Growing up, I was proud to be a Democrat. Democrats represented the common people, the little guy. I considered Republicans to be the enemy: they were either greedy rich white people who didn’t care about the environment; poor southern bible-thumping rednecks who were too stupid to know any better; women who were willing to let themselves be oppressed; or minorities who had sold out their race. Pro-choice rallies, Free Mumia protests, petitions to stop the exploitation of grape pickers – you name it, I was into it.
Then came 9/11. Everything changed that day. After 9/11, the only issue I was really concerned with was national security. After all, abortion, gay rights, minimum wage – none of that matters if you’re dead!
I immersed myself in politics. Cable news, opinion and news websites, talk radio – I was watching, reading and listening nearly 24/7. I was surprised and disgusted to find that many Democrats had the attitude that we were responsible for what happened to us on 9/11. This “Blame America” attitude infuriated me. Was James responsible for his death? Was Geoffrey’s cousin? Whereas before I had been inspired by the Democrats and their message, now they were just pissing me off. Thus began my swing from Democrat to Republican.
It started off with national security and defense issues, but the more I paid attention the more I found myself agreeing with Republicans other issues too. Charter schools, social security reform, and government spending, to name a few. No one was more shocked than I was to find myself sliding from the left to the right. I still remember saying to my mom in a horrified voice: “I think I might be becoming a Republican!” I never could have imagined that happening. After all, I had been indoctrinated into thinking that Republicans were the enemy. But it did.
This shift in my politics ended up being *really* bad for my marriage. Politics hadn’t really been discussed in the short time that we knew each other before we got married, but it turned out that my new husband was a socialist! He was so far to the left – and I’m talking the European left, which is like 5 miles past the American left – that even regular socialists would be like “Wow, this guy is extreme.”
I spent five years fighting with my husband over politics. They were nasty, vicious, knock-down, drag-out fights that would usually end with him saying he couldn’t believe how ignorant and stupid I was while I was in tears screaming “Why the fuck did I marry you?” And then we wouldn’t talk for a week. Or a month.
Those fights ruined my marriage. Even though we would eventually make up, during the heat of the moment we would say some really awful things to each other. Things that you can’t take back once the dust has settled. Eventually I came to the realization that if I wanted to stay married I would have to stop talking politics with him, period. It was hard, because I’m argumentative by nature and sometimes he would deliberately try to bait me, but eventually we stopped talking politics. But by then it was too late – the damage was done.
Nowadays I tend to shut down or tune out whenever I hear people talking politics. Aside from the fact that it takes me back to a very ugly time in my life, I have been in “observer mode” long enough to realize that when it comes to talking politics, people aren’t looking to be informed. They just want someone to validate their own opinions. And those opinions are usually just some regurgitated political tripe that they heard on Fox News, or CNN, or while listening to Rush Limbaugh, or from a college professor, or while they were watching the opening skit on Saturday Night Live. Most people have no broader awareness of an issue other than what they heard in some sound bite on tv. It’s sad.
As for my own personal politics? Some of the “Republican” viewpoints I held in my twenties have changed. Others have not. These days the only issue that I feel any sort of passion for is gay rights. The fact that there is a class of citizens in this country that is still actively discriminated against makes me sick.
Does that mean that I’m now a Democrat? No. But I’m no longer a Republican. I’ve had it with the two-party system. It pins half of the population against the other half, and meanwhile we’re all distracted from the vast corruption that is rampant throughout our government in both parties. I don’t know what the solution is, but I no longer see the point of putting myself in a political box that automatically pins me against half of the American population. Count me out.
So what do I say when someone asks me if I’m a Republican or a Democrat? I reply, with a smile, “I don’t belong to either party.” And then I change the subject.