Friday, December 5, 2008

My Own Identity Crisis

So before, I had mentioned that I had been going through a bit of a political identity crisis recently. As I grew up with my family, I became increasingly conservative in my political and social beliefs. Only my mother was a liberal, as far as I knew, but my aunts and uncles all leaned right, and so, I did as well. After four years in the military and the infidelity of President Clinton, I came into 2000 as an even further entrenched Republican. I felt a bit lost in college, a political minority among a sea of liberal young people and professors. And then came September 11, 2001. I was enrolled in a number of political science courses and was just beginning my pursuit of a degree in International Affairs. The events of that tragic day are burned into my consciousness and I remember how I had become almost embittered toward anyone who challenged the authority of President Bush. Liberals became something I grew to truly dislike and distrust. When I finished my studies in 2003, I went to Hawaii and began pursuit of a graduate degree in one of the most liberal states in America. I made friends with some who were liberals and learned that there were good people on the other side and maybe (after 2 years) I had learned to appreciate their differences.

At the same time I married a wonderful woman from Japan. She is a very left of center person and we acknowledge our political differences, which are often sharp. We moved back to Nevada in 2004 and soon after our marriage, my wonderful son was born. It was at that moment that the crisis truly emerged within me, although at the time I was unaware of it. If you remember, America at that time was going through a tough presidential election and America was politically divided. My wife and I had a number of political discussions that year and into 2005 and these were often coupled with arguments over our differences. In that same period I started working on my graduate studies in political science. I began to see the political world through a sharper and more focused lens and my wife began to open my worldview a bit more. And in the meantime I was beginning to be frustrated by the Republican party in general. There was just something not right in their actions and words, and I began to tune out for a while.

Then came this election cycle. I finished my Master's degree in Political Science in May 2008 and watched the election unfold with a very different mindset than I did during 2004. I was open to different ideas and watching the candidates, I never felt impressed by John McCain. His service was admirable, but he didn't express himself well and didn't seem to have a solid message. In contrast, Barack Obama seemed like the guy. He was charismatic, maintained his message, and I was unexpectedly drawn to him. And after he won, I sat down and asked myself if maybe I was truly a liberal. Maybe I had shifted so much over the years that I couldn't call myself a conservative. But the truth was, after examining the conservative ideals again, and looking over the Republican platform, I was, in fact, still a conservative. I hold those tenets to be true. And after some thinking, I realized that the Republicans in office had been the ones to turn me away. They hadn't maintained their principles and as a result, I (and many other) Republicans felt lost. Was I like that? Did I really subscribe to that party ideal? No. I subscribe to the basic Republican and conservative principles that held the party through the 80's and 90's. And because those in office had strayed from the course, it tainted the party's image across the country. The discourse didn't help either. Partisan exchanges often became heated and insulting over the past eight years and so it was difficult to truly debate the issues. Liberals were this and conservatives were that, never mind the actual issues.

Well, the crisis is at an end. I am a Republican. I am a conservative. And that doesn't mean I am hateful of liberals. It doesn't mean I support President Bush 100% of the time. But it doesn't mean I welcome the left's perspectives with open arms either. I lean right for a reason, and it's because I believe that the principles of conservatism are correct. And the most important thing for me to recognize was that conservatism doesn't equal dislike of liberalism. It just opposes it ideologically. I have liberal friends who are great people. My wife is still liberal and I love her. But at this point in my life, I can maintain my positions and have a civil discussion with those on the left and not be insulting or degrading. I can also appreciate their positions and respect them, even while disagreeing with them. Finally, I know, at this time, that being conservative doesn't make me a bad person. And holding conservative views doesn't either. Maintaining conservative views and positions is something I am not ashamed of, and now that my head has been cleared and I have grown a bit this year, I am more than ready to tackle the issues and work to fix the damage done to the party. My only question is, am I the only one that went through this?

No comments: