Saturday, January 30, 2010

Why it is that I Am Whatever it is that I Am.

I've done more preparation for this post than most others.  I started out by calling it "Why I'm a Liberal," crossed that out, tried "progressive" but then I looked it up and seen what some of them did back before the modern equality movement and decided against it.  I was thinking about another post a few days ago and was wondering exactly how I got here from where I was.  I mean, I actually voted for George W. Bush in 2004.  Fortunately it didn't count because the vote was cast in Oregon, but nevertheless, it's been a trip.  So, I sat down and thought about it, and came up with a few reasons, what I've done in the last 5 or 6 years, and I went to bed and thought about it in the many hours it takes for me to go to sleep every night, and I sat down and brainstormed on a white board and organized some things, and now I've sat down and decided to lay words to paper or LCD as the case may be.

I guess this is mostly for my own personal curiosity, though some of those of you who know me may find some enlightening bits of epiphany.  It really is for me though, I'm a believer in the idea that you don't really know what you believe until you say it out loud.  That or until you actually have to put it into action.  So this is why I am who I am, mostly politically, but for the purposes of this blog, why I am what I am for the purposes of this blog.  Confusing I know, but I guess it will speak to why I write the things I do, why I ask the things I do, why I bring up the conversations I do, and why I do some of the things I do.

My political radar began blooping about the time Al Gore "lost" the presidential campaign of 2000.  I used to be in BrainBowl in high school and the nerds were all abuzz about who should have won and remember, this was Oregon, so the discussion was much less one sided than it would have been here in Arkansas.

After that, there wasn't too much going on until 2004 when 'Ol Horseface didn't get my vote primarily because in one of the debates he in the same breath as affirming his Catholic beliefs also affirmed his belief in a woman's right to choose.  Back then, I was more pro-life in a republican way than I am now, though I am still pro-life, just not in the standard republican way.  So I didn't vote for him.  I voted for Bush in Oregon and watched the election in Arkansas, then moved to Arkansas permanently January 1, 2005.

There have always been some things that I have disagreed with the conservatives on, and understand, I used to listen to conservative radio all day long when I worked at the steel yard.  I used to listen to the local talent, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, and that one chick.  I have always disagreed with them on energy policy.  Oil is bad, coal is bad, efficiency is good, huge cars are bad, CFLs are good, wood heat is good, etc.  In my mind, if there is a good way to do something, then that's the thing we should be doing.  Renewable energy is renewable, meaning no fuel, therefore that's the thing we should be doing.  I have always thought this way, since a child.  I have always wanted to build a super efficient house, possibly underground, passively solar heated and just really awesome.

I also have never been able to reconcile the idea of lowering taxes on the rich being good for anyone but the rich.  That may be because I grew up poor, but even now as I hear the more sophisticated evidences for it, I still cannot match it up with reality.  It doesn't make sense, it's not intuitive, and real life shows that it doesn't work.

When I was young and of the lower class, pollution didn't bother me that much.  Oh, what an education can do.  When I was a kid, we burned our trash.  Not in burn barrels, we piled it up and about once a year, we burned the whole toxic pile sending up black clouds of toxic smoke.  We had fun getting out the cutting torch and melting the lead off cars that used to be used to smooth over dents before modern filler was implemented.  Then we would collect it and melt it into little ingots, all without any kind of breathing apparatus to keep us from getting lead poisoning.  When we found mercury, we played with it, sometimes spilling it, creating what I now know are hazardous waste conditions in our own home.  My dad told us that we really didn't need toothpaste, and consequently we took many trips to the dentist and even after I became an adult, I spent thousands of dollars having my mouth fixed.  My dad?  He has three teeth left.

