I Don't Want To Be A Liberal...

I Don't Want To Be A Liberal...

Blue HippiesI 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. 

Ron Paul Capitalism

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.

Lincoln FreedomI 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

KKK TrumpI 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

Knowledge Is Power 300My 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.

Comments

I heard that an actual state senator who writes bills that have no chance of becoming law went on the radio and called you and me and that other snarky blogger all socialists. So we must be flaming liberals, right?

I stand by what I've said for months - that there's nothing conservative about letting the state's core functions crumble around us. And if marginalizing groups of people, including their kids, is conservative, then I think we should all be out.

That is basically my story with the exception that I have always been a Republican and I like Pearl Jam.

My friend, you surprised me here and I thank you. I am grateful for your brave honesty in telling us more about WHO you are and how you have come to think the way you do. Under other circumstances, the chances that our paths would cross and that we would take up meaningful conversation with each other would have been near nil. Yet here we are talking earnestly, supporting each other, trading our war stories. So while I was reading this post I was thinking, "wow, for real?" And this reminds me why I want to spend my precious time engaging with folks who are up on their ongoing identity work - because it means that I'll likely get to see a piece or pieces of the transformation in process. You shared parts of your transformation here and I am moved.

For many years I have leaned to the right in national elections. And some would say that I lean to the left in state elections, but that is, in my opinion, because what passes for conservatism at the state level is just wrong these days. Agendas have been promoted because they are conservative, like the insane idea that we could eliminate a tax responsible for the largest amount of state revenue and make up for it with economic growth. This isn't conservative, it is just crazy.

I aren't politically identical, but I get your journey. Thanks for sharing.

"What passes for conservatism at the state level is just wrong these days."

You said a mouthful there, brother. 

The quote from Ron Paul that I included about not knocking capitalism b/c we haven't tried it yet is something I genuinely believe. I don't think the 'free market' - even at its most brutal - was ever envisioned as being about government sponsorship of a chosen sliver of winners and corporate sponsorship of an unchangeable power structure.

We've lost any appreciation for complexity. High taxes stifle growth, it's said. Yes, yes they do. The solution, however, is not to eliminate taxation altogether, thus insuring prosperity - it's a balancing act between the spoils of the successful and the collective obligation to the social contract. 

The left does something similar socially when they argue that scarlet letters and shame-based legislation is ineffective and ethically unpalatable. Yes, yes it is. Their solution, however, seems too often to involve promoting every conceivable violation of decency as if that in and of itself is enlightment perfected. 

See what happens when people agree with me a little, however politely? I spin out of control!

Born in Pennsylvania back when dirt was clear (1942 - so long ago, dirt wasn't even dirty yet), I was very happy as a caring Republican. As I got into college, Republicans such as William Scranton were happily supported. Time passed and we moved to Connecticut to begin my career. Then (1969) and still pretty much today, the really important decisions were in the Democratic primaries; to 'be in the game', I reluctantly registered Democrat. But, again as it was then and pretty much is today, the Democrats never saw a giveaway they didn't over-budget...

My thinking has always aligned quite well with the Libertarian viewpoints - playing an important role in my election choices. So today, I am happily registered independent (no campaign calls or mail) still aligning with the Libertarian thinking. Maybe you'd find this as comforting as I have.

I lost any hope of a President I think could do a good job when Christie dropped out... Frankly, I'd like to see "None of the Above" as a ballot option; four years without a President might be best!!!

One fab article. After 35 hrs teaching directing mil Ed programs, Caryle is right: 92% ants & 8% run things. A sorry state of affair.

My father is a die hard conservative, of the old school type, and I am a liberal, but we agree on exactly the things you say. And more: prison reform, money in politics, the role of poverty in education. When you stand on someone's neck, it is asinine to scream at them forbeing too lazy to get up. I am not sure how to fix it, but the status quo is a recipe for revolt.

I've been raised Minnesota Republican, which was always loosely defined for me as socially liberal and fiscally conservative. My family has always focused on taking care of community by members of the community, making federal programming unnecessary. However, the social support needed to create, sustain, and expand community-based resources wanes as more and more of society buy into the idea that their individual wants and leisure take precedence over communal needs because "the government (or someone else) will do it" or "those people haven't earned it."

All in all, I don't know what to call myself. I don't believe in taxation to pay for things, but I am realistic enough to know that as a society we've fooled ourselves into believing that our responsibility is only to ourselves. We must believe that we aren't responsible for others. Why else would we buy coffee for the next person in line that one time four years ago and act like we're a generous sort? Why else would we give money to charities instead of our time? Why else would charities prefer our money to our volunteerism in some cases? Why else would people reject the kindness of strangers or cautiously eye them waiting for the catch? We've lost sight of what generosity is and what it means to invest in our communities.

I'm with you on the idea of sharing maps and building skills instead of handouts, but people today are too comfortable with paying someone else (often the government) to hand out the maps or they want control over who is deserving of the map and exactly what is detailed on the map, how it is interpreted, and what is left off the map for the sake of .

All in all, I understand where you are coming from and can relate at least in part to your feelings of conflict. I just can't even begin to imagine how to shift the tides of self-interest to create a world that resembles what I remember as a child, a world that probably never really existed outside of the isolated pockets of my insulated youth.

Thanks once again for a 'Consideration-provoking' post! I am bothered by the use (and the overly simplified characterizations that seem to be lockstep with) labels. So often (not for you and hopefully not for me), people are obsessed with the characterizations. I recently received an email including the following (paraphrased): "You voted for Trump and thus you accept that you are a racist, ..." No, I Considered the options for my presidential vote and voted for Trump because on balance I believe his ideas were better for the country! As with Clinton, most of the most alarming characterizations came from the other side. E.g., the Democrats labeled Trump a racist most frequently; the splinter groups espousing racism chose Trump, not the reverse. Being labeled because I voted for someone similarly labeled (by others) - in this case, Trump OR Clinton - is ridiculous ... By the way, as I've noted before, the Trump message and Trump choice of Secretary of Education scares the crap out of me!!!

On a more positive note, I really like this quote from this post: "I can’t fathom our obsession with “raising the bar” when it remains so detached from 'helping them actually jump higher.'” It's obvious to me, upon Considering this quote, that politicians, policy people, and profit-grubbing corporate / Foundation leaders are the ones obsessed by raising the bar in education. The educators correctly seek to help with jumping higher wanting the optimum for each student. AND the direction we move depends upon the beliefs of the parents and citizens. Jumping higher will be achieved in spite of the mandates IF the parents and citizens seek / support it.

You’re a genius - what a thoughtful and wise statement.

You’re a genius - what a thoughtful and wise statement.

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