A few days ago, as I was discussing politics with a friend, I realized something that shocked me. I have always considered myself a republican, and I have always espoused the conservative views that were part and parcel of such an ethos. Amazingly, though, as I was listening to myself debate climate change, abortion, and home-state surveillance, I suddenly realized that the progressive views of the Democratic Party were spewing from my mouth-hole, not the well-hewed tenets of the G.O.P., and even worse, I had no inclination to stop these rogue thoughts from bubbling out. I stopped talking, mid-sentence, and I told my fellow debater that the pork sandwich I had eaten earlier was suddenly and violently reacting with my colon and I had to find a bathroom before we were in a Cuban Missile Crisis situation of our own. My partner laughed, and I excused myself to find not a bathroom, but someplace quiet so that I could gather my thoughts for a few minutes. Just what the hell was happening to my long-held and what I used to think were my rock-solid dogmatic views? It was then that I realized I hadn't examined my political leanings for fifteen years or so, and just like anyone still running Windows 95, maybe it was time to update my political operating system.
Where I come from, political ideology is a sacred thing. Right up there with sexual orientation, financial details and discussing the family alcoholic - someone's political leanings are an intensely personal thing, the details of which are to be defended and kept close at all times. Like a reflexive knee-jerk, anyone within earshot who dares to champion a political philosophy that differs from yours in any substantive way is subject to a tongue-lashing and, if necessary, a spirited debate in which you proceed to tell them exactly why they have their head firmly implanted in their own rectum. It's just the way things are done here, and your political viewpoint becomes part of your identity. In fact, I can't remember a time when a family holiday did not end with my grandfather calling my mother a "pinko commie," for daring to suggest women might also have aspirations, and my brother, who at that time was a paint bucket away from composting his own feces, calling just about everyone a fascist. Ahh, memories. Even writing about those wonderful family donnybrooks warms the cockles of my heart, and I still remember running upstairs, logging into AOL, and searching for "what is a bleeding-heart liberal?" Those of you who grew up like I did knows that there's nothing quite like a partisan fracas to bring a strong end to a delicious Christmas dinner. Mmmmm, the indescribable awkward post-dinner je ne sais quoi still makes me smile.
As you can see, politics is engrained in my very being, as it is for so many of the people who were raised in a similar environment. Ergo, having a strong foundation in the political creed of your choice was necessary before you ventured into the waters of debate, for there is no worse feeling than loudly supporting (shouting) a fact (opinion) you are sure will lay your opponent low, only to find out your information is out-of-date (totally false). At that point, there's only one thing you can do - concede defeat (tell your opponent that you think his or her facts are out-of-date [wrong]). Knowing your political place in my world is essential, and being absolutely sure of it is not only necessary, but also a fantastic hedge against participating in visual inspection of your own bowel.
So, you can imagine my complete and utter shock when I realized that not only was I unsure of my political footing, but I was no longer sure I agreed at all with the conservatives I had identified with for so long. I began to enumerate the values I held. First, I am certainly pro-environment, and anyone who thinks we aren't the major cause for climate change needs to sit and examine the facts. I'm not talking about the supposed 97% consensus, but just use your own common sense. Our population is exploding, and our environmental balance is more fragile than the self-esteem of older women who shop at Forever 21. Next, I realized I was pro-choice because, well, I actually consider women people and not "dat gum baby holes." After that, I also realized I was, and always really had been, anti-surveillance. Sure, it might help catch criminals, but it will also catch everyone else, and getting fired because your boss saw you dressed as a male Wonder-woman for comic-con is just not OK. Finally, and this is the first time I'm putting this to paper because it's a decision I've come to very recently - I don't necessarily believe we should simply throw out all illegal aliens. Contrary to popular belief, picking cabbage is not the glamorous job that the slaw people have been claiming it is. Sure, free coleslaw is a great, but, well, it's just great. Still, though, the fact is that Americans don't want these jobs, and the situation in Alabama vividly illustrates this. I know, you are probably saying, "has the world gone crazy?" and, yes, the world might have indeed taken a certain crazy-eye look to it, but everything will be fine, I promise.
This "Eureka" moment was startling and life-changing. All tolled, the only conservative and republican values I still extolled were smaller government and the fact that we don't need to raise taxes (we need to cut the billions of waste - no more IRS Star Trek, phasers set on dumb). I still believe in capitalism and the free-market, but I do acknowledge that something may be broken in our execution. The bottom line is, I can no longer call myself a Republican or a Democrat, and it was one Hell of a revelation. Facing an identity crisis of epic proportions, just like when I need to find out if that red pimple on my belly is actually a long-dead parasitic twin, I immediately took to the Internet to do some research. So I searched for "political party identity crisis," and discovered an interesting article. I had always known our current political parties had evolved and changed over the years, but after reading this, I saw that the parties didn't just change, they completely transformed, and more than once! In fact, looking back, I saw that parties almost arbitrarily took sides against each other on the most divisive issues. Now, this wasn't necessarily new information to me, but it did help me to realize that attempting to shoehorn yourself into one political part is like not being able to chose your own toppings at the fro-yo stand, and if I want to put hot fudge on my cotton candy frozen yogurt, then I will dammit. The simple fact is values change and priorities become irrelevant, and, actually, the people who refuse to change are the ones you should stay away from. Besides, I truly believe that most of the people in this country are socially progressive, and fiscally conservative, and that seems like the right view to hold. You probably know it by another name - common sense.
So, it seems that I can no longer call a get-together of my liberal friends a "meeting of of the local communist party," and they can no longer call me Warhawk McFossilFuel III or Riflejack Earthkiller or Farmer Frack or Cruella de Vil, or that guy who eats babies, or, well, you get the idea. Once they get a hold of this article, I cannot wait for the truly horrible session of eating crow I'll have to do after years of jabbing at those hippies. I mean those full-of-common sense individuals who may (or may not) have some valid views. I already smell the Patchouli.....