I've been lurking around here for a long time and have been much more active recently, but this is my very first diary. I apologize in advance for any faux pas. ------
When I look back now, I guess I was always a liberal at heart. By the time I was in middle school, I was going to board of education meetings and speaking out as a student opposed to school budgets that would have cut P.E., art, music, and Home Ec. from our schools. I was going door-to-door, campaigning in favor of referendums to finally build our own regional high school so we would no longer have to send our students to other towns that were up to a 90 minute bus ride away. I was already too far along in school for the budget cuts to affect me and by the time we would end up building the high school, I would be well on my way to graduation. I worked for these causes, not because there was an immediate benefit to me, but because it was the right thing to do for those that would follow me.
When it came to politics on a larger scale, it was another story.
(Follow below the jump)
The first election that I remember being emotionally involved in was the presidential election in 1992. Having been born in 1981, George H.W. Bush was essentially the only president I knew, and if my family and I had our way, he'd clean Bill Clinton's clock on Election Day. As we all know, he did not, and I was devastated.....for a day or two (I was only 11 and moved on pretty quickly). It was around this same time that the glorious voice of one Rush Limbaugh soared across the airwaves at 1080AM Hartford. It was, to put it mildly, fabulous! Here is this boisterous, funny voice, echoing all the things that I had heard from my grandmother. (Who knew what an utter train wreck he'd go on to become?) Whether the subject was Clinton, affirmative action, DADT, I just ate it up. Finally God had given me somewhere to go for political affirmation, and no longer did I have to rely on the "liberal media" for "news".
By the time 1996 rolled around, I was just beginning my sophomore year of high school. Back in '94, I worked Election Day for the local Republican Party and got to go to John Rowland's election night party with longtime mayor of our small town, Bob Chatfield. I was already enjoying the celebration and opportunity to meet the new governor-elect. Then, out of nowhere, the partiers began erupting in joy as we learned that the Republicans had taken both the house and senate for the first time in four decades. So I had high hopes in '96 when Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole was making his run for the presidency. It didn't much matter to me that at this point in my life I was questioning my own sexuality. I kept those feelings deep down inside, and surely I wasn't going to let them affect my political allegiances. This election was a little different from that of '92 because even though I continued to work for the local Republican Party, I knew in advance that we would not be having a victory party for Sen. Dole on election night.
It was during the campaign of 2000 when I started to take a much wider view of things. I was now in college and as luck would have it, I was taking an American Government class with an amazing teacher, Prof. Dukette. This was really the first time my eyes were opened to other points of view. He never revealed his partisanship until the last day of class, and I didn't have the slightest idea which way he leaned (he was a Massachusetts liberal). He taught us about how we should really be voting our issues and interests rather than party or personality. I opened myself up to the idea of pulling the lever for Gore, but in the end, I liked Bush's message of tax cuts and no nation building (HA!) and cast my first vote for president for him.
Who knew that less than a year later, Id wake up to a phone call from my mom, informing me that a small plane had just hit the WTC. I turned on the TV just in time to witness, in real time, the second plane hit. Everyone says that 9/11 changed everything, but I think that it' was the government reaction to the attacks that changed me. From the violation of our human and civil rights, to the ill advised wars of choice, everything finally came together for me. I stopped talking politics with my family to hide the fact that I was considering voting Democratic, and although I didn't actively campaign, I went to the polls in November of 2004 and cast my ballot for John Kerry. The funny thing is that after that, I felt liberated. I could finally advocate for the causes that I felt ashamed of supporting inside before. And it wasn't long after that, that I was finally able to go to my family and friends and tell them what I had held in for so long, that I was a gay man. I'm not saying that voting Democratic allowed me to come out, but I do think that it hastened it.
In the following years, I was able to become more active in the Democratic cause. And in that time, we've experienced some exhilarating victories and some soul-crushing defeats. Most of my family still supports the Republican Party, and I've grown to agree to disagree for the most part. Families are a funny thing, especially when it comes to political beliefs. When you realize over time that you no longer believe many of the things that they instilled in you, you feel as if you are betraying them in some way. In my case, I now know I'm not betraying them. It took a long time, wading through some guilt, but I've realized that there is no greater tribute to the people that raised me than to be who I am and to say what I believe. Those are the greatest values I was ever taught.
When you are young, it's easy to be selfish, to believe that you'll make it big someday, all on your own. It's easy to be vulnerable to the Republican message. However, as you get just a little older and wiser, you are able to see the world beyond yourself. You see that what's good for others is good for you.
My mom still asks me how I could have had such an epiphany, how the same person that campaigned for Republicans when he was younger, could be donating, making calls, and supporting the Democratic and liberal cause.
My response? "I guess I was always a liberal at heart."
Mon Oct 08, 2012 at 5:08 AM PT: Hey, snuck onto the Rec List! Thanks so much for the comments and recs guys!
Mon Oct 08, 2012 at 10:21 AM PT: Update #2 - Wow, thanks again for all these comments and recs guys! I had no idea so many have gone through the same thing. You've really made me feel like even more a part of this community. You guys are GREAT!!!