One of the things my dad told us as kids was "Poor ways have poor people."  Now beside the fact that it's complete nonsense, what I got from it was that if somewhere there was a poor way to do something, somewhere there was a poor person doing it.  Listening for a while to conservatives, I got the idea that poor were poor because they were lazy.  They live in a world where they just sit in their cruddy little houses and watch Jerry Springer and collect welfare.  Well, when I actually got out into the world and first realized I was poor, then second realized I worked hard and was not lazy and did not get welfare and was still poor, there developed a little bit of cognitive dissonance.  When I looked around, sure, I saw some lazy people, but even most of them had jobs.  I found that the vast majority of the so called poor are working 40 or more hours per week. A person making minimum wage working full time will only make $15,000 per year.  That's poverty.  I discovered that real poverty has very little to do with money and has everything to do with the environment.  It is very difficult for anyone to end up in a different social class from the one they were born in.  When my wife was growing up, it was a given that she was going to college when she graduated school, and her parents were able to pay for it and are still paying for it.  In my world, college was something scientists and geniuses do.  It wasn't really something we hard working laborers do.  And for a person with such great intelligence, that was not the thing I should have been hearing.

In 2001, while attending my first year of public high school,  9/11 happened.  As I've written about before, I was naturally incensed and wanted to take the fight to those who brought it, though fearful of a possible draft.  But in the run up to the Iraq war, I couldn't understand why we were supposed to be attacking a guy who hadn't really done anything to us lately.  I had changed my stance on war greatly.  War is terrible.  I realized how many people would be hurt and/or killed unnecessarily.  In 2002-3 while all this was happening, I worked at a steel yard doing hard, hot/cold, dry/wet, dirty laborious work, and all the while, I had a radio to listen to tuned to conservative radio.  I further could not reconcile the permissive and even cheer leading attitude I was hearing from major American christian figures regarding Bush's campaign to start a war.

I met my wife and moved to Arkansas to be with her.  When I came to Arkansas, a notoriously red state, I noticed quite a few things.  I had lived in Oregon, a notoriously blue state, so I had a good comparison to make.  I noticed the level of education.  I noticed the level of pollution, groundwater, surface water and air.  I had never before seen so many people with lazy eyes and missing limbs.  While there are parts of Arkansas that are as modern and progressive as any state with a beach, the parts out in the sticks are the very same parts that Jay Leno makes fun of so often.  You know, the hicks who live in 30 year old trailer homes but drive a brand new 4X4.  The kind of people who have fights with their spouses and beat their children in the front yard while you're fiddling around outside next door.  I had never before seen the cloud of sparks a cigarette makes when tossed out the window at eighty miles per hour.  I had taken for granted things like wind turbines, biomass power plants, solar panels.  These are only some of the differences I noticed between a red state and a blue state.  Don't get me wrong, I love it here, but they are about 30 or more years behind.

Something that I cannot grasp completely is the effect of being flung into the middle class instead of working my way there.  When I left Oregon, I was mostly jobless, I had been selling scrap aluminum from my dad's stash to pay for gas and insurance for my truck.  When I got to Arkansas, I lived in an appartment with central heating and cooling, something I had never before experienced for more than a few days at a time in my entire life.  If I wanted something, my girlfriend/wife would consent to buying it for me.  For the first time, I was able to amass more than a week's worth of clean presentable clothing.  With no property and nothing really to do, my female and I watched "Friends" from beginning to end, every episode.  She fed me meaty foods constantly and I gained weight (my father was a vegetarian, a feat I hope to attain.)  When I needed tires for my truck, I got them.  When I wanted to eat at a restaurant, I got to.  I got a job that didn't amount to eight hours a day of hard labor.  I got married, I bought a brand new lawn mower, a motorcycle, a bed heater, and I started going to school.  It was a whole new world.  But how did it affect me?  I guess I got to see the differences in the life of a poor person and a middle class person first hand.  I worked less physically, more mentally, and got paid more.

