November 7, 2014

Out of the Political Closet

I’m a heathen who votes Democrat.  And no, I’m not trying to destroy the country.


Last weekend, the Dude and I had a nice visit with my sisters, Amanda and Kelly.  Amanda brought her boyfriend and twenty-year-old son.  Cue political discussion.
Just for some background, we were raised in the 70s and 80s by conservative Christian parents who started off in the Democrat camp but shifted further and further right as the years went by and Republicans started presenting themselves as the party for Christian values.  My dad still clings to his Democrat identity even though most of his opinions fall into ultraconservative territory.  For example, being strongly anti-choice, anti-gay-rights, and pro-prayer-in-schools.  I don’t get it.

Most of my family speaks in the same tired old Fox News sound bites.  The primary exception aside from me is my sister Kelly, who is the only other one who is not religious and opposes what the Republicans stand for, at least on social issues.

Before I get any further, I would like to state that I have no problem with moderate Republicans who have arrived at reasoned, informed conclusions.  I may not agree with you, but if your opinion is based on research and independent thought processes instead of being spoon-fed to you, I can respect that.  The same goes for Democrats as well – I don’t care what party you are as long as you’re reasonable.

As for my religious and political journey, I left my Christian faith back in my late teens, developing an interest in Wicca and then on to agnosticism with more atheism creeping in lately.  Still, I maintained my Republican political beliefs for awhile.  As I got further into my twenties, I disagreed with them more and more on social issues and moved into my Libertarian phase.  But as support for civil rights violations increased in the extremist element of the Republican party, I have landed on voting Democrat as the most likely way of stopping them.  Which obviously is going in the wrong direction given the latest election results. 

(In the interest of disclosure, it’s a sad fact that I was unable to vote in this election because of some serious medical problems my husband was having that took all my attention to address.  But the Republican victories here were landslides as usual, so at least I know that my lack of voting this time didn’t affect the outcome.  Normally I do it anyway, though.)

So back to my visit with my sisters.  Amanda’s boyfriend started talking about Obama, again in Fox News-ish language with conspiracy theories about how the Democrats rigged the election, how they were trying to destroy America . . . you know the drill.  I’m generally non-confrontational in real life, so I responded here and there with my standard “hmmm.”  But once Amanda started in, I interrupted her gently.

“Hey, we probably shouldn’t go too much into this.”

“Why not?” she said, sounding surprised.

“Because I’m a liberal,” I said.  “A Democrat.”

She gave me a wide-eyed, horrified look as if I had just announced that I was cheering myself up from an Ebola diagnosis by eating kitten pie.  “You mean . . . you mean you agree with . . . Obama?” she stammered.

I shrugged.  “Sometimes.  But I’m more interested in what Hillary’s going to do now.”

More appalled looks.  My nephew said, “She’s just a dumb blonde.”

I was proud of myself for keeping my cool at that.  He’s twenty and really is a great kid, in the National Guard, very responsible, and committed to his education.  And I remember being that age and having a lot of black-and-white opinions, with my parents’ teachings still heavily influencing me.

So I went easy on him and did not reach across the table and smack him for that demeaning, sexist comment.  I said nicely, “I don’t think she got into this position by being dumb.  You may not agree with her, but it doesn’t mean that she’s not intelligent.”

Fortunately, Amanda and her boyfriend seemed to agree with this.  At least Amanda doesn’t buy into all the ultraconservative bullshit.  We wound up talking about gay marriage being legalized in more states across the country.  Although she’s expressed before that she disagrees with the gay “lifestyle” and thinks it’s sinful, she also thinks it’s sinful for people to go around condemning others who aren’t hurting anyone else, so they should be free to do what they want.  She’s well aware of my lack of religion and hasn’t tried to convert or judge me, which I appreciate.  I guess I’m a little surprised that she had no idea I was a liberal.  If you know me, it’s kind of obvious!

But I wasn’t kidding when I said that it was a nice visit.  We didn’t get into some horrible argument.  We didn’t shout at each other.  We found some common ground (like the state of education in this country) and discussed that.  I think that’s the ideal, but it takes two civil people who can set aside differences.

Too many people just blindly go along with what they’re told about the other side being the enemy.  I hope that my sister came away from it at least a little more accepting of the fact that not all Democrats are evil.  Just like I accept the fact that not all Republicans are evil. 

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