Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Sharp, Windy, Wobbly Turn to the Left (revised)

I'm often asked by people who knew me before I became a bleeding-heart Liberal why I now, as my mother puts it, follow the dark side?  Well, there are many answers to that question.  But first, let me tell you about how I used to think before 2012.

I was a fledgling academic.  I studied, I worked, I passed my classes most of the time, and I debated fervently with Liberals who could engage me in an academic fight.  Once it started getting name-cally, that was the end of my discussion with people.  At that point, an argument has reached critical mass and only explodes after that point.  I was a firm believer, which also was motivated by my evangelical upbringing in-part, that you got what you deserved because you likely did something wrong in the past to bring about a poor future for yourself, and it wasn't the government's job to help you clean up your personal mess.  Now, to be clear, that doesn't necessarily mean I was against government assistance to people who "truly" needed it.  People like the disabled and the elderly who clearly are unable to work in any fashion or with very limited capacities did indeed deserve government assistance to maintain a reasonable standard of living.

There were, however, people I felt who were literally leeching off the public teet and felt that was immoral because as someone who does work for what he has everyone should work to have anything.  I argued against public institutions for everything.  Healthcare especially was one that I argued against for most of the years that I was Republican.  I believed that any attempt to socialize the system would result in it's collapse...especially after looking at Canada's health system and seeing the upward trend of health care spending.  I felt that while socialized health care was a noble idea, it was unattainable in our country because of how the current system was structured.  I also felt that if such a system were to be implemented, it would need to be radically altered from the current system to a controlled system, which I also didn't favor.  I felt that the more eggs we put into the government basket, the higher risk we are at severely damaging society if we ever collapsed as a nation.

In 2004, I worked with the Nez Perce County Republicans to help elect Nez Perce Republican candidates.  It was definitely a good experience for me in the day.  I did sign-waving, volunteered for a Fair booth, and all sorts of other civic activities during the summer run-up to the election.  I remember counting how many middle fingers I was given one day and it was about 15 or so.  I attached Bush/Cheney signs to as many as three other candidates signs.  It's a technique known as coat-tailing.  You use a popular national candidate to tie your local candidates name to someone a voter recognizes as popular.  It helps with voter turnout and encourages voters to vote along party lines.  in 2010, I also worked very briefly with Washington State Republicans for the "Elect Dino Rossi" campaign in Olympia.  I was less hard core Republican at this point, however, while doing cold calling to homes, I was greatly disturbed by remarks from Republican candidates across the state.  They were constantly telling us to not remind people to vote if they were not a Rossi Voter.  And while perhaps this make sense if you're looking to win...I was reasoning in my mind..."This is so wrong, not wanting people to vote."  It just bothered me to no end.  I mean, I'm all for winning, but I want to win fair. And if the will of the people does not swing my way, then so be it, I lost, and I can learn from my loss to maybe win when I challenge again.  

I also reasoned that if one's cause was truly just and right, then they would have no need to cheat in order to win.  If I have to cheat to win, then I'm not winning, I'm defrauding.  Does that sound naive?  Perhaps...though it's never naive to cling to good, old-fashioned morals when trying to attain to higher office.  I found out on that day that Republicans have on interest in everyone voting.  Just the people they want to win.  I reason it like this:  If you're working in a phone bank, and you are a party that supports the people's civil liberties, then you would want everyone to vote.  Every time I phoned a Democrat during my time in that office, I wanted to to tell them, "I apologize for the call, please vote November 4th (or whatever the date for that year was)."  I cared that they didn't want to vote for our candidate, but I still overwhelmingly wanted them to vote regardless.  Civil participation in the political process was, is, and will always be a paramount priority for me.  If someone doesn't want you to vote, it's because they fear your voice and will.  And a righteous candidate or party should never fear your voice if they have nothing to hide from you.

For economics, I believed, as many Republicans do, that wealth flows from the top down.  While I understand the reasoning and it seems to make sense in some respect that flow of wealth only depended on the benevolence of business.  At the time, this to me seemed reasonable.  You play by the rules, work hard, do your job, and do it well, and you earn rewards and promotions.  It also meant that you moved up the ladder, gained influence, and your word carried more weight.  The system is deeply dependent on powerful people being generous to those beneath them.  It was also a value that I connected with because I was taught, as a brought-up evangelical, that you reap what you sew, but that also people in power have an obligation to be just and generous and pay those who work what they're owed.