I moved to Springdale, and was still in school, but started working for Total Document Solutions.  This was a dream job for me.  It was tons of fun, I got to drive all over NW Arkansas delivering stuff and driving a big zero turn mower, and blogging.  I also listened to conservative talk radio all day.  I listened to Glenn Beck, Rush, Medved, and whoever else while doing deliveries.  It was during that time that I started blogging and you can go back and check the tone of some of the older posts and see what I was thinking then.  But again, there was this dissonance.  I worked for a christian man who went to church every week, spoke of religious things all the time, but drove a Mercedes and lived in a huge house.  So in history class, when I heard about Andrew Carnegie and the Gospel of wealth, I looked it up.  The idea is that God blesses some because they are doing his will, and it is their job to dole it out in whatever way they want, it is their money after all, God gave it to them.  I rejected this idea immediately, though I didn't know exactly why, but it was mostly based on what Jesus said about wealth, that it is hard for a rich man to enter heaven.  How is it then that the rich are blessed?  They are cursed, in other words, blessed by Satan with good cash flow.  That's one way of seeing it anyway.  Another thing I found was the incredible level of dishonesty at the office.  I estimated that if you called the office for service or a question or anything, there was about an 80% chance that you'd get lied to.  And I hated that.  It got to the point that they wanted me to lie to dupe Xerox.  It depressed me and the quality of my work suffered, and eventually I got fired because I wouldn't put what God told me he wanted me to do on hold so I could be an employee of Total Document Solutions.

The 2008 Presidential campaign opened my eyes a little to a more clear view of what was going on in the world.  Bush was of course a terrible president, and really made the world a worse place.  I started listening to progressive talk radio at the urging of a conservative I know, and it really opened my eyes to what I thought might be out there, but really had known nothing about.  I saw people whose public policy was actually about people, and not about taking what they could get and giving to people who already have enough.  I decided to vote based on tax policy alone.  A progressive tax policy, as its detractors state, redistributes the wealth, and admittedly, downward.  But a regressive tax policy redistributes the wealth up.  To complain about redistribution of wealth and not mention that its already being distributed to you is disingenuous.  After listening to Rush Limbaugh go on one of his "greed is good" spiels, I sat down and thought about it and realized greed is not good.  It's greed that gave us child labor, and a lower class, and a tax policy that gives money to those who already have it.  Greed is not good, the Bible says so, and Rush is not a Christian.  He hijacks supposedly christian ideologies to further his own agenda.  I don't know why people would take advice on children from a man who has never had any and been divorced three times!

In 2008 and into 2009 as I continued to listen to progressive radio, I started to really think that progressivism and socialism and liberalism are not really all that bad.  Europe is actually doing quite well compared to how Glenn, Rush, Bill, and Sean say it is.  Most of the great environmental and renewable energy strides taken in the world are taken in Europe.  Europe was not hit nearly as hard as the US in the recession where we seem to be overtaken by greed and avarice.  I don't know why, but the mainstream media (which is what Fox is now that they are the most watched) seems to think that Europe is a terrible place where people die because there is no medical care due to the fact that everyone has medical care.  I care about people, and socialized health care seems to take care of the most people.

I started to embrace the progressive name.  I even ceased becoming incensed when people call me a liberal.  I don't know, I'm not a liberal, I'm a social progressive, a social liberal, a full socialist maybe?  I codified the progressive idea by coming up with a little saying, "Things are not so good that they can't get better, and they are not so bad that they haven't been worse."  That's why I'd rather be a progressive than a conservative.  I hear people say that Obama is taking our beloved country from what it was to something we don't want it to be.  But what was it?  Racist?  Polluting?  Discriminatory?  Poorly Educated?  You want to go back to this?  I don't.

And you know what continues to drive me to the left?  It's the vitriol from the right.  They are the people of NO.  They don't seem to care about the truth.  They want anger, fear, and dare I say hate.  I don't want those things.  I want a bright future, not one where I have to be concerned about corporations owning politicians.  I want to breath clean air, drink clean water, and eat toxin free food.  I want the ACLU there to defend me when the government doesn't like what I say.

Well, there it is.  I don't know if it explained anything, it's really nebulous in my own head, so I hope you can make sense of it. But one thing that overrides it all is Jesus.  It all comes down to what Jesus would do.  I know it seems kind of cliched, but that really is the case.  Would Jesus want everyone to have health care?  What did Jesus say about the rich?  What does the Bible say about immigrants?  What would Jesus do in response to a terrorist attack?  If you are a Christian, you must answer these questions, if you are not, then you need to hold responsible those who say they are for answering these questions.

I hope that gave you a little better view into my window, if you have any questions, leave a comment, and I should get back shortly.


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