My political awakening – the merger of ideas, ideals and learned experiences that have morphed into my internal belief system – is notable in two aspects. The first is that I’ve managed to become at least semi-sophisticated when it comes to political issues despite possessing virtually no formal education of any note in that regard. While my state-run high school and locally run public schools could – and did – teach me math, English, science, and in the case of my high school, a vocational trade that I apply to my job every day, the system is fundamentally broken when it comes to teaching history and political theory. To put it bluntly, most of what I was taught is either whitewashed or outright wrong, as the majority of my 20s was spent learning that most of what I was taught about America’s selfless benevolence was wrong, usually with the same zeal that a child reacts to the news that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are fictitious. The second notable aspect is that it’s in no way complete. Unlike the college educated people that I tend to associate with, my formative adult years were spent in the military, where even someone as resistant to jingoism as I am can get caught up in the jet stream frequently. Therefore, everything I know, and everything I believe, is the product of self-teaching, asking the right questions to people I respect, being open-minded, and having the courage to admit that I’m occasionally wrong.
Like most young people from Connecticut, I started out as a solid Democrat. I adored Bill Clinton1, supported easier immigration, and supported a lot of social welfare programs. Miraculously, I managed to make it through my military career as a Democrat, despite being stationed in Norfolk and Portsmouth. However, I learned that I didn’t fit in well with Democrats; I supported the second amendment, didn’t think much of Affirmative Action, and thought it was wrong for a local zoning board to tell a private property owner how they were allowed to use their legally owned space. However, joining the Republican Party was unthinkable, so after looking at their list of ideals, I decided to formally become a member of the Libertarian Party. This was kind of like going from missionary sex to ball gags and swings, but bear with me. The thought process was that I had some very libertarian views even as a Democrat, so why not join the party that saw things like I did? Unfortunately, the reality was more grim. The Libertarian Party, as I would painfully learn during the 2008 Presidential Election, is less about ideals than it is about a bunch of rich, white, C-list Republicans trying to find another way to remain relevant. I’ll go into more of what I learned while dealing with the Party later, but I became a man with strong political ideals, but without a political identity.
Ultimately, I was less comfortable with that than I should have been. Someone running for a local office once made the point that “indies get laughed out of the polls”, and while I think he’s a buffoon, he’s right. Nothing can marginalize even good political points more than simply not being a part of some hive mind or another, which became my fear. Thankfully, I was able to meet a good combination of people from across all political spectrums, who seemed to be in the same boat. From the dedicated Democrats, to the dedicated liberals, the libertarians, a couple of conservatives I haven’t wanted to strangle yet, and one or two odd ducks with similar views to mine, we all debated our points, disagreed, and then did something that seems impossible at times in today’s charged atmosphere: we would shake hands and move on. It’s hard to find a group like this, but I’ve succeeded, and it’s helped mold a lot of what I think, either solidifying existing beliefs or making me take an alternative tack or – unthinkably, to some – causing me to change my position.
It was Jeremy Kolassa who coined the phrase that I have since come to use to describe me: Liberaltarian. Read the rest of this entry »