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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How a Young Republican Switched Parties

I remember when then-President George H.W. Bush visited my hometown.  I was in elementary school and as the product of a conservative family environment, very much a fan of the president.  He visited the center of town during his reelection campaign, and the area was so crowded and congested that we could not park to see him, so I cried from disappointment at not getting to see the president.  I cried again when he lost his reelection bid as I had been convinced that Bill Clinton would be a terrible leader.

As a child, I viewed political affiliation and religion as unchangeable characteristics not unlike my Italian or German heritage.  Unquestioned and never talked about in polite conversation.  If I knew any Democrats, I certainly did not know of their party preference and when I was taught in middle school that Catholicism was not the primary religion of the United States, I was nothing short of shocked.  I simply never knew anything else.

I respect the views of my family members and now know and understand their reasons for the way that they choose to vote.  As a child, however, I accepted that I was a Republican because I knew nothing about the policies of any political party.  This changed when I had a liberal teacher in the tenth grade that explained the main differences between the Republican and Democratic parties.  To this day, there are people that blame this teacher for my political epiphany as if his ideology was forever imprinted in my brain, rather than accept that I would have inevitably learned that my values were closely aligned with the Democratic party once I learned what the parties stood for.

As a teenager, my understanding of the parties simply came to fairness.  In an economics class, the question was posed "If a parent did not purchase health insurance for their child, and their child developed a life-threatening illness, should the government pay for the life-saving treatment of that child."  I immediately said "Absolutely," and was appalled that any of my classmates disagreed.  In another class, I had to debate the issue of gun control, and upon research was convinced that gun control was necessary to save lives.  Still another class had us debate the merits of immigration, and as the granddaughter of immigrants was shocked that classmates would suggest building a "wall around America" to prevent immigration.  The only issue I ever struggled with was abortion, because of my Catholic upbringing.  I was staunchly pro-Choice by the time of my high school graduation, but throughout high school was only presented with a singular anti-Choice viewpoint that made it very difficult for me to fully grasp the complexities of the issue.

Statistically, most children do end up adopting the political views of their parents and community.  Watching old episodes of the show "Family Ties" from the eighties causes me to oddly identify with Alex P. Keaton in that I once felt like a political outsider in my family, but still knew that I had the love of my family regardless of my views.  I hope that the children of today that may be questioning or coming to terms with their ideology, religion, and sexuality experience that same unconditional love from their own families. I think that it is important for every person to regularly question their own beliefs and actions in order to have a true understanding of their identity, and always make a point to learn and study the arguments of the people on the other side of any issue that I am passionate about.  Usually, this more strongly affirms my beliefs, but it also allows me to anticipate and properly refute the arguments of the other side prior to any debate or discussion that I may encounter.

I think that debate is necessary in a democracy, and I wish that all politicians would take the time to understand the views of their colleagues on the other side of the aisle even if they wholeheartedly disagree. The current political environment has allowed the two sides to debate an issue without either side ever responding to the arguments of the other side.  Instead of yelling over one another or writing articles demonizing members of the other party or dismissing their arguments without ever listening to them, I would love to see thoughtful debate and discussion much more prevalent in our media outlets.

If cats and dogs can tolerate each other and live together peacefully, why can't humans do the same?

Kita & SephPearl and SephSeph & Kita