Family & Politics

I used to say I was a conservative liberal and a liberal conservative. What does that mean? It means I was afraid to grow a pair, develop my own political point of view and express it within my family dynamic. Growing up, I remember hearing people talk about politics and it always sounded like fighting. I don’t know if it really was fighting but I remember thinking, “I don’t want to do that”. So I used my back up line. Pretty sure anyone who says they are a conservative liberal and a liberal conservative doesn’t know anything about politics. It’s not the same as saying fiscally conservative and socially liberal. It’s pretty much like being asked if you like the red sox or white sox and saying, I like striped socks.

I thought Republicans represented “family values” like eating dinner at 6 together and democrats were more open to diversity, at least that’s what I could gather. Both sounded good to me. Then I got my first apartment and my roommate worked for the ACLU which is an organization that stands up for anyone needing help defending their rights. I think they are considered generally “liberal”, either way, my room mate definitely was. So back at home, with my family, I got one side of the political story and in my apartment, I got another. I was fearful of even venturing down this rabbit hole but at the end of the day, I wanted to know my own thoughts on such an important topic. Like all good millennials, I took to the internet.

I looked up the basics first, the differences between republicans and democrats, core values, policy standards etc. I quickly realized that everything I cared about and felt strongly about was a democratic viewpoint. Years went by, I moved to Chicago, went to school, traveled, started my own business and followed the world news daily. Fast forward to 2008, when I developed an actual passion for democratic initiatives like Healthcare for all and a national high speed train system, both of which I felt would help my small business in that I would be able to ship furniture for a far lower rate and not have to pay $300 plus a month for basic healthcare. I also deeply cared for my gay friends who were in love and wanted to be able to make that commitment to one another and garner all the societal and legal benefits of marriage.

Fast forward to this year where I find myself to be more progressive than the actual Democratic party. So yeah… I’m not a conservative liberal, I’m a progressive liberal. A capitalist repulsed by fascism, America’s version of a socialist disheartened by communism. A Christian, a mother, a woman, a small business owner.

I believe citizens united should be overturned so that every elected congressman and woman isn’t influenced by large sums of corporate money funneled towards their reelection but by their heart and mind. Let’s return to the yay or nay votes of Washington, Adams and Jefferson, in which they voted based on their gut instinct. Big banks should be broken up and billion dollar companies should pay federal taxes without benefiting from loopholes gained by their dedicated, heavily paid lobbyists. Too often laws are being tweaked to benefit the wealthiest while the middle class and lower middle class are directly affected. I don’t want to accept this as “success” or even capitalism, because it’s unhealthy and damaging the growth of our Country.

I believe healthcare should be simplified, lowering administrative costs and covering all. I also think alternative, eastern medicine should be included in that coverage, because it costs insurance companies far less and well… for me and many of my friends it has always worked better and faster. Seeking out a higher education should not put our kids in severe debt ever, no matter how great the school or degree. A great degree and a debt over $100,000 with interest rates that strangle is not the path that any of us should want for the next generation. Weed should be made legal and taxed and those who are in jail for smoking it or selling it should be released. Why? Because it is not more dangerous than alcohol and it’s a giant waste of tax dollars to imprison these people and making it legal = tax dollars coming in for every single State. Prisons should not be profiting off inmates resulting in many innocent or non violent criminals serving more time than necessary and costing us more in tax dollars.

A national daycare should be created with high standards, giving many single parents a chance to return to school, start a business or get a job. It’s hard to justify leaving your child to make $8-$15 an hour and paying close to that for daycare. The welfare system is a leg up for many but I feel like there’s a better option for single parents of young children in particular. A mother should know what’s in the food she gives her children and what’s in the lotion she applies to her skin, seems pretty basic to me. Also, we shouldn’t be the only industrialized Country in the world that doesn’t see the value in paid maternity or paternity leave. Honestly, that to me is a very basic family value worth fighting for and a worthy investment in the future of our Country. The mentally ill and those with a criminal record should not be able to easily buy a gun. I don’t want to carry a weapon while I push my son in a shopping cart and wear the other on my chest at Target or the grocery store. Come on! If you feel safer with a handgun, so be it. I don’t and I don’t want to live thinking, should I bring a gun to protect my toddler and baby today while I buy toilet paper and soap?

