Monday, August 27, 2012

Appreciating Gifts Received -- Or, Kudos To The Dems

I am a registered Republican, though a somewhat reluctant one.  Because, more importantly, I am a Catholic; and if you study Catholic social teaching, you will realize that it contains ideas of both the Republican and Democratic parties.  And some of the ideas embraced by the Democratic Party are very important in Catholic thought.  For a while, I was registered as a non-partisan.  But, for various reasons, I decided it would be a good idea to choose a party, so I chose the GOP.  I tend to be a limited government sort of person.  I also believe in the idea of subsidiarity, which is important in both Catholic thought and conservative politics.  In this post, though, I am going to speak of the ways in which the Democrats have enriched my life all through the years.  And these are things for which I am truly grateful.  And when I ponder these things, it keeps me from being too partisan. 

Long before I was born, my Italian great-grandfather lived in the United States.  While here, I am told that he helped form the Furriers Union. So, as you can see, I have connections to the Democratic Party that go way back. After a while, this great-grandfather returned to Italy. But, when his children were grown, he sent them to America, to have better lives than they could make for themselves as peasant farmers in the "Old Country."  One of these children was my grandmother, Adele Caffoni.  She was followed to New York by her "boyfriend" -- Aldo Argenti.  Who, by the way, was almost immediately sent back to the land of his birth for fibbing to the immigration authorities about something or other.  He was in a holding cell on Ellis Island when a kind relative of my grandmother's showed up to bail him out, thus saving my future existence.  As a married couple, both of my grandparents worked blue-collar jobs -- factory work, construction, janitorial services.  And, as they explained it to me, they would never have had the pay, benefits, and security in retirement that they had without the efforts of the Democratic Party.  The Party of the Working Man.  And they did not squander the efforts of their party, either.  They were frugal and saved their money, and thus they were able to help their own children get a "leg up" in life.  My grandparents gave their children good educations and some financial assistance starting out in life, because of the benefits the Democrats helped them secure.  Their own children took this help from their parents with grateful hearts, worked hard, and achieved a good standard of living for themselves. Thus, I get a little annoyed when certain conservatives accuse the Democrats of wanting to give "hand-outs" to undeserving people.  I have seen that, with proper stewardship, less fortunate people can use these "hand-outs" to help themselves and their progeny achieve better lives.  Lives during which, by the way, they will pay their fair share of taxes to help other less fortunate people.

I am also very grateful to the Democratic Party for my high school and college educations.  I attended a private elementary school (grades 1-8), where books, supplies, and heat during the winter always seemed to be in short supply.  I remember doing assignments on paper that resembled recycled paper towels and shivering in the classroom during the winter.  And sharing a textbook with another child, when one of you is on page 20 and the other is on page 30, can be a bit stressful when you are 9 years old.  So, when I went to a public high school, I was basically in educational heaven.  It was calm, orderly, clean, and well-stocked.  The teachers were well-trained, and most knew how to inspire a kid with positive words of encouragement.  I attended a publicly-funded college, as well -- San Francisco State University.  There I was given the opportunity to get a very good education alongside people of diverse opinions and walks-of-life.  This was invaluable to me, as it helped me learn how to enjoy and appreciate all kinds of people.  I also found, at these public institutions, that my rather conservative religious and political views were treated with respect by my teachers and classmates.  We were able to talk with each other about our differing ideas in a way that was positive for all.  I never felt like I was treated badly by anyone -- instructor or student -- because of my more traditional opinions.  To me, it was the best of what you might call a truly liberal education.  An education where all points of view are considered in the discussion, in a fair and respectful manner, with everyone still calling each other "friend" at the end of the day. 

Because of programs championed by the Democrats, I had many enriching experiences as I grew up.  There was that wonderful summer school program where I got to play Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz.  There were swimming lessons, which provided me with a healthy, life-long activity that I love.  There were also dance lessons, driving lessons, library books, opportunities to attend plays -- I could go on and on...  Without the Democrats, I would probably not have been able to partake in any of these activities.  My father did have a good job and we had a wonderful home-life, but his income would not have supported these things, even if he was in a lower tax bracket. 

And I have to say this about publicly-funded programs, also -- especially those of an educational type.  They do provide the opportunity for people of diverse backgrounds to interact.  And this is something that I believe to be of great value -- at least it was for me and for others I have known.

So, this Republican tips her hat to the Democrats.  I recognize the value in much that you have done.  And I hope we can all work together for the common good.

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