Growing up on the periphery of affluence, I was keenly interested and slightly bewitched by the intoxicating words of conservative icon William F Buckley. Like any good steward of the Republican Party (I was a donor at the age of 15), I would eagerly await the arrival of The Dartmouth Review. I read Ayn Rand. When Bush the Elder was installed in office, I was so upset by the end of Reagan-era politics that my mother let me take the day off from school so I would be free to weep and mourn. I knew no one could ever be the steward of the American dream the way Reagan was.
This makes sense. Really. Everyone in Montgomery County is a Republican. Never mind that a Montgomery County Republican is basically like a Dixiecrat in the sense that neither are completely true to the party platform. If you lived in Montgomery County, were a business owner, had any hope to network or had a burning desire to have speeding tickets fixed, you registered Republican. Even my father, a latent Marxist, was a registered Republican as he owned his own business.
Being among the haves in a world of have-nots, it’s very easy to look around at your piles of stuff and bags of money and say, “I worked for this. It should be mine. I should not have to share.” It’s also very easy to think that the government serves no role in helping people since you are not naturally exposed to those who need help. They are the people by the train tracks; the side show. The cautionary tale of what can happen if you dare not work yourself to the bone. Industry is key. What’s mine is mine and what’s yours…I will eventually take because my money can buy more than your money.
Furthermore, I was hell bent on not falling victim to higher academia. There was no possible way I would allow myself to shift left in college. I would dig my heels in and buck the trend. Come 1996, I was still raging against the machine. I found Clinton to be a loathsome, suspicious creature even though he was a complete Centrist and more of a big business-dick sucking conservative than his successor, Bush the Lesser (which, when you consider the no-bid contracting of the War on Terror™, says a great deal about Clinton’s hard-on for Corporate America).
Shortly after my move to North Carolina, my father and I were having a heated discussion about politics, as is our wont. Before I could counter any of my father’s arguments, the frying pan of reality knocked me upside my head. There would be no possible way that I would ever amass the wealth that it takes to really benefit from the conservative ideal that is American politics. Without knocking over a string of liquor stores or winning the lottery, I will have to rely on the government at some point in my life. Further scrambling my brains and leaving me at a loss for an ideology to keep me warm at night was coming to terms with the concept that government, as a whole, isn’t inherently evil. Government wasn’t going to sneak into my room in the middle of the night and steal my long-gone virtue. Government had no designs for any potential Kang scion. Financially, I would never be in that teeny segment of society that would amass so much wealth that taxation would be a significant issue. The odious threat of an estate tax is utterly laughable to most of us, myself included.
In the latter part of 1999, I plucked the voter registration card from my wallet, noted the change of my legal name and switched parties. Silly as it may seem, it was a pretty significant event. With the tick of a box, I flushed my former ideology, my former value set, down the toilet and became the unthinkable – a Democrat. A fence-sitting, right leaning Democrat, but a Democrat none-the-less. If only my deranged but liberal mother could see me now.
Alas, the transition had only begun. As years wore on, I found myself leaning further and further to the left until I became the scourge of modern American society – a Social Democrat. The death knell for any conservative leanings sounded the moment I stepped foot in the door of a public hospital as an employee. Surrounded by critically ill, hard working people who did not have access to care on account of being a member of the working poor, I recoiled in horror. On a far too frequent basis, I saw amputees who lost a limb due to unmanaged diabetes. I saw brain tumors of mind-boggling size because we treated the worst of the infirmed and under-insured. One manager summed it up perfectly: “When I worked in private health care our (MR) scans were boring. People who have the resources to take care of themselves are far less remarkable than those who cannot.”
Otherwise upstanding citizens with whom any of us would break bread are not only fighting for their lives – they are being victimized by a society that places little value on the living. We live in a world where willingly assisting your neighbor can only occur via charitable contributions to bloated non-profits/not-for profits or religious organizations. We live in a society that places a value on the unborn but has neither the interest nor the inclination to care for the child once it is born. To save the almighty dollar, we take food from the mouths of children, care from the infirmed, and as if that wasn’t indignity enough, we point and call them “welfare queens” or “entitlement mongers” in the process. We assassinate their characters because that’s what we do best when we don’t want to accept the fact that we are one traumatic event removed from a similar fate.
There are parallels to greater woes in this moral. We ardently refuse to take care of our infrastructure, in the physical sense (roads, bridges, electrical grid, etc) or in the human form. As a society, we neglect everything until the worst case scenario occurs and then spend more time pointing fingers than proactively engaging in methodologies that would prevent the draconian. We are a society that lives on borrowed money, borrowed time and unfounded hope. Rather than confronting the painful, rather than assuming responsibility and understanding that objectivism and libertarianism are merely ways to validate our inner, selfish beast, we cast the poor as our much needed bogeyman. It seems Americans cannot live without having to fight some form of lecherous evil.
One needs look no further than the current budget quagmire and the potential shuttering of the Federal government to see how dysfunctional and lacking in compassion we are. Rather than investing in the future, we steal from it. Rather than protecting our most precious resource, the human being, we discard that concept in favor of protecting a commodity. Rather than understanding that the human being is a critical component in society, that education and intelligence is the most important commodity we have, we slip in global standings in science and mathematics at an incomprehensibly alarming pace. And we do this why? Because what’s mine is mine and what’s yours can potentially be mine.
There are so many levels of wrong in this world, so many things humans should be ashamed of. None is more horrifying than being a willing participant in the downward spiral of our society, though. None is more damaging than enabling the process. And yet, if you do point this out, you’re dismissed as the elite, mystical intelligentsia. That’s right – we live in a place where being informed is considered bad, and “smart” is used as an epithet.
I may very well go to an early grave as our health care system is cannibalized to allow for the re-allocation of funding to interests that aren’t really our best, at the hands of scientists who care more about revenue and patents than the people they purport to care for. At least I will shuffle off this mortal coil knowing that I tried to change things for the better. And I will do so as a liberal.