Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Making of A Liberal

I am 1000% unashamedly Liberal. I support gay marriage and full gay rights, environmental laws, an end to the Iraq travesty, dialog not bombs and invasions with the radicals of the world, I support a Palestinian state but also recognize that Israel has a right to exist too, as do all groups, I am for separation of church and state, pro choice, pro stem cell research, pro universal healthcare, anti-privatization of services, pro prison reform and against the building of more prisons, I support tax increases when necessary to provide services, I support the right of assisted suicide under some circumstances, I think Government should provide services to all and not be restricting rights and meddling in personal affairs, I would support the end of the so called Patriot Act, and more I am sure I could think of.

How did I get this way?

I am a 50 year old white man. I was born in a smallish town in Central Illinois, went to public schools, even remember praying in school. I stayed pretty much around my small town, an occasional vacation broke up the monotony. I was raised by a pretty typical family, mom, dad, sister. Dad worked, mom stayed home, sister did her thing and I did mine. I was not a rabble rouser, I was a good boy. I was different as we all know now, but then I just thought it was normal to want to light your room with candles and listen to Beethoven. Despite that, I do not think I was highly influenced by my family. I did not see crushing poverty, injustice, discrimination or had a Communist for an Uncle, things that might make a leftist out of one.

I have a couple of theories however.

1) I did not have a heavy religious influence. Unlike some, I was not raised in a fundamentalist family. Church was never ridiculed but was also not a big deal. We went occasionally but not regularly. We were nice Methodists and supported the nearby church, but it just was not a big thing.

When I was a teen, the "Jesus Freak" movement was in full swing. It was cool to be religious for some folks. But it was a restrictive religion. "One Way" was their theme, only Jesus could save you and make you a true person. Not getting sucked into this, I think I developed a more open, questioning mind. I also never bought all the hocus pocus and divinity stuff. I truly believe Jesus lived and that he was one of the greatest minds of all time. Is he divine? That I am not so sure.

I somehow read the Bible differently than some. I tended to see Jesus as not a mean-assed "follow me or else" guy but someone who was a true radical and liberal (that statement usually makes the fundies howl) who brought the world out of the darkness, showed that we could all live together, railed against arbitrary, made up rules and showed us that the family of human kind was of utmost importance. Caring for everyone and equality is a sign of a true liberal, in my humble opinion.

Look up liberal in the dictionary. It usually relates to "generous", "tolerant", "non-judgmental", "not literal". Aren't those fundamental tenets of the teachings of Jesus?

2) Open Mind. I have a gift that is somewhat of a curse at the same time. I see every side of an issue. Liberal, as the definition states, is "not literal, tolerant". I am hardwired to believe that there are many ideas, many viewpoints and many circumstances to an issue. I refuse to see in black and white. For example, I think abortion is a terrible choice. It is traumatic for all concerned and does make the life of the fetus impossible to complete. Yet, I am never one to say to someone you can not have one. That is their choice. Maybe, just maybe, they have thought it through, it is the best thing for all involved. I can see their point of view.

Being this way can make it difficult to make a decision. But it also allows us to question our motives, re evaluate as things change and adjust for new reality. I would rather have a flip-flop liberal in Iraq than a "damn the torpedos, stay the course" approach of the "Conservatives" and risk certain defeat.

3) I read. As a kid, I read everything I could get my hands on. I looked at all views, I questioned things, I realized that it was not just about me. We had a huge diverse world out there and it was just possible that we as white Americans were not always 100% right. As I traveled the world as an adult, I found that to be very true.

4) Nicaragua. My beloved little Nicaragua showed me that a right wing powerful elite was one of the most destructive forces in all nature. Millions died of starvation, no health care, no homes, no work, no safety net. While a few got rich and worried about what palace to build. As I say this first hand, I vowed never to let this happen in my world. It almost has here, but lucky the people came to their senses and saw that some balance and checks had to be made.

There may be more reasons and these maybe totally the wrong ones. I continue to wrestle with this issue and may revisit it someday. Meanwhile, I remain Pato, proudly Liberal to the core.

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