Growing up, my general understanding of the Republican party was simple: Republicans were evil, white, and to be feared. I'd still say the second and third are mostly true. Listening to family members bad mouth Ronald Reagan and George Bush on a consistent basis didn't give me any motivation to hold them in high regard. Hearing many Republicans referred to as "racist bigots" certainly didn't birth in me any desire to be associated with them in my future adulthood. As with many today, because my childhood left me with little understanding of the "issues", I assumed I'd follow in the footsteps of my family and become a bloodline Democrat. I could tell you the Republicans were bad, but I could never figure out why. Thankfully, the gaze of childhood shielded me from the political battles taking place in the 80's and 90's.
High school was tough. I struggled to find my place in the political thinking sphere. Approximately 85% of my high school was unashamedly Liberal--teachers and administrators included. With the additional barrier of a curriculum steeped in Liberalism, needless to say, voices of dissent were neither appreciated nor accepted. During that time, I struggled with two issues: gay rights and abortion. Although I still held fast to my liberal persuasions, I could not reconcile the idea of abortion being "morally right" and homosexuality being equated to the civil rights movement. I often kept my feelings about certain issues private for fear of being labeled a homophobe, a Republican (a carnal sin) or even worse, being voted "most conservative" in the high school yearbook. It's a sad and petty thing to be concerned about, but this was something most people dreaded and for a black girl, president of the black student group on campus, and long-time crusader for racial justice, that would've been my social demise. Today, "most conservative" is a title I'd wear like a badge of honor. Ironically, I think I was instead voted "Most Outspoken" and "Most Likely to become Famous". They never said famous for what.
Spring semester of my senior year, I began to feel uncomfortable in many of my classes. Take for example "Global Village", a sociology class where on one occasion, we were asked to leave school to protest the WTO which was holding its meetings in Seattle at the time (I'm sure you remember the riots). In fact, my teacher came to school that day wearing a gas mask (these are the idiots my parents paid to educate me). On a different occasion, Planned Parenthood came and spoke to our class about global sterilization and offering free abortions to students. Around that same time, the student government on which I served rallied to get condom dispensers placed in student bathrooms. Since I seemed to be the only one on the council who disagreed with this, I said nothing. I struggled to find my political stance amidst a sea of hot issues with which I could not agree.
By graduation, I was fed up. Having had the privilege of delivering the valediction in front of my class, parents, alumni, the board of directors, and every major donor, I took the opportunity to "come out". I spared everyone the flowery "believe in yourself and follow your dreams" speech and used the platform to tear apart the surface and self-centered liberalistic ideals our generation was facing. It was gutsy but I pulled it off and left many in the audience writhing. I got mixed response. I didn't care. I knew I was never going to see most of those people again.
Things took a turn for the worse when I went to college; the microcosm of crazy philosophies. I'm not sure if it was being greeted on campus by detailed chalk drawings on the sidewalk of stick figures in varying positions of gay sex, along with the words, "Queer Alliance Welcomes All Freshmen", or the signs for the female masturbation club that did it, but Wesleyan University (and some good old-fashioned common sense) single-handedly drove me to have the conservative worldview I profess today. For that I thank them. Really, I do. I plan on dedicating my first book to my pot-smoking, "Christian", but doesn't believe in God, Birkenstock-wearing, Theologian, history and religion professor. It will read:
To Professor Klaaren, thanks for those chats in your office. I'm sorry for making you cry. Your confusion is my inspiration.
I spent most of my short college career diametrically opposed to almost everything that existed on campus, and that's probably an understatement.
That Fall was the presidential election and while I was registered independent, without question, I voted for George W. Bush. I didn't tell my parents. In fact, I didn't tell anyone.
[ Read Parts Two & Three ]