When regarding taxes, I was more moderate.  I hated greed, even as a Republican because I felt that greed was one of those things that ruined, what would be, a reasonably well-working economic system.  I defined greed as the unreasonable or irrational need to accumulate wealth at any cost, including risking injury to others or by way of immoral or unethical means of acquisition.  While I never agreed (and still don't even as a Democrat) agree with using the IRS as a wealth redistribution medium, I understood that tax policy can be used to motivate behavior such as preventing certain immoral practices.  As a Republican, I had written a tax structure which punished greed by taxing those gains.  Dissuading greed was a means for that wealth to flow down to those generating that wealth.  But for the greedy, it's never enough.  It's a disease like alcoholism or drug abuse or sexual addiction.  It's the thrill of seeing your influence and power increase exponentially or even geometrically without any end that is so exciting.  I understood that excitement.  But I reasoned that truly just and fair wealthy people would never pay unjust wages to employees, even when the market forces that press down on wages warrant it.

While I conceded that the wealthy worked for what they had, I also understood that many people start getting hurt when wages are stifled and ability for advancement is blocked.  Also as someone who did indeed work for a living, that wages should reflect more than just productivity, but should reflect loyalty and seniority as well.  I seldom saw these reflected in wage offers.  When for example I went to work as a delivery driver at a Pizza Hut in Moscow, ID.  I was appalled that I was to be paid $5.15/hr for delivering pizza and only $0.50 per delivery which didn't even pay for the gas being used.  I had at least two years experience, and knew every job in that Pizza Hut from my previous Pizza Huts that I had worked at.  And while it wasn't a glamorous job, I felt that my experience warranted more than $5.15/hr.  Or a Walmart I worked at where pay USED to reflect past experience, but doesn't any more.  Walmart used to take all your previous experience, total it up on a chart, and that is how much more per hour you would earn starting, then still you would get at least a small raise after 90 days.  For the most profitable company in the world, that's now gone away.  It's standardized based on what the company wants to pay and doesn't leave any room for wage growth at all.  For two generations, wages were based on four different factors: Unionization, demand, quality and seniority.  The wages today are not nearly as competitive because unionization has been squashed.  Too many times as a Republican did I defend the anti-labor policies believing genuinely that those that had much would help those who had little.  There was little evidence of such actual provision then, and there is certainly a lack of it now more so than before.  Faith in those who had an abundance, who were trusted with much...seldom give to those who have little.  Whether that's starting a plant in a small town to employ that town, or declining cheap labor abroad to provide a living for our citizens here.  The axiom that we've all heard constantly rings in my head and it was just as asinine as it is now..."It's just business."  That is a lazy and empty statement...which to me, demonstrates the lack of heart for others beneath you.  Again, a view that my evangelical principles taught me fervently: compassion and charity.

For personal issues, obviously I ignored a huge part of myself when it came to Marriage equality and gay rights.  I was in deep denial about it for a long time...and in many ways it injured me and others as a result.  Often, I think back to high school and ask myself..."should I have just been more bold and said "Yes, I'm gay, get over it." and just carry on like nothing's different?"  To me for a long time, gay marriage was a form of special right or privilege.  I endorsed the idea of "separate but equal", calling civil unions an institution that was entirely equal to marriage in every legal respect.  However, at the time, even as someone who is Gay himself, failed to recognize that there was indeed a social stigmata that came with being "civilly unioned" vs. "Married".  As I listened to arguments on both sides of this specific issue with great interest...my viewpoint steadily shifted towards the vi
ew that all the arguments against equal marriage were indeed religious based.  And that if I endorse the idea of Church and State being separate as institutions, then religious arguments are insufficient to deny such rights to LGBT couples.  While I was ready to concede that point, the peacemaker in me wanted to try to find middle ground which both sides might consent to.  But again, my interactions with conservatives on this issue always resulted in the same arguments against it.  Arguments like "It's against natural law" or "It's a perversion of God's plan" or the classic "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" and so on and so forth.  No argument could be presented to me that was scientific or justified which would warrant codifying a prohibition for two people to engage in a legal contract.  I remember during my time at Evergreen getting into a border-line shouting match about the position with another classmate of mine who was herself a lesbian.  We were both very passionate about our viewpoints and so finally we had to take a step back and relax.  I pondered more about the issue, and realized "wait, marriage is a religious term, and this wouldn't have happened had the government upheld properly the separation of Church and State's institutions.

