They say that people usually get more conservative as they get older, and I’ve seen countless examples. There are logical reasons for this, from the financial to the simple fact that societal changes can be hard to adjust to.
I grew up socially liberal and fiscally conservative, the product of a Democratic mother who left being a professor to teach public high school and a classic Republican businessman of a father. That said, my father is personally socially liberal, always showing by example that you should treat every person based on their merit. In the 70s, when I was very young, he would bring me to work and I could see all the women around the office, not just in secretarial positions as I now know was common at the time. I later found out he helped one of the earlier transwomen to transition in America find employment. My parents treated everyone well, regardless of background in any way, and they were constantly helping friends and strangers alike and bringing all sorts of people into our home. They never had to teach me that all people are equal and should be cared about as if they were family, they showed me every day of my childhood.
They just disagreed completely when it came to whether public or private institutions were better at, well, anything.
Growing up with lots of privilege and this social climate in my home made it fairly easy to think you really could succeed in America just by trying your hardest, with just the help of family and friends. It was also easy to think both personal and institutional charity could be enough to provide the support those who were truly struggling could need. I was raised Catholic, too, and while you can say a lot of terrible things about the Roman Catholic Church and how they go about providing charity, you cannot deny that charity is a major core value of the religion, and the very best lesson they instill.
The problem is, when we rely on religious institutions for things like providing healthcare, education, and even basic nourishment, we subject our citizens to the rules of that religion in a nation that’s supposed to have freedom of belief. To top it off, they simply can’t care for everyone, and as young people leave religion in droves, we can’t count on the current levels of charity in these groups existing in the future. We absolutely should not be giving them public funds, either, as the most important value of all in this nation is the separation of church and state.
I’m a registered Libertarian, from my 20s and the days when I thought the government sucked at doing most things but socially liberal values were most important to me. While I disagreed with some in the party (Ross Perot’s virulently anti-choice stance is anti-Libertarian to me, frankly), it was at least close to my beliefs and was a bit of an actual umbrella party where you didn’t have to move in lockstep, anyway. It moved away from me over the years and I moved to the left as I started to realize that my beloved, hard-working, brilliant friends were sometimes also the people very much left behind by our social systems.
I believe in maximum personal freedom in most ways, and that puts me at odds with Democrats fairly frequently, including the woman I will be voting for tomorrow. The thing is, it puts me more at odds with Republicans, particularly their current standard-bearer.
To me, freedom just doesn’t mean things like the freedom to die young because you couldn’t access or afford medical care in a timely manner or the freedom to carry a gun into a bar. It means you can privately do what you want as long as it doesn’t infringe on someone else’s rights or safety, it means you can’t be prosecuted just for saying things, and it means that you have access to opportunities to improve yourself and carve out the life you would like to live, regardless of where you’re from, the color of your skin, your gender, or if you lucked out and were born with money.
40 years of life, love, travel, reading, meeting all sorts of people, watching news and politics from around the globe, and witnessing our own country find its way through its 3rd century have taught me that most people can do some pretty cool things as long as they aren’t sick, starving, thirsty, or freaking out about basic expenses. When we have the basics taken care of, we can not only get along better for ourselves but have the strength and energy to participate in our communities and families. Desperation, on the other hand, can really drive good people to some bad actions, and it’s so much easier to prevent problems than fix them.
Pinching pennies now has only ever led to spending pounds later. America is a grand experiment, but once something has failed a few times, it’s time to move to new protocols. The Republicans have just dug in and keep supporting the same exact things that provably have not worked, fiscally and socially, and that’s even worse than their actual positions.
So, while I hardly think that government can solve all problems, I think there are some basic needs that only something that large can even begin to tackle, and I think there are some things you should expect from your society that shouldn’t be dependent on whether you were born on a farm in Idaho, the streets of Compton, or even an upper-middle class neighborhood outside one of the great cities of the world. Realizing that turned me liberal, and the Republican march towards eschewing even the government agencies and programs their own party created pushed me right over the cliff.
I still haven’t changed my registration (sorry, Jim Obergefell – you really did come close to convincing me), but I’m absolutely proud to be entering that booth tomorrow and voting for the first person in my life who has all of the experience, perspective, and nerdy obsession with details that I think matter for the job at hand (her husband came close, but she both had the chance and requirement to exceed the experience of almost all men in history before this run). I’m still a moderate in most areas, and it’s pretty cool to get to vote for one of those, too.
As I sit here in a city that has transformed since I moved here into a place where the projects butt right up against shiny new luxury apartments, where I hear at least 3-6 languages daily just from neighbors within a block of my home, where people from all over the state, country, and world come for a better life or a chance for a good education, I have to recognize that while this election is distressing in many ways, it’s also sharpening my love for my country because it’s making me look around and think about why I disagree so wholeheartedly with a candidate who seems to simply hate this nation and all it’s supposed to stand for – welcoming all people. Even if we haven’t always been great at that, the overarching storyline is one of welcome and creating/evolving one culture out of many, and that’s exactly why America is worth caring about.
We are a nation of immigrants, dreamers, explorers, and bravery. Collectively, we create things that change the world on a constant basis. We bring a lot of bad along with the good, but we only succeed when we keep trying, and this society excels at trying, it might be our very best quality.
Our votes DO count and they will impact everyone on this planet. Vote for science, exploration, education, health care, and opportunity. Vote to keep trying. Vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton. Most importantly, just vote.