy like I am now). Faux angst and barely noticeable rebellion were an essential part of my pretending to grow up.
I was raised in an orthodox little church, around good people who may not have had the most flexible worldviews. I was pretty sure I had it figured out, and that my primary role in this world was to help other people figure it out (my way) as well.
That others seemed so resistant was their issue, not mine.
I was in retail when I first heard Rush Limbaugh on the radio – during the glory days, before the pills and when he’d only had a few wives – and although I didn’t like him, I understood and appreciated far more of what he was saying than I’d care to admit now. It resonated with some core part of me.
I became a teacher after it became clear the band wasn't going to make us rich and famous after all, and I lacked... passion for managing a small business. I chose history because I was tired of all the “revisionism” propagated by New Agey professors with corduroy jackets and bad hair. I would teach “real” history – despite not actually knowing what that might be, having failed those classes in college on my initial run.
Turns out history – being largely about people doing things with or to other people – is a bit more complicated than I’d hoped. There IS no ‘neutral’ or ‘complete’ version, nor CAN there be. There are only better and worse efforts towards understanding limited pieces of it.
After a few years of actually learning things, my Republicanism began leaning Libertarian – at least mostly, in theory, if somehow a bunch of other stuff could be made right first.
See, I don’t believe big government programs are a solution to anything. I don’t believe punishing progress and rewarding helplessness produces progress. I don’t think we can simultaneously prop up bad decision-making AND reduce the number of bad decisions being made.
I’ve lived the life of a privileged straight white Protestant-ish male, but the few important lessons I’ve managed to learn and the most meaningful changes I’ve ever made came about through painful consequences for piss-poor choices. I’ve suffered for my own stupidity, and grown as a result.
I don’t cringe at the idea of taking care of people because I don’t like them; I cringe because I try to love them and want what’s best for them – and depending on me forever isn’t it.
I pay an insane amount of taxes due to the nature of my consulting work. It kills me to see the way it’s loaded up on pallets and handed over to corrupt despots overseas, burned through by unnecessary wars, wasted by the billions on projects benefitting only those re-elected as a result, and otherwise abused and misused by those who could care less because – and this is key – it’s not their money.
I’m pro-life to the extreme. I’m not crazy about Obamacare. I’m frustrated by the correlation between kids on free-and-reduced breakfast and those who can’t seem to throw away their own trash, spreading it instead all over the table, chairs, and floors before they meander off to first hour way too late for it to matter.
I loathe rap and hip-hop. I found pre-2008 Ann Coulter hilarious (although I never took her seriously). My mind accepts tattoos and body modifications as expressions of self, but emotionally it’s a daily struggle not to look down on each and every desperate, clichéd inking or piercing as trashy and trite. I simply cannot understand the appeal of Pearl Jam or Muse.
But here’s the problem…
I don’t believe that everyone has the equal opportunity in practice that we pride ourselves on in theory. The proverbial playing field need not be entirely level in order for meritocracy to be meaningful, but we should at least all be playing the same game with similar rules or it’s all a lie – a cynical joke.
I don’t believe we can poke and prod and abuse and betray large segments of our own population for generations, then - when they lash out - jump back in postures of bewildered, innocent hurt, wondering why we can’t all just get along and let the past (meaning everything we were doing until just moments ago and will continue doing as soon as things calm down) be the past.
I don’t believe as citizens and voters and people of faith that we can so conveniently distance ourselves from the words and actions of those chosen to quite literally “represent” us – to speak for us, make laws for us, and lead us – whenever it salves our consciences to do so. If I’m to hold the left accountable for moral decay or socialist tendencies, then I MUST hold the right accountable for hate-stirring, fear-mongering, and economic abuse on behalf of their fiscal overlords.
See, my Muslim students are NOT a “cancer,” as those on the right would have you believe. (Yeah, yeah – YOU didn’t say that; but you keep electing those who do – so you DID say that.) They’re my kids, and they’re trying to find their place in this world, the different communities of which they’re a part, and to figure out who they are and what it all means – just like every other kid. Maybe more thoughtfully than most.
My Hispanic students aren’t rapists and drug-dealers, as those on the right have repeatedly proclaimed. (Yeah, yeah – YOU don’t believe that; but you keep supporting those who do – so you DO believe it.) Some of them are brilliant, and some of them are motivated. Others aren’t as enthused by this particular value system, nor have we always given them reason to be. We can’t better promote the American Dream by making them scapegoats for our smallness of mind and weakness of will.
My girls aren’t tramps and whores, as those on the right would label anyone not locked into a chastity belt. (Yeah, yeah – YOU’D never think that; but you keep appointing those who do – so you DO think that.) They won’t be helped by ignorance regarding their bodies’ functions or boys’ lusts, and they won’t become classier ladies just because we indulge our fetish for shaming them or locking them up. I’m still idealistic enough to believe that knowledge is power, and that shining sunlight on a subject actually leads to better choices. It sanitizes rather than corrupts.
My poor kids aren’t dirty and stupid and don’t deserve what they’re getting out of this life. (Yeah, yeah – YOU’RE shocked at the suggestion; but you keep choosing those who suggest it, so you’re NOT all that shocked.) It’s because of the very ideals you proclaim that I rant and rage so vigorously about them deserving better.
I’m not looking to give anyone a free ride, but I would like to do a better job distributing maps and have a more open conversation about destinations.
You can’t punish the weak into greatness, and we sure as hell can’t starve them into prosperity. I can’t fathom our obsession with “raising the bar” when it remains so detached from “helping them actually jump higher.”
And so time after time I find myself arguing on the side of those with whom I have so little desire to be associated. The conversations I have with ‘my people’ are more likely to turn rancorous than talks with ‘those people’ – and while I’m always up for a good scrap, I don’t like the tension inherent in betraying the herd.
I don’t want to be a liberal, but I can’t love my kids and believe in my job and be a conservative any longer. I can no longer stretch enough to keep one foot in the camp of the clean and the chosen when my heart is with the bozos and the rejected.
I just hope I can pull off the tie-dyed-and-ponytailed look, and I guess I can try ONE Beyoncé download. But mess with my Ron Paul stickers and I’ll throw kale at you.