Which Way Do You Lean?

DSC_1336Hello friend,

This is a dangerous topic! Along with its friend Religion, this is one of the two subjects you are not supposed to bring up in polite conversation. Let’s talk about—you guessed it–POLITICS! Yes, politics. You are probably cringing at the thought, but I am actually going to make it safe for you—just this once—to talk about where you really stand politically.

How, you ask, could I ever make it safe and socially acceptable for you to talk about where you stand on such divisive issues as gay marriage, Obamacare, gun control, abortion, military spending, welfare, and capital punishment, without offending someone or ending a friendship? Easy, I say. You get to write it all down in a journal.

Politics is such a strange topic for me. I waffle back and forth between, on the one hand, wanting to be super-engaged and even considering what office I should run for, to, on the other hand, being so completely disgusted by the politicians and the whole political process in America that I cannot stand to see or hear another one of them speak. I want to make positive change in this world—indeed, I have even had, at random moments in my life, the thought, “I wonder if I should run for President so I can heal our seemingly infinite social problems?”–and I have to think that most of these folks got into it with similar aspirations. So, why do almost all of them end up looking to me like slippery, self-serving, snakes whose only aspiration is to get re-elected?

It annoys me when I am ambivalent about a topic. Why do I pay almost no attention to what these guys are talking about in the non-election years but then, come election season, I dust off my television and stay up late with the CNN crew dissecting every word of every Presidential debate? I think it because I want to love it. I really do. I want to be inspired by these people, want to be pushed to become civically engaged, want to believe that the political process truly results in a great service to the people of our country and our world. I desperately want to.

I grew up in the 1980s in a thoroughly Republican house in a thoroughly Republican state. Ronald Reagan may as well have been God. When he annihilated Walter Mondale in the 1984 election, it only affirmed in my young mind that Republicans were superior beings. If you asked me then, or any time in the next 10 years, what Republicans stood for or what made the Democrats so inferior, I wouldn’t have had a clue. I knew nothing about the issues. Nothing! The first Presidential election in which I was old enough to vote was 1992. It was Bush #1 vs. Clinton #1. Knowing nothing, I voted REPUBLICAN. The Democrat won. I don’t know if it was my shock from the realization that there was another side that had voters, or if I was simply growing up and actually thinking, but by the time the next election came around, I had an opinion. I went with Clinton—a DEMOCRAT—for his second term (It’s a good thing for the secret ballot, because I would have been excommunicated from my family on the spot). By the time 2000 rolled around, I was so significantly unimpressed by the two major party candidates that I went with Ralph Nader and the GREEN PARTY (And no, I am not the one who cost Gore the election, because North Dakota’s electoral votes weren’t going anywhere but to Bush in that race). Since then, the Democrat in every Presidential race has had my vote.

I am not a party guy. It is in my nature to resist being affiliated with a group. In high school, you couldn’t have made me wear a letterman’s jacket or the tennis team’s state championship jacket if you paid for it. I don’t know what it is, but I do not like to join groups, and even less do I like advertising the ones I am in. Thus, I cannot imagine ever joining a political party. I keep waiting for a party to come along and really impress me with its stance on the issues and the candidates it puts forth. I certainly wish we had a system that encouraged more than two parties, because it seems to me that our two have become grossly homogenized. I know there are differences between the two—there are reasons I fill in the circle by the Democrat’s name in the local elections that I don’t know enough about—but I am not clear on how different the results are depending on who is in power. I think it would be refreshing to get some other voices into the process. The two we currently hear are not exactly lighting my fire.

I seem to be more attached to the issues than the parties. As the years have gone on, I have become about as liberal as can be. I want everybody to have food on their table, health care, and the right to get married. I don’t want anybody owning assault weapons, our military to attack and occupy countries we simply disagree with, or our courts to command criminals to die. I want the environment taken care of and women to be in charge of their bodies. I know that a lot of these things cost money, and though I don’t have a lot of that, I can live with the cost. It feels like a privilege that we in this country have the option of paying, that the money is there (I am a really cheap guy, too, so parting with my money doesn’t come by me easily). As I mentioned, I am not exactly one for advertising my affiliations, so I never thought I would put a political sign in my yard. However, when my wife brought one home in the last election in support of gay marriage, I didn’t fight it. I would rather get behind issues than parties. In any case, I am clearly leaning left.

How about you? Where do you fit on the spectrum? It is time for you to break out the journal for that rare moment of total honesty regarding your politics. Do you belong to a party? Why or why not? Which issues speak to you most? Are there some that you really have no opinion on? Those can be the best ones to write about. If you consider yourself either a Republican or Democrat, are there any of the issues that you significantly disagree with the opinion of your party on? Do you think you are who you are politically because of your race, gender, religion, or economic class? Who in your life can you talk openly about this stuff with? How about your family? Are you all on the same page, or are you the me in your brood? More than most topics, I really want you to dive extra deep on this one, because your journal may be the one place you can actually be open and honest about these issues. Believe me, it can be quite liberating to get this stuff off your chest. Leave me a reply and let me know how it goes. I want to know: which way do you lean?

Authentic you is beautiful you,

William

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