Monday, October 11, 2021

In My Defense ...

Last Friday I presented the October Right-Cheek Ass Clown award to the Republican Party, an award I felt was particularly righteous at this moment in our conflicted history. The post got a few comments, as most of them do, but one of them was particularly interesting.

In the original post, I included this disclaimer: "my first vote for president was cast in 1972 for Richard Nixon, and I cast mostly party-line votes for Republicans until, in disgust at what the party had become, I voted for Democratic challenger John Kerry over George W. Bush in the 2004 election. I have voted exclusively for Democratic presidential candidates ever since, although in the past I occasionally voted for a Republican at the state or local level when I felt he or she was the better pick ... but it's been a long time since I was able to do that in good conscience."

In response, an anonymous reader left this lengthy comment:

"I am a member of the same age cohort a [sic] you ...

"So tricky dick, the crooks excuse ford, addled ronnie raygun, perjurer poppa and finally the twits first run did not offened [sic] your sanity but finally the largest fiasco in US history. the Iraq war, finally, finally did turn your stomach?

"You certainally [sic] must have had a strong stomach and rare natural talent for increditable [sic] tolerance for gognitive dissonce [sic] to take that long.

"Question did you bring your thuglican delusions over might making right, pissing down economics and other inane thuglican dogme [sic] with you?

"Was it that you wished to pull the D's further into the miasma of thuglican economic fantasy's [sic] while being such a po;itical [sic] coward that you surrndered [sic] what had ben [sic] your party to the lunatics rather then engage them in the name of reason and sanity? 

"Of course after you had helped create and pave the path for thuglican behavior of today you washed your hands and decamped.

"A bit like ex mafiosa's [sic] making public exhibit of supporting churches to buy their way into respectable society.

"Sorry no sympathy for those who helped lay the cornerstone of today's seditious amoral thuglicans."*

Well, I guess I know where this particular reader stands ... and I have to admit that he** makes some points worth answering. If nothing else, it got me to thinking about how we develop our political beliefs and how they change over time.

Looking back, I think I started out as a Republican because my parents were both Republicans, and I absorbed their belief systems as most of us probably do. I suppose I remained a Republican largely because of three things: political inertia, personal comfort, and concern over the social and political unrest of the 1960s and 1970s, which I found offensive. In retrospect, that unrest was offensive mainly because none of its causes directly affected me - a young man with the good fortune to be born into a stable, white, solidly middle-class family. 

But like many people, my social and political views changed over time. Someone*** once said that a man under 30 who is not a liberal has no heart, while a man over 30 who is not a conservative has no brains. My experience, though, has been the opposite. 

My college years exposed me for the first time to people with experiences and ideas very different from my own, and my career in the Air Force allowed my to work day-to-day with those people. It also gave me the opportunity to travel widely, get to know people of other countries and societies, and see how the rest of the world lives. All of this led me, however slowly, to question my original political beliefs and social outlooks and develop into the person I am today.

One of the reasons we're in our current mess is that too many of us have not been able to grow, learn, and change our opinions and beliefs. Too many of us are comfortable with the way we grew up and formed our ideas. The idea that other people have led lives less safe, comfortable, and rewarding than our own doesn't matter because it doesn't affect us.

Except that it does.

We can see that clearly now if we simply look clearly at the world around us. Economic inequality, religious intolerance, and racial prejudice are terrible problems, even when they don't directly affect us. I never lived a life in which I worried about a police officer's knee on my neck, or whether I'd have to choose among paying rent, buying food, or affording medical care. But many of our fellow citizens did ... and still do.

Should I have backed away from the GOP sooner? In retrospect, yes. But, like it probably does for all of us, the recognition of a need to change came slowly and took a lot of self-reflection and experience of the world outside my own personal sphere.

The Republican Party drove me away, but it took time. While I today vote almost entirely Democratic, I have problems with that party on some issues as well. But whatever my issues with the Democrats, I find them far preferable to a GOP that every day becomes more xenophobic, racist, economically illiterate, scientifically ignorant, religiously repulsive, and politically antidemocratic.

I've changed. I wish more people could.

Have a good day. More thoughts coming.


* The writer actually left this comment on the following day's Cartoon Saturday post, so if you want to read it in situ, go there.

** I'm assuming the writer is a man because I've never met a woman who wrote like this.

*** It's been credited, in various forms, to Winston Churchill, John Adams, and Georges Clemenceau, among others.


Dave Peterson said...

Well said. I described my own political journey here:

After reading your post, and the questions posed by the commenter, I also believe that I should have changed parties earlier, but like you I had to move at my own speed (and be prodded by a wife and three children who have been liberal forever).

I think it's interesting that so many times a dogmatic, inflexible attitude is praised while an evolving one that changes with new information is derided as "flip-flopping" or worse.

Mike said...

I've followed close to that same path. My father was a diehard republican. I'm not sure about my mother but if I had to guess I would say a liberal. I voted split tickets until after Reagan when it was apparent that republicans were bigger thieves than democrats could ever hope to be.

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

Excellent post! as usual Bill.
My father said he was a democrat and voted that way but his thinking was a lot of true republican values. (women are 2nd class, abortion due to his cult like religion) But he was an immigrant so he leaned democrat. Then after the Navy, he got a trade and became a master plumber and the whole union thing. He was conflicted about a lot with that situation but always ended up voting Democrat in the presidential elections. When it came time for me to register in 1974 I registered as an independent which really irked my dad. To him, that wasn't making a choice. To me, it was that I didn't have to if I hated both. Remember John Anderson? No, I did not vote for him but my father was sure worried I would because he was an independent and I had just become one. I lean left for certain but sometimes I think I am more of a moderate left.

Linda L. said...

And a "Hallelujah" to that!!

Ol' Simmons said...

George Washington warned us of the dangers of a two party system, he was right. I've never needed a party platform to tell me how to think, unfortunately many do.