Beliefs and My Parents
This really isn't about politics or political parties. I find most of what occurs in that arena to be disheartening and upsetting. No matter how much we think someone is being honest with us, power corrupts absolutely. Seemingly no one is immune. So, this is not a Democrat or Republican or Tea Party or whatever message. I guess this is an example of how what we believe is foundational to us can change.
Through my early life, until I went to college, I followed whatever political beliefs my parents expressed. That is pretty normal behavior. If they thought the Republicans had the right path to prosperity, so did I. If they became disenchanted with a presidential candidate in a certain election and shifted allegiance, I was right there with my vocal and moral support. Of course, I couldn't vote so it really didn't matter much.
A Very Low Draft Number
Off to college and a more radical me emerged. I received a very low draft number in the first national lottery so I made sure I kept good grades in college. I marched on Washington and was half-heartedly involved in a campus sit-in. My primary motivation was really that the girl I was dating at the time was quite passionate about these causes, so I was too. Frankly, though, I was more interested in my job playing records on the radio.
I completed my college studies and then had a friend of a friend get me into the Army Reserves. Six years of monthly drills and a two week summer "camp" every year was a small price to pay for not going to Viet Nam. Politically I stopped following my parent's path and found the message of the Democrats a better fit to my mindset. My votes went to the party of the donkey.
As I moved from my late 20's through my 50's I gravitated toward an Independent label. I would vote for whomever I thought was least likely to disappoint me. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton got my vote, but so did George W. Bush in 2000. Without rehashing all the stuff that happened, I shifted to John Kerry in 2004. Even though Kerry was about as inspiring as a cold bowl of soup Mr. Bush had lost my trust. He wasn't doing what he had promised to do in 2000. Barack Obama promised a change from the 8 years of Bush and he earned my vote. I think there are about five Democrats in Arizona so it was a lonely time.
Within a year, his rhetoric faded and his delivery of hope and change started to sputter. While the Republican-dominated House said "No" to everything, Mr. Obama's lack of experience and leadership became painfully obvious to me. My belief in his ability to deliver took a serious hit. Then the fiasco of the Republican primary process last year cemented my belief that neither party has my interests at heart.
My Beliefs Start to Shift
So, I began to examine what I thought might be best for our country, regardless of what that mean for my political affiliation. I slowly realized I was coming around to some of the positions held by those who think of themselves as conservatives. Now, I must quickly add that the more extreme views of these folks leave me cold. The ideas that people who are poor just aren't trying hard enough, or that those without health insurance are on their own doesn't mesh with my belief system. The idea that tax cuts for the well off are good and similar cuts for the middle class and poor are bad makes me crazy. The fact that the word "conservative" has come to mean an extreme world view is unfortunate and not helpful.
But, what is shifting is my sense that the government can protect me from those bent on playing the system or that a government-run program will always be fairer than one run by a private company. For example, I no longer think the new health care law is a panacea. In fact, while it has some very important features and some elements that I welcome and strongly support, it also has serious flaws. That doesn't excuse the gouging that health insurance companies are engaged in. It doesn't explain why the U.S. has some of the most expensive and least effective health care in the developed world. But, government isn't on track to solve some of the underlying problems with this one bill in its present form.
Fewer regulations and less government interference in our daily lives are now more attractive concepts to me. I don't mean a "survival of the fittest" mindset. Protection of the disadvantaged and those down on their luck is part of who we are as a country. I paid into Social Security and Medicare for 35 years and I am anxious for my payback to begin. I expect regulations to keep the greediest among us from having a free hand at milking the system. I expect government to help protect the air I breathe and the food I buy. But, the government simply piling on more regulations alone can't fix everything and their solutions can make a problem worse.
It is too bad we have come to the point where we attempt to pigeon-hole folks with simplistic labels. While I no longer fully fit the "liberal" label, I am not willing to be called a "conservative" either. Both tags have way too much baggage (get it?..baggage..tags...never mind).
So Now What?
So I guess I am an American hoping that we will right our tilting ship, we will work together to solve the problems that are bigger than any one of us, and that we will build bridges instead of chasms. The last decade or two doesn't exactly fill me with confidence, but what other choice do I have?
The general election is only a few weeks away. The signs by the side of the road will go away and the insulting TV commercials will cease. Unfortunately, no matter who wins I doubt the unproductive name-calling and finger-pointing will stop. I doubt the concept of cooperation will suddenly have an overnight re-birth.
I am left to use my blogger and author-friend Galen Pearl's idea: I hope we can somehow find our happy place as a country and as people. Frankly, my satisfying retirement (and probably yours) probably depends on it.
Vote on election day and then do your best to be civil the day after. Win, lose, or draw (think hanging chads) we are in this together.
OK, your turn. Just know that any political name-calling or blaming a person or party for the ruination of our nation will never see the light of day. We should be gown up enough to express an opinion without that.