Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Interlude: The E-Words

There are two nasty E-words that bring out the conservative in me. Somewhere in my bloodline there is a chip off the right wing that works its way through my intellect when confronted with these annoying states of being. These E-words cause me to temporarily denounce government assistance, refuse to pay my taxes and consider visiting the local gunsmith. I can usually force the ridiculous opposite back to the dormant part of my personality, but this past year has proved challenging as I find myself continuously circling back to a basic fact: liberal ideas and policies are not perfect.

Stewing over my inner fanatic is part of that imperfection. If I were a true socialist, a real-life, in-the-flesh-and-blood left-winger, I could meet every republican argument with a viciously non-violent defense. It would be like college again, standing on picket lines for things I believed in, no matter what, no questions asked. But it was in my last year at Oberlin that I learned the E-words and realized their unfortunate effect on my political beliefs. Soon, experience would support my idealistic views but also fuel my doubt. Empathy and understanding make things so complicated. As I look into the eye of an adversary, blabbing my reasoning with complete conviction, in the back of my mind I’m really thinking, “Well, they do have a point.”

Elitism is the first of the two words with which I wrestled in college. Being from Kansas in a East Coast/West Coast student body was not easy. I was constantly trying to explain why Kansas is not such a horrible place to live. We are not stupid, nor are we all bigots. Yes, I know we have that issue with evolution and the whole Fred Phelps debacle, but that does not make us merely a fly-over state to be ignored and/or rejected. Eventually, instead of convincing others of my state’s deep-down, historical liberalness, I found myself defending the very same conservatives with whom I spent most of my teenage years arguing. The most shocking elitist comment was actually from a fellow Midwest democrat who was trying to convince me to donate to the Democratic National Committee. “You know,” he said. “Even the worst democrat is better than the best republican.” Whoa. Fail. Goodbye and thanks, but I will just be giving my money to the National Education Association, thank-you-very-much.

I shutter when I think of the liberal church elitism I ignored for so long. There was a definite Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender caste system which easily pulled “T” from the LGB(T) rights priority list. In the end, it was petty issues about money and who is friends with who that dictated my former church’s future. Needless to say, we did not have enough money nor were we friends with the “right” people. The rainbow flag and mediocre website appear as a justice-promoting liberal agenda, but hiding behind it there are a bunch of rich, elitist ass holes that will only give to charity if there is drinking and entertainment involved.

But I’ve written about “Why I chose Kansas” and conceived this blog due to my dechurching-by-the-elite. The second E-word is dominating my conscious right now: entitlement. That is the word that bothers me the most. No one is safe from the doom of supporting statements such as, “This is what I deserve” or “Now it’s my turn.” It is so easy to be swept into the idea of entitlement. That just supports the conservative notion that people grab more than they give and are inherently accustomed to taking advantage of the system.

Normally, I stand by what I consider a majority. Some people do use government assistance as an excuse to be lazy, drug-addicted fools with way too many children and a general lack of responsibility. My belief, or currently, my hope is that more people benefit from the system than use it for evil. But it is a malicious, premeditated crime to take advantage, and I know this because the lies are personal and I can feel the money slipping from my own pockets, taking a bite of my liberal soul, as well. These people, few or many, have weapons, should I not protect myself with a gun? They rob others of health and stability, should we not also take that from them? Why are we delivering sustenance to their doorstep, implying, “Sure, go ahead and make babies, we’ve got room in foster care. Drugs? No problem, it’s a disease so we’re all right with it. No job? Don’t bother looking, you don’t have to. Oh, and you want to live here for free? We can make that happen…”

Goodness gracious, I sound like Sarah Palin. I’m fresh off a personal experience and radical self-righteous rants seem to be emerging on the other side of my political spectrum. It is not just the government, either, enabling the criminals to remain criminals. And perhaps some of them really are in need of treatment and a boost in self-confidence. It is when they act like I owe them something, like WE owe them something, just for existing that makes me furious. It makes me furious because it is not just me, the middle class, white American they are robbing; it is the hardworking low-income community, the children living in poverty and the parents desperate for jobs. They are making us all look bad.

After processing these strong, uncomfortable urges to crawl on over to the dark side, I can only come to one conclusion: political beliefs are rarely 100% reconciled and political action is sometimes only mildly justified. So I just have to turn on Rachel Maddow and hold tightly to my ideals. I have to remember that even if only one child does not go hungry, one person gets the job opportunity they have been waiting for or one family gets the help that they need, it is worth it. All the heartache and doubting is overshadowed by the people who can gratefully live a better life today than they did yesterday. I push the criminals out of my mind and concentrate, hard, on what matters most…the children who are better off due to federal funds, and the parents, who did in fact access the system for good.

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