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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Accidental Activism, Part 1

I never thought of myself as an activist. It never occurred to me that one day I would be up to my neck in a grassroots movement. I didn't sit in my high school study halls dreaming up slogans that would look good on a sandwich board. In fact, when I started high school, the sum total of my political education amounted to these two facts: 
1. Ronald Reagan loved jelly beans.
2. Bill Clinton was a sleazebag.
Both of these valuable pieces of information came from my mother, who liked Ronald Reagan (Clinton, not so much). My political education did not expand much in high school, or even when I first went to college. By the time my first Presidential election came around, in 2000, I was really without a political compass of any sort. But I had a moral compass, and that was enough.

While George W. Bush did some things that I will never understand (No Child Left Behind, TARP, and the stinking curly light bulbs), I never regretted placing my vote for him. I felt good about standing behind a man who fought to restrict embryonic stem cell research, who went to bed early on Saturday nights to be well rested for Sunday morning church services, and who had the strength to remain stoic while he finished that children's book even though he knew in that instant that America would never be the same again.

By the 2004 Presidential race, I was at least paying attention. A man came into the St Louis Bread Company (where I was working) wearing at least 3 pieces of John Kerry flair. When I asked what I could get for him, he winked and said, "We could use your vote." 
I politely told him that would never happen, but that I would gladly fix him latte.
He argued that Kerry was for women's rights. I told him that I don't support a woman's "right" to kill her own baby, could I get him a bagel? He said that Kerry was for the troops. I said, "Sometimes he is and sometimes he isn't. As an Army Reservist, I'd prefer someone who doesn't waffle on matters that affect my personal well-being." So HE said... "Well, you know that George Bush is stupid, right?" Huh. You don't say.

By 2008, I was on my way to being well-informed. I knew the issues and I knew the candidates, and I knew that Barack Obama was going to damage America, possibly irreparably. Of course, the fact that I had facts and logic that backed up my position didn't stop the stupidity that followed... Flash forward to Inauguration Day, 2009:
I was working in the xray department of the Troop Clinic at Fort Leonard Wood, MO. The trainees who were pretending to be sick sat quietly in the waiting room, watching the news coverage. Our outspoken receptionist, a retired Army nurse who happens to be black, yelled from her desk, "Would you turn that crap off? That man is the anti-Christ!" I heard her from my corner on the other side of the building. My receptionist, a Vietnam-era Sergeant (also black) had a different reaction: "How can she (the retired nurse) turn on her own kind like that?" I asked him what he meant by that. He said that since I was white, I would never understand. "You probably didn't vote for him anyway," he said.
"No, I didn't," I responded. "Because I disagree with his policy ideas."
"You just can't handle the idea of a black President."
"Actually, I don't care if he is black, green, or purple. I take issue with the fact that he is not pro life and his main goal is to force us into socialized medicine. Did you vote for him?"
He appeared indignant. "Of course I did!"
"And why is that?"
"It's about time there was a black man in the White House!"
Uh huh. And I'm the racist.

But a funny thing happens when your feet get put to the fire, when you get called names over the things that you believe. You either back down, or you learn to defend yourself. And backing down is something that I just don't have in my DNA.

to be continued...


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