Monday, March 7, 2016

Not Really A Conservative, After All

Throughout most of my adult life, I have considered myself a conservative. And now I'm wondering why. Maybe I never was a conservative. I do know that when I have hung out with conservatives -- which has been A LOT -- I have always felt a bit "on the outs." And when I hung out with liberals -- which occurred often during my youth -- I felt more comfortable, because they tended to be really kind and understanding people, who wanted me to be fulfilled and happy. But, I kind of ignored those feelings.

Lately, though, I have considered my identity as a conservative and how it evolved.

When I was a little girl, there was Jimmy Carter and Gloria Steinham. They weren't very popular with my little girl self. Or my teenage self. My memories of the Carter era are rather depressing. There was the "energy crisis," which -- for my own life -- meant getting bundled into the car by my parents in the wee dark hours of the morning to get into the line at the gas station, which went around the block. The "energy crisis" also meant being freezing cold in the house during the winter, due to the fact that President Carter (according to my little girl understanding) couldn't get along with the Middle East people, thus causing them to not sell us enough oil, and so he made us all turn our thermostats to 65 degrees. I remember Mr. Carter giving a fireside chat during which he instructed us all to put on a sweater (while gesturing to his own). I was REALLY PISSED at Mr. Carter after that chat. And then -- to top it all off -- there was the hostage crisis. This occurred when I was a teenager. And according to common knowledge, it all happened because Mr. Carter did not have any balls and couldn't stand up to the bad guys. First the oil. Then the hostages. Mr. Carter was -- clearly -- a wimp. A really good Christian, yes. But -- also -- a wimp.

And Gloria. I couldn't stand Gloria. She wanted my mother to go to work and send me to day care. Well... That sucked. I really loved having my mother at home. Having my mother at home was an awesome thing. How dare Gloria try to take her away??? Gloria was a very personal threat to my little girl self.

And then there were the mortgage interest rates, which were so high that nobody could afford a house. I was aware of the interest rate problem -- in spite of my young age -- because my dad was a general contractor/real estate broker. The discussion in our home often revolved around those subjects. And -- somehow -- in my young girl mind, the interest rate problem was necessarily the fault of President Carter and Gloria Steinham.

I knew President Carter and Gloria Steinham were Democrats/Liberals. And they were trying to ruin my life, according to my understanding.

Then came our hero, riding -- quite literally -- a handsome steed. Ronald Reagan. Savior of all. Not afraid to stand up to bad guys. In favor of mommies at home. Battling the evil forces of high interest rates. And he was so cool! Not a pissant idiot like Donald Trump, but a cool and awesome and charming guy, saving all that was important to me in my young girlhood.

Thus, I came to see myself as a conservative Republican.

Of course, I have had to face the fact that these opinions of young Marla Argenti were based on limited information and personal anecdote. As the years have gone on, my thinking has become more complex about Jimmy, Gloria, and Ronald. I have come to hold more balanced views about their views. I have come to see Jimmy and Gloria more compassionately and I no longer idolize Ronald.

Okay. Admittedly, I still have a bone to pick with Gloria. I recently read a quote of hers:

     "A feminist is someone who has sex before marriage and a job after."

That. Is. Lame. Sorry, Gloria.

Please understand. I have nothing against women who have sex before they are married and jobs afterward. These are personal decisions. I mean, sex is great, as long as you are being responsible about it. And I have come to see that having a career -- even while you are raising children -- is a very positive thing. But -- just as a woman can validly choose to have sex before marriage, she can also choose not to. That is a perfectly justifiable position. Having sex can cause a lot of trouble that not having it can avoid. And just as a woman can validly choose to have a career after she is married, she can just as validly choose to be a SAHM. Women have different personalities and tastes and abilities and desires, and they need to lay off of each other about these things; and Gloria's statement is not a very good example.

As time has gone by, I have also had time to reflect on my feelings of comfort with liberals versus my feelings of being rather "on the outs" around conservatives. Now, if you are my friend and you are a conservative, this does not apply to you. If you are my friend, I feel comfortable with you. But, I have had to examine what these feelings mean. And I have determined, through much soul-searching and research about issues, that I actually agree much more with the liberals, aka progressives, about the issues. I think society needs to be about the Common Good. We are not all just in it as individuals who owe nothing to each other. And -- often -- when conservatives accuse progressives of wanting them to be "politically correct," all the progressives really want is for the conservatives to have some manners and some understanding that certain things might be more complex than they realize.

I saw this bumper sticker today:

     "The BIGGER the government, the smaller the citizen."

Um... Well... Not necessarily. It all depends on how that government is run and what its priorities are. And I think the opposite can, just as often, be true. For example, if there is healthcare for all, that gives people the economic and psychological freedom to apply themselves to other things in life, rather than just worrying about how to get and keep health coverage. Before "Obamacare," my oldest daughter had no stability in her health coverage, AT ALL. That is a story for another time, but -- let me tell you -- it wasn't because she was irresponsible and felt that she deserved a hand-out. Quite the opposite, in fact. Basically, "Obamacare" was a Godsend to her. In fact, it has been a Godsend to our whole family. When I think about it, government benefits have -- in many ways -- helped me throughout my entire life to get a leg up. And when I get a leg up, I can have more stability in my life and help others get a leg up. Government benefits can be a blessing in helping people to achieve personal stability, health stability, economic stability. Of course, they can also go awry, and I will speak of my experiences with that at another time. But when done right, they can be a huge benefit for individuals and for society.

So, there you have my very condensed version of how I have come to realize that I was probably never a conservative, at all. I apologize to any of you who feel that I misled you. I didn't mean it. It comes just as much of a surprise to me as it must be to you. ;-)