Wednesday, March 3, 2010

On being a democrat

In high school, I had this amazing teacher. He was our football coach, but was also an educated lawyer who taught Government and Economics at my Catholic high school.

He was everyone's favorite teacher, including mine. I took his class initially because he was the coolest teacher, and being as though I didn't play football, I really wanted to meet him. After a few days of his classes, I realized I was really interested in the subject matter.

Back then, I didn't know what I believed and I didn't know what there was to believe in. When I was offered free tickets to see then President George Bush speak at a rally in Cedar Rapids, I gladly accepted them. After waiting in a security line for hours (outdoors, in November, in Iowa!) I joined the throngs of people at the Four Seasons center who were shouting "Hey hey, ho ho, the G-O-P is on a roll!" (Obviously you can see how... out of character that would be now!)

Later that year, in a government class, the Coach, who's wife had recently had a baby, talked about how awful he thought abortion to be, saying that it was crazy to him that his new little daughter could have been legally "killed" just a few months before. "The older I get, the more Republican I get" he said. I don't know why this quote has stuck with me for all these years, but I can't minimize the impact that the Coach had on my early politics. After graduating from his classes and high school, I went on to get my degree in Political Science.

I mentioned that I went to a Catholic high school, and I think that is important to reiterate. The Coach was doing nothing wrong by sharing his views with the class - in fact, in the Church sponsored high school, this was probably encouraged. (It was certainly not the only class in which things like this were common conversation within lesson plans). That said, I do think that his influence, and knowing what he categorized himself as (a Republican) certainly made me think that perhaps I was one, too.

As I grew in to my own knowledge, and learned more about the tenants of each party, I realized that it was unlikely that I was, in reality, a Republican. I won't pretend to be an expert; even with a degree in Political Science, I feel like I am just a novice. If you ask what I think about taxes, or details on the economy, you will likely be met with a blank stare. Here are the three issues that are most important to me:

- Gay rights. It's well documented on this blog that gay rights are important to me. I believe that sexual orientation is innate, not a choice. As such, I think that my gay stepsister should have just as much right to marry her girlfriend, as I have to marry Scott. (Thankfully, in Iowa, she does and her girlfriend is actually her wife!)

- Women's Rights. I believe that abortion is a women's issue, a personal issue, a moral issue, a reproductive issue, and in no way a government issue. I trust women to make this choice for ourselves. As I've learned more about this issue, I've learned that what the Coach was talking about (how terrible it was that in our country his newborn daughter could have been killed, legally in utero just a few months before) would be categorized as a late term abortion. I've also learned that actually those are not legal in most places (unless the mother's life is in danger).

- Helping those less fortunate. I believe in being kind to the poor, and helping our neighbors that need help. I know that social programs like welfare are flawed. I know they are abused, and taken advantage of. But they also help people that need help, and I believe these programs should be supported, not eradicated. I am a product of a community that offered assistance when it was needed, and I am proud of where my family is today.

I still appreciate the Coach for introducing me to the world of politics. But today, if I was in his class again, perhaps I would have the voice to offer a dissenting opinion

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