Thursday, February 23, 2012

Call me Conservative, right of center, liberal, moderate, Democrat . . . call me anything but a Republican

Well here it is, the last of my three political shaping moments.  Let's review:  the first moment I was 10 and I earnestly sought to pick the best candidate.  I happened to choose 5 Democrats and 1 Republican.  The second moment I was 15, and I was told I was a Democrat by someone I'd never spoken to.  I really think those two things sum it up well.  But obviously not well enough, as there is one more story.

After being told I was a Democrat, I decided to get more serious about political issues.  I wanted to know for myself just "what" I was.  My Senior year gave me much opportunity to explore political issues.  There was another presidential election, and as Editor of the school newspaper I wanted to research the political issues and share them with the school.  As Editor, I knew my smarter, less biased friend would be better for the job (she also happened to be Editor).  I devoured her article, and confirmed what I'd learned in 4th grade; I preferred the Democratic candidate once again.

So I went away to college, fairly certain I was a Democrat.  If the topic came up, I'd identify myself as such -- and the boy I was dating would ask I never reveal this to his parents (okay, that only happened once, but it was weird (in the interest of complete honesty, I think another boy stopped asking me out when he learned I was a Democrat -- his loss)).

My Junior year I wanted to be more involved on Campus, so I went to a couple College Democrat meetings.  They were a small group, made up primarily of students "different" than the ones I normally associated with, but they were so kind and very eager to welcome a -- clearly -- mormon girl to their team.  Their goal that year was to recruit more  Mormons, and they succeeded.  At one of my last meetings there was a young man from my hometown present. I made a mental note to add his family to that list of Democrats my history teacher had been keeping.

A strange thing happened my junior year. Suddenly, there were several people interested in discussing politics with me. One of my favorites was a dear roommate. She was moderate in her beliefs, and I always felt what she said was intelligent and well thought out. Soon there were a couple of guys from our complex, wanting to come over and dissect Roommate and I's politics late into the evening. Why is this relevant, you ask?  Well, these discussions really helped me think through the issues and forced me to decide where I stood, regardless of party affiliation.

One night I remember Carson (a neighbor boy) adamantly telling me I wasn't a Democrat.  "Many of your views match mine, and I assure you I'm a Republican. You're just a liberal Republican."

"No, I'm a conservative Democrat," I responded him.

"You just want to be a Democrat because that makes you different here in Utah.  If you were to live in California or some other liberal place you'd realize you are a Republican."  I always hated this accusation, that I was a Democrat solely because I wanted to be "unique."  Carson wasn't the first to say this, but I do think he was one of the last.

"I'm a Democrat because I care about Education and I'm opposed to the war in Iraq.  I want people to be taxed so we can have a civilized society.  I'm a Democrat,"  I'm sure I added emotion at key points, in an attempt to convince him I wasn't just being "different."

"You're a progressive Republican," he thought I'd accept this title, since he dropped the world "liberal."

"I'm glad you think I'm conservative.  I'd love to be right of center.  But I'm not a Republican, I'm a Democrat.  I don't care who runs against Bush, I'm voting for that candidate."

Eventually, Carson returned home. His roommates, twins named Tim and Tom, happened to be the President and anotherimportantfigure of the College Republicans.

It's what happened later that Spring that reflects why I DID NOT want to be associated with the word Republican.

Tim (or was it Tom?) was organizing an event that stood up for marriage between one man and one woman. On this issue I'm very conservative. Carson knew my beliefs were such, and he knew I would sign Ti/om's petition.

Not only did I not sign that petition, but I lost all respect in the world for that twin.  Harsh, I know.  But true.  One warm Spring morning I walked out from the College bookstore and onto the patio between the Quad and the Student Center.  There was Ti/om, dressed in a woman's wedding dress.  A friend of his was dressed in a tux and the two of them were feigning love for one another.  They were so giddy about their nuptials.  They were passing wedding cake out to all passer bys who wanted to sign their petition.  Ti/om started shouting things like "isn't this ridiculous!  A man in a dress!  A man in love with another man!  It's disgusting, it's unnatural and you all see it as such, right now!"

He's right, he was ridiculous, he was disgusting.  He was also the center of attention, so proud of his mockery.  I remember watching the faces of onlookers.  I dare say MOST the students were not impressed.  A few signed the petition, and others took free cake.  But others stood by hurt, confused, amazed, angered, and hurt.  I remember distinctly thinking "these two return missionaries are mocking the Children of God.  They do not reflect the Love of Christ, even though their issue is valid."

Two of my professors organized PRIDE panels after the incident. A friend I'd done some group work with in an English class was on the panel.  She spoke of growing up gender confused in the LDS Church.  She'd tried to keep the commandments.  She served a mission in hopes that her desires would go away.  They never did.  Eventually she "accepted" who she was and she left the Church.  I remember thinking she looked purposefully in my direction when she said she has always respected the Church's belief and she appreciated those who could hold such beliefs while also being kind to her. That's all she wanted, was for people to be kind to her despite her differences.

I know there are compassionate Republicans.  I know Carson didn't approve of his roommates behavior that day.  I know being a Republican isn't a bad thing.  And I'm sure Ti/om is a great person at heart. But that experience, watching those two men ridicule the trials and suffering of God's children, was enough to make me plead "call my anything but a Republican."  I had watched the college Democrats in action.  Their main objective was to reach out to students whose lifestyles differed from their own and to make those students feel comfortable being a part of their group.  I'd watched the college Republicans in action.  Their goal was to gain attention and to make students feel uncomfortable about the lifestyle choices of others.  Had Ti/om walked up to me on campus and politely asked me to sign a petition protecting marriage between one man and one woman I would have smiled and said "of course."

I'm grateful Carson labeled me a Conservative, but I refuse to be labeled a Republican. I believe in the higher laws of God. I believe in fiscal responsibility. I love my freedoms and my liberties. And I'm a Democrat.  

2 comments:

Polly Blevins said...

That story was uncomfortable to read. I am a republican and I am very embarrassed for those boys. I don't believe in mocking others either. I do think some people are born with an attraction to the same sex and I can't imagine how horrible that would be. I do support one man and one woman marriage....that is another discussion.

Scott and Claudia said...

How about I call you your fathers child when it comes to politics!

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