Oh and it should be much more straight forward for law abiding, hard working immigrants to become citizens. I know people with 3 degrees and no record that spent years trying to get their green card to live and work here, without success. This is why people sneak in. They also risk their lives and their children’s lives because they feel they have no other choice in the place they are escaping from. This country is made greater by our diversity, not by walls. Then there’s social issues, which in my opinion shouldn’t even be a topic in 2016 like LGBTQ rights and womens rights, so I won’t even go there. Again, it’s 2016.

Here’s the trouble, in my family, I’m pretty much alone in these views.

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For me, that’s hard. I write this blog because I care about connecting and relating to others. I also write because I have this innate need to know myself better, to sort through thoughts, feelings and reflect on moments in my life that shape me.

So when it comes to family, I find that even though I live in Chicago and they live in Maine, and we are at opposite ends of the political spectrum; I very much wish to connect, to feel intertwined, to try and understand their point of view and how it came to be, what’s at the heart of it and which elements of life they feel passionate about and which things they view as non issues. I think also, I’m the baby of the family, now having babies and I feel like I’ve spent the last decade honing in on who I am, what matters to me and how I view the world. I also have traveled a decent amount, had a lot of open ended dialogs with people of very different backgrounds and stayed reasonably informed about world, national news and how our government operates, or doesn’t… And I guess, at the end of the day, I have a desire to be not only seen and heard for who I am, but I want the well thought out, respectable aspects of me to be respected. I think it’s safe to say that we all want that.

This is where many would say, why not just avoid discussing politics with your parents and siblings? And to you, I’d say, great idea! Ha. Trouble is, politics isn’t just about who gets elected, knowing who’s in office, or what our constitution says. I used to think it was more separated, much like my sport analogy earlier, go blue team, go red team, Merica!

No. Politics are personal.

Some part of me must have known this when I was younger because I stayed away from politics almost entirely, until I was about 20. That’s right, I missed out on voting the first time. The TV ads made both Kerry and Bush look like complete tools and I didn’t feel informed or motivated enough to vote for either.

I have this thing I wrote when I was 17 years old about life and what I thought was important or valuable. It is fascinating to me because now that I have a better understanding of politics, I see that even then, I was a “progressive liberal”. How we see the world and how we interact, what we deem to be right and what we consider unjust is at the core of who we are as individuals and it is also the driving force behind impassioned political views. How can these aspects of ourselves be suppressed enough to keep the peace and also gently emerge in effort to find true common ground, to relate?

Our viewpoints stem from the career path we chose, the places we go, food we buy, specific opportunities given to us, what we worked for and achieved, the uphill battles we’ve climbed, where we’ve traveled, who we’ve talked to etc. I’m less interested in the talking points delivered by those paid to bring in TV ratings and ignite fury between parties and more interested in hearing how the person I love reached their political stance and why it matters to them. I’m fascinated by how someone I care about could feel so differently than me and I’m still trying to figure out how to express who I am amongst family in a context that doesn’t feel controversial. I want to figure this puzzle out not only so I can connect more with my family on this level and tighten the political gaps in my personal life, but also because I want to hone the skill for my sons because they might blow my mind later in life with their “controversial” views. In the words of my brother, my son may be the true Alex P. Keating. Ha!  Aka, liberal parents to a conservative republican son. If that’s the case, may he be the next Lincoln or Roosevelt.

To my husband who may someday run for office. Sorry about this post, you know who you married. Love you! 😉

And to all of you who made it through this post…

Love to you,

A

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