Friday, May 21, 2010

People have wondered. Here is my best explanation.

note: This post was created months ago. I was thinking about posting a new version but I thought that this one was ok and that I may add to it. It is interesting to look back at it with another layer of life laid on top of it.

This is a political post. It is an explanation of why I am no longer a Republican. It will hopefully not be a lightning rod for a political back and forth by my two readers and it will hopefully not be terribly offensive though, as political views go, someone is going to be miffed by some assumption I make. I don't apologize for my views because I believe them to be genuine and correct at this time in my life. I say "at this time in my life" because people change, as I have, as they grow and experience things and think about things. So here goes.
I used to be a Republican. I used to think that liberals were strange and uninformed crybabies. It helped that I listened to Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh because they would confirm that liberals were crybabies and would ruin the nation. I believed that rogue countries needed to be dealt with by force and American power, and that impoverished nations like Africa just couldn't get their act together and garner the resources of that enormous continent has and use them to become a powerful force in the world. I believe that my views had a lot of racial and social bigotry driving them. I believed, like a lot of Republicans, that poor people just needed to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and get with the program so that the government didn't have to support them. I pretty much believed most of the fiscal conservative rhetoric. I usually came down on the liberal side of some social issues like abortion but I considered myself a Republican. There are two things that changed my view, not immediately, but over the course of a year or two. Kids, and the pastor at my church.
First, my kids. When I had kids, I began to notice kids, and their parents. At the grocery store, at the doctors office, just generally out and about. Here is where the shift started. I knew , for the most part, that parents wanted to take care of their kids more than anything as I did. At the grocery store about a year ago. I was in line with my kids and there was a woman with three kids in front of me checking out. She had a cart full of stuff and the kids were whining about toys and whatnot, normal stuff. When she pulled out her WIC card, which is Michigan's version of food stamps, my Republican self righteousness came up. "Here is another one", I thought, living off the government. Then I saw the look on her face as she peered at me out of the corner of here eye, then looked down at here feet. At the time, I didn't think anything of it because I hadn't yet known what my pastor would eventually teach me, compassion. I thought back on that recently and through my more compassionate, yet still a little self righteous minds eye, I saw what the look from that woman then down at her feet was: Shame. Shame from a thousand conservative radio hosts calling her a welfare queen and millions of Americans agreeing in self righteous unified indignation. All she wanted to do was feed her family and just could not do it all by herself. I don't know her circumstances but I do know that people need help sometimes and just because a few people cheat the system doesn't make a person on welfare less of a human. More on compassion later, back to my kids. Another thing that has changed my views as it regards my kids is the Iraq war. I supported it, big time. I was all for it. Saddam Hussein needed to be removed and I still think it was a good thing that he was. However, as I began to think of the kids, and they are kids, that go into the military, I began to think of my kids going into the military and being sent to some far away land to fight. I am not opposed to my kids going into the military by any means but I would like them to understand what they are getting themselves into. Our society, as most do and have for centuries, bolster the warrior and celebrate him as an instant hero. Don't get me wrong there are many heroes in the military and I support them with all of my heart but I feel we as citizens as well as the warriors themselves have been ramped up by unwavering nationalism and the unfailing moral right of our government and our military. We are taught that to question a war makes you un-American and no matter how supportive you are of the individuals fighting the war, Sean Hannity is going to call you out as a terrorist sympathizer. On a side note, I realize that a lot of Republicans are not Sean Hannity but he is one of the loudest voices of the party and a radio show doesn't go on without listener support. So there you have it, how my kids have affected my political views. It may be not very succinctly put but hopefully well enough to be understood. It is also a very compact version and I'm sure that there are many other minute factors but those are two of the big ones.
Second, and this is the big one. Compassion. My pastor made me a liberal. Sounds kinda funny doesn't it? Aren't Pastors supposed to pull you into the fold of good Christian conservatism? To make you a well fit cog in the Republican Political Machine? Absolutely not. Pastors, the good ones, teach you about God and Jesus. Not the version that people use to hate homosexuals but the version, the one I believe in, the one that I believe to be in the Bible, that loves everybody and has a compassion that everybody in the world should strive for within themselves. Uncompromising compassion that has no exceptions. I don't have that by any means but am trying. So anyway, as I began to learn about loving people and having compassion for people, I began to think about the way I view them, all of them. That is when I thought back to the lady in the store. That is when I began to see that a lot of people cannot change their circumstances, the cannot "pull themselves up by their bootstraps". They may not have the education they need, they may not have been taught how to take care of money, or how to get a good paying job or even how to read. They may have an illness that keeps them from functioning. There may be underlying circumstances that will absolutely not allow them to survive on their own without help.

He are some newer thoughts: My ideals have not changed. In fact, they have most likely grown more leftist. Maybe even Socialist. People need help. We need to help them. The government, while terribly inefficient, can help them. The Church can as well and does wonderful work but it is not enough. I don't want my kids growing up in an "I've got mine don't take it" world.

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