Or how about abortion where my genuine concern was indeed for the unborn child.  I wasn't unsympathetic to mothers who had unwanted pregnancies...but I was also of the mind that you don't have a right to discard your responsibility by getting an abortion.  My opinions about this issue used to be particularly harsh and unsympathetic.  It was easy to blend my personal religious attitudes about abortion with my political views on the subject.  The easy way of reconciling the issue is to just dig your feet in the ground and go "A life is a life and it's not yours to end."  This "principled" stand is usually the one that I see in most pro-life contenders.  Even as a Republican though, my views started shifting towards a more libertarian viewpoint that...the moral issues aside, a mother has a right to end a pregnancy if she wants to because it's her body which is usually the standard for most Libertarian-minded people.  If there is a moral issue to be settled, let her settle it with her god, her doctor, her family, and herself.  The government has no right to legislate what grows in a person's body.  As I've articulated before in previous blog posts and comments, I personally wouldn't have an abortion if I could have a child, but that doesn't mean I'm ready to use the law to force women to have children they don't want or didn't intend to have.  I would not entertain the government imprisoning and forcing a woman to complete her pregnancy.  Such a practice would be inhuman and deeply demeaning to women everywhere.  Nothing in my moral compass allows me to endorse laws that force women to do anything, let alone reproduce.  Again before I was pro-choice, I reasoned that "God intends every child to exist, and therefore I find it immoral to interfere with that divine incarnation that is reproduction.
If that baby was conceived, that baby is meant to be...and to do anything else except in rape or incest is deeply morally objectionable."  The problem with this point of view is that it results in a status where women are being held hostage by the state in their own bodies, and subjected to unfair levels of legal scrutiny.  The abortion issue is one that many of us understand is NOT a black and white issue...as much as conservatives would prefer it to be.  After all, black and white issues are much easier to justify because they don't require deeper thinking and reasoning skills.  I would always hope, however, when I was a conservative that, that the pro-life groups would start housing and pregnancy centers that empowered women with tools and skills and assistance to carry healthy and wanted pregnancies.  However I seldom hear of such facilities being opened by pro-life groups.  Most of the propaganda from pro-life groups were that of broad condemnation of individual choice.  Some even going so far as to state that a woman's place is literally a barefooted, silent baby incubator.  As someone who was raised evangelical, I strongly objected to such rhetoric.  And I equally objected to rhetoric that tried to marginalize the responsibilities that men have to the abortion issue as well.  It takes two people to tango.  In an ideal world...women seeking abortions would consult with their partner and mutually decide what's best for them on an equal basis.  However, in our world...things are far from equal.  Usually it's women being pressured by their husbands to keep children or pro-lifers engaging in deeply deceptive and harmful pseudo-science to justify their erroneous positions about the procedure.  I'm all for life and life is indeed precious.  And I do agree with Vice President Joe Biden where he states:

"My religion defines who I am. And I've been a practicing Catholic my whole life. And it has particularly informed my social doctrine. Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who can't take care of themselves, people who need help. With regard to abortion, I accept my church's position that life begins at conception. That's the church's judgment. I accept it in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews and--I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman. I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that women can't control their body. It's a decision between them and their doctor, in my view. And the Supreme Court--I'm not going to interfere with that." ~Senator Joe Biden, Vice Presidential Debate 2012

In conclusion, I wish to rehash the basics of what you read above.  Most of my conservative positions I held before "turning to the darkside" were based on my Evangelical upbringing.  But as I learned more about the world around me, and read the scriptures and absorbed the words that Jesus spoke...I came to the conclusion that the beliefs that I had as an evangelical conservative did not honor the rights of the individual...as Jesus taught.  The right to participate in a faith must be one of personal decision.  A forced faith is not faith, but tyranny.  A coerced decision is not a decision, but manipulation.  The viewpoints of evangelicals and conservatives do not foster an economy or society of peaceful coexistence in any form.  It only seeks to promote divisiveness, discrimination, and dark-age conditions.  The positions that conservatives hold do not hold up to scrutiny or science.  They cannot be observed in the modern world as factual.  They worship the god of greed, the god of selfishness, and the god of male chauvinism.  The extol the virtues of ethnocentrism and personify the state as an entity to maintain cultural purity.  None of these values are compatible with American ideals.  

God does not judge this nation by stepping on a town or blowing over a city.  He does not splash the waves of the ocean into coastal communities or set ablaze towns because two men love each other, or because the unfortunate woman got pregnant from her rapist.  My decisions to turn to Left-Liberalism are based on the ideas that man is capable of great things...and that the New Testament gives us the freedom to explore those ideas.  The Jesus of the New Testament never coerced anyone to follow him.  He never forced, he never blackmailed, he never condemned anyone for believing different than him.  He didn't judge others for their alleged social wrongs or improprieties.  He loved...and he showed us examples of that love.  Every person in society has the right to choose his or her path.  He or she has the right to worship who they choose.  Every person has the right to culture, language, faith, and mostly to dignity.  Every person has the right to choose who and what they want to be, and others are born with an insatiable desire to love and be loved.  Every person has the right to the opportunity to advance, grow, and develop as they choose.  To work their passions and their jobs free from discrimination, threats, intimidation, and deserves to be rewarded for their hard work, loyalty, and moral character.  

I'm not a Christian, I'm just a human who loves Jesus, and what he taught everyone else one of many ways to make the world a better place for all.

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