Chances are, if you've been following me for a hot second, you've come across comments, posts or blogs of mine in which I've talked a bit about my childhood, upbringing, etc. And if that's the case, you'll know this "liberal c*nt" as I've been so classily referred to in the past by angry, old white men, used to be a God-fearing Republican.
YUP! I was! I'll let you have a moment. I realize that can be a lot to take in.
Now I can wallow in self-professed embarrassment over it, or recognize how it played its own part in eventually shaping the person I am today. I don't regret it because I have been able to use that understanding of why I thought the way I did and believed in the things I did, in order to better frame my opinions now, when hoping they'll reach someone who like me, just didn't "get it."
I grew up here, in Newbury Park. A nice, middle class suburb filled with lots of god, lots of churches and lots of white people. Let's be honest. I come from your "typical" and "ideal" family. I'm one of four children — two girls and two boys, my mom was a stay-at-home mom, and my dad has an excellent job that has provided us an array of opportunity. We went on extended family vacations each summer, and were all able to participate in the sports of our choosing. My parents bought us cars when we were 16. Sure, they weren't new, but they were cars, and they worked, and I wasn't working to pay for it. Well, to be honest, I did work... I worked at Target when I turned 16 and that money was used for my gas money, and any extracurriculars I wanted to partake in. It wasn't used to help cover bills, or food, or basic necessities. All of that was provided to me. It wasn't even used to cover college tuition. My parents covered the bulk of my very privileged college experience at CLU, a private university, and I picked up the remaining small tab of loans upon graduation.
And all of my friends had similar lives with similar opportunities and similar views. The few times I came into opposition with a friend or classmate regarding politics, I quickly shut them down, proud to "stand my footing" and be on the "moral side of things."
My father is a smart man. A very, very smart man. And a good man. And a great father and provider. And, it didn't take much for me to believe that if he was a Republican, and I liked the person my dad is and what he stands for, then naturally I was Republican and proud to be one.
I ate up the FOX News channel.
I used to say things like:
I support gay people and civil unions, but not gay marriage.
I am against abortion because it's murder, and a sin is a sin is a sin.
I don't believe in welfare because it's not doing anything to help people help themselves.
Republicans are the party of morals and family values.
I'm a fiscal Republican.
I believe in "an eye for an eye."
Why don't illegal aliens do it the legal way?
yadda yadda yadda.
And here's the thing. I've said this before. I really believed I was a good person. Now I don't believe I was a bad person then... just a really ignorant, naive person. And I'm still quite ignorant about a lot of things, but the difference is I recognize that ignorance and seek to change it.
After college, I entered the entertainment industry as a reality tv casting producer. Now, for whatever views you may hold about reality tv and the demise of society, hold them for a second and put them in your pocket. It was through this job that I travel nationwide and met and listened to a variety of people. The key being, I listened. See, when you're interviewing people for a show, it's not about your story, it's about theirs. Nobody wants to listen to the interviewer debate or wax poetic about themselves and their views. It wasn't about me. It was about them. And when you interview hundreds upon hundreds of different people with different life experiences, you start to realize that that little bubble you grew up in was just that... a very little bubble. It didn't reflect life. It didn't value or take into account everyone's experiences, it's only reinforced my own. And... well, it's not always about me.
So ever so slowly and then all at once, I became a Democrat. Or a liberal. Or a snowflake. Whatever you want to call me. I identified through my time as a casting producer that people held my heart. That it doesn't matter what color you are, how big your house is, where you were raised, everyone, and I mean every single person deserves respect, acknowledgment and a chance.
We want so badly to not take blame for past grievances that we refuse to listen to the pleas and the cries of the suffering. We want so badly to say: "you're not my problem" that we ignore the homeless, the refugees, and the sick. As a society, we've become lazy. Too lazy to care, too lazy to listen to people's stories, and you all know everyone has one. The wealthy elite have succeeded in turning society against the poor, instead of asking why there are eight men that are richer than 3.6 billion people combined, instead we scream: NO RAISING MINIMUM WAGE! We don't care if people work a full-time job and a part-time job to care for their family. We say: WELL THEY SHOULDN'T HAVE HAD KIDS. Because only the wealthy are allowed children, right? And then we say: NO ABORTIONS ALLOWED and shame young mothers into having children far too early. And before that we said: NO SEX EDUCATION, IT'S GOING AGAINST GOD! And then after we say: FUCK OFF, WE'RE NOT IN FAVOR OF PROGRAMS THAT WILL HELP YOU GET BACK ON YOUR FEET. And then we say: IT'S YOUR RESPONSIBILITY.
And I often wonder, how does it make someone feel to say that in earnest. For example, do they walk by a car and see a homeless family living in the car and taunt "NOT MY PROBLEM?" Because, if I were to walk by that same car, I'd walk up to that family and I'd see if I could buy them a meal and what resources they had at their disposal. I don't just pray to god to take care of it and pat myself on the back.
At the heart of being a Republican I thought I cared about people, too. But what I realized is, I only cared about people exactly like me, because that's all I knew. And, that's not the sort of person I want to be now, or ever again.
I think there are many Republicans who have never had the opportunity to have conversations with those from diverse backgrounds because they're taught to be afraid and scared. They're taught not to be swayed, and to remain strong in their beliefs, without every questioning them. I also believe these people believe in their hearts that they're voting for the right things. I also believe it's our job to continue to give people the opportunity to ask questions and learn and listen... and broaden their horizons.
Others did that for me, and I owe it to do so for others. Everything starts with a question.