Musings, Nits, and Praises: Political Evolution

Musings, Nits, and Praises

A farrago of all things deemed blog-worthy by a music-loving, poetry-writing, humor-seeking English teacher

Political Evolution

A tip of the hat to Jeff for posting a link to Donald Miller's post on the transformation of his political views: From Reagan to Obama.

My own shifting of political views in many ways mirrors that of Miller. Here are some excerpts that resonated with me:

"Having met the enemy, I discovered the enemy wasn’t who I thought they were. They were flawed, even as we were flawed, but they were no less patriotic, and no less good. And what’s more, they weren’t out to get us like my conservative friends had told me. I began to see, honestly, the far conservative right, the radical right (not the balanced, objective right) as being paranoid. The advertisements on conservative radio talk shows were about guns and alarm systems.

I wondered how I could be made to feel so prejudiced against Democrats. And then I took a hard look at the culture I was raised in. I realized every church I’d ever attended had been an insular community. Every church had been far off in the suburbs, off a bus line, protected from the poor and marginalized and, quite honestly, racial minorities. It’s not that these churches did this intentionally. I don’t believe that. The decisions to reside in the suburbs had to do with property value and opportunity. But the end result was an insulated existence."

Unlike Miller, I was raised in a rather apolitical household. My parents seldom mentioned politics and didn't subscribe to any particular political persuasion. I haven't a clue who my parents ever voted for. However, I did grow up around people--first at church and then in college--who staunchly supported right-wing politics. For some of these people it seemed that being a beet-red Republican was imperative to calling yourself a Christian.

As I've come to care more about politics (though I feel safe in saying I'll never be a political junkie), I've developed a strong distaste for such views and the insular, divisive, and un-Christ-like behavior they foster. Of course, the far-left's labeling of conservatives as greedy, racist, anti-intellectuals is no more productive or reflective of a Christian attitude than the right's demonizing of the left.

I'll add more to these thoughts in a follow-up post. It's lunchtime.

3 Responses to “Political Evolution”

  1. # Blogger Mick Wright

    To discover that we disagree with what we were ostensibly brought up to believe, via research, reflection and lessons taught by experience, is important. Kudos to anyone who examines the issues and finds themselves changing their political affiliation. The country benefits from informed voters.

    However, the linked blogger presents little more than a straw man argument featuring himself as the hero overcoming a shallow, identity-based politics. It's not a balanced, fair comparison of policies and ideologies.

    I resent the insinuation that to be Republican is to be uninformed and unchallenged in one's views, that conservatives are blind followers of Rush Limbaugh, who it was alleged urges listeners not to think for themselves. Or that Republicans are knee-jerk reactionary Christians, or paranoid, or controlled by irrational fear.

    I grew up in a very modest, apolitical household. After living in a rural trailer park, we eventually purchased a house in a government-subsidized, majority-black neighborhood in Des Moines, Iowa. A sizable number of my schoolmates received free or reduced lunches at school. I had friends who were African Americans, Asians, Hispanic immigrants, and lower-middle-class whites. I was already a racial minority, but added to that I was also a Christian, which made me an alien specimen to many of my classmates, particularly those engaged in underage drinking, drugs, casual sex, etc.

    I was quickly identified as the token Christian conservative, and frequently found myself in the minority side of class discussions and teacher-moderated debates.

    All that's to say -- Republicans aren't merely the product of comfortable, insulated bubbles, any more than are Democrats who live in liberal, urban areas, where their ideas can be constantly reinforced by government schools, biased media, liberal arts and society, labor unions, and any number of other groups.

    One should be able to switch parties without demonizing the one he left behind and considering all those on the opposing side fools, ignoramuses, racists, greed-driven scumbags, religious fanatics, etc. If we're big enough to rise above own own immature past, we ought to be able to rise above petty partisanship, too.  

  2. # Blogger Jason

    Mick, I don't think it's Miller's intention to define Republicans as "uninformed and unchallenged in one's views, that conservatives are blind followers of Rush Limbaugh, who it was alleged urges listeners not to think for themselves. Or that Republicans are knee-jerk reactionary Christians, or paranoid, or controlled by irrational fear." He's simply relating the sort of environment in which he was raised. In fact, he makes a distinction between the "radical" right and the "balanced" right. I would think he'd also draw a distinction between the "radical" left and "balanced" left.

    Speaking personally, the distinction between "radical" and "balanced" for either party isn't only a set of political beliefs but also the degree of certainty with which people hold them. I'm all for firm convictions, but regardless of one's political stripe, a person has to acknowledge their political choices are partly subjective and therefore possibly fallible. Someone who holds his or her beliefs as infallible is for likely to adopt a disdain for people with opposing views.  

  3. # Blogger Mick Wright

    Well said, Jason.

    Still, I wonder if this fellow really is striking out on his own, or if he's simply following a different group, still benefiting from the same comforts of like-mindedness.

    I can assure you that my life would be vastly more comfortable if I was just another liberal living in Memphis.

    To be conservative in this culture is to be stereotyped as racist, or ignorant, or greedy, or paranoid, or fear-driven, or hate-filled, etc. It means you're despised not only by our foreign enemies, but also by Hollywood, the media, liberal institutions, race-based groups, environmental groups, and most levels of government. It means your views are going to be routinely discouraged and rejected by the Academy Awards, the Nobel Awards, Saturday Night Live and 99% of the panel on The View.

    But I'd rather be comfortable in my own mind than celebrated by the Memphis Flyer. Or Barbara Walters.  

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