I have a terrible feeling that I have become a liberal. Born and raised in Iowa, I probably should not be such a thing, but I cannot help it. And the most frustrating thing is, I have not changed very much at all. In the 70’s I originally identified myself as a Republican. My parents were Republicans, good old-fashioned Eisenhower Republicans. Practical, pragmatic, determined that the world would continue to be a better place for the next generation than it was for the last. Liberals were the communist-sympathizing loonies that needed to be made fun of, like George McGovern. Liberals were other people besides the people I knew. They lived in other towns. Unfortunately, the world began changing.
It started when the morality of the Republican Party came into question with Watergate. I actually defended Nixon at the start. Nixon began as an Eisenhower Republican. Heck, he was Ike’s Vice President! But then it began to come out that the new Republican Party was not playing by the rules any more. They were willing to cheat! I was shocked. I didn’t know at that time that politicians and idealists were antonyms of each other. I identified the ground that I stood on as neither liberal nor conservative. I was determined to be a moderate. I believed the only way was the middle way.
So, I confess, I started calling myself a Democrat and I voted for Jimmy Carter in my first actual election. He was a moderate. Heck, Southern Democrats were almost the same thing as Republicans, weren’t they? How else could you explain Texas?
It was then that I began to perceive that the monkeys were actually running the banana farm. Ronald Reagan took over. And it was my fault. Carter lost favor with the American public when he refused to declare war on the Iranians during the hostage crisis. I failed to note that Carter was the only president in my lifetime that was not at war with anybody. I voted for John Anderson instead. In my defense, although he was a Republican, he was actually a moderate Republican. Such things still existed in the real world. And so, the Gipper won the presidency because I wasted my vote. Seriously, Carter lost out to Reagan and his “Voodoo Economics” because people like me didn’t vote for Carter. The election was that close. Reagan and Reaganomics took over. James Watt was appointed Secretary of the Interior. The administration wanted to change the rules so industry could cut down trees in the National Forests. The mantra was de-regulate, de-regulate! That means to take away the rules. That means that criminal business behavior was rewarded with profit, rather than punished by the government watchdogs. The Reagan administration took the watchdogs out behind the barn and euthanized them with a shotgun.
So, I had my hard-earned money in a Savings and Loan when the Savings and Loan crisis hit. I watched Oliver North become a celebrity as the Reagan Administration got away with murder in the Iran-Contra scandal. It was the beginning of the end for moderates. More and more the Republicans were about giving tax breaks to rich people. Because, of course, rich people are all naturally good and generous and the benefits will all trickle down. But the fat cats that were supposed to throw me table scraps became far too good at pigging it all down. Nothing fell from the table.
As a Texas school teacher, I saw educational reform start with blaming the teachers for all the problems with Texas education. They all said, “You can’t solve education’s problems by throwing money at them.” I really wonder how they knew that. I don’t remember any attempts to throw money at the problems schools were facing. They gave idiot tests to teachers to weed out the ones who were too stupid and illiterate to teach. When the majority of us passed those tests, the Republican State of Texas decided to give students achievement tests so they could justify firing teachers when the students failed. Well, each time we began to help students pass the tests, they made the tests harder. In fact, they made them harder every year. It was like we were continually measuring our growth with an expanding ruler, a ruler that got so big so fast that at times it looked like we were shrinking. We struggled hard to catch up, and it reached a point in recent history where Republican Emperor of Texas, Rick Perry, decided he no longer needed a reason. He cut billions from the State’s funds for education. Many excellent and dedicated teachers lost their jobs. Art programs, theater programs, alternative programs were all tossed out in favor of just the basics… oh, and no one was willing to cut football. Football was safe! When the State budget short fall was no longer a problem, Emperor Perry was given the opportunity to restore the funding he had cut. Of course, he did not. Billion dollar rainy day funds are much more important than education. (He means education for poor people, by the way. He’s a strong supporter of public funds for private schools that rich people can afford to attend.)
Being conservative increasingly means having no heart, no love for your fellow man. Conservatives are against having a minimum wage, let alone increasing the minimum wage. That allows corporations to keep higher profits. It doesn’t matter that so many people now no longer have money to spend to fuel those profits. Rather than trying to expand the economy and make prosperity available to many more people, conservatives would rather squeeze every last drop of profit out of the masses before the masses finally starve. Instead of justice for all, conservatives are seeking justice for the privileged, and the rest of us need to learn our place. Heartlessness, greed, arrogance… I don’t see much else in the way of qualities in the Republican Party. Where are the Republican moderates I used to admire? Where are the new Bob Doles of the world? What happened to Charles Grassley of Iowa, and John McCain of Arizona? Why did they stop being advocates of the common man?
Okay, I think it’s time I took a stand. Einstein said that it won’t be evil people at fault when this world ends, it will be the people who stand around and watched them do it. So what kind of stand am I going to take? I think we all have to decide if we are going to believe in something and make whatever sacrifices are necessary to back up what we believe.
I titled this awful thing Political Insanity because politics are driving me INSANE. People I believe in and respect tell me that George Zimmerman is innocent (even though he killed an unarmed teenager after being told by the police NOT to follow him) and if there are riots, they want the police to open fire and kill rioters. This is coming from folks who I have always respected for their Christian beliefs. WAITAMINNIT! Christian beliefs! Am I insane? I thought Christianity was “turning the other cheek.” I thought it was “love your neighbor”, “forgive”, and “they will know that we are Christians by our LOVE.” I’m apparently wrong on all counts. The Republican Party, the Christian Party, says I am.
These people are saying that abortion is wrong. That it means killing children. I don’t disagree with that. But I also want our society to care about the children that already have been born. Why are these Christians talking about cutting funds to education here in Texas where we are already near to last place in national rankings? Why are they trying to close the clinics that also provide birth control to the poor, and pre-natal care? Every baby has a right to life until they get born, and then they are screwed apparently.
As far as I can tell, there is no loony liberal left wing any more. Moderates who used to be the center, are now the far left. So, by remaining a moderate, being dedicated to the “middle way”, I have literally been forced to become a liberal. If caring what happens to the poor, especially the working poor, and the mentally ill, and the sick who have no health insurance, and teachers like me who have to consider quitting because the atmosphere in schools is turning so toxic, political, and polarized, if all of that makes me a liberal, then okay. I will be a liberal. Conservatives are conservative because they want things to remain the same. If times are good, everyone should be a conservative. But if times are as bad as I think they are, then everyone should be a liberal, because liberals are called liberals because they are looking for wholesale change. Like most sharks, if we liberals don’t keep swimming against the current, we are all going to suffocate and die.
Sharks, monkeys, and loons… donkeys and elephants… politics has all gone to the animals. Either that, or I have gone politically insane.