Sunday, January 22, 2017

Why I am an "Other"

Last month while I was getting my driver's license picture taken, I tried to change my political party affiliation. For whatever reason, my choices were Democrat, Republican, Other, and None. But first, how I got there.

I registered as a Democrat when I first registered to vote, just before the '92 election. At that time, I was "kind of" liberal (for growing up in a somewhat rural area in western PA), and pretty much all of my relatives were registered that way, so it made sense. I was not really into politics at that young age, however.

As I got into my late 20s, I started to realize I was becoming more conservative, so a few years later, when it was time to renew my driver's license, I changed to Republican. I still remember the day at work when I told my coworker Anne that I was really a Republican. She told me she had known it for years. During the 2008 election, I was on board with John McCain running for president, mostly because I thought he was a good person, and in 2012, I campaigned for Republican D. Raja, who was running for Allegheny County Executive at that time.

But over the past few years, as I was surrounded by liberal (and only liberal) coworkers, I started to drift back to the left side. It was a gradual shift; I did not wake up one day and pronounce myself that way. And I was not fully converted; I really saw myself as more of a Libertarian. But it became a little telling when I did the "I Side With" quiz last January, and my second, third and fourth choices were Democrats (at that time, I sided the most with Rand Paul, but Bernie was only 1% behind him).

But as the months wore on, and the election season was in full swing, I became more conflicted than ever. I was liking Bernie, but it was not looking good for him. And as Hillary became the front-runner, unlike the rest of my office, I could not say "I am with her." I had issues. But I also could not get past Donald Trump as a person. Frankly one of the main reasons I did not vote for Bill Clinton two decades ago was because of his infidelity; at that time and for years after, I voted for people on character. Eventually, I had to get past that; unfortunately and sadly, staying faithful did not seem to be a top priority for too many people in the political world.

But with Trump, I just could not get past how he seemed to portray women and non-whites. And just his demeanor in general was troublesome. I was starting to feel that Gary Johnson might be my best choice; and in August, when I retook the "I Side With" quiz, he was at the top at 86%. Much to my surprise Jill Stein came in at 72%, and Hillary and Donald brought up the rear at 65% and 63%. I felt okay, not great about that (I hated to "waste" a vote on a third party candidate). But within a couple of months, my mom informed me that he did not know where Aleppo was (or maybe it was what was happening there). Crap.

So now the election is a few days out, and I am still struggling. So I call my priest. He said a lot of helpful things, but most important to me, he said that it was unlikely that my one vote would affect the outcome of PA, so I just needed to make a decision and be okay with it. Right around that time  (maybe the day before the election), Hillary came to campus, and I went to see her. Even though I still was not "with her," I was pretty sure that after the recording of Trump's vulgarities toward women and one in particular came to light, Hillary would be our next president. So I wanted to be there, to see the first woman president just a couple of days before the election (note, no one else in my liberal office was there).

One the eve of the election, I took the "I Side With" quiz one final time; by now, Gary and I were in agreement only 63%. Hillary was next at 39%, then Donald at 34%. I had considered that and some other things, and made a decision. And then I woke up the next day and promptly changed my mind. As I got into the polls, I again changed my mind. I literally decided as I touched the screen, and I almost changed my mind for what was the 4th or 4th time, when I reviewed my choices. Insane.

Ultimately, I could not vote for Trump in good conscience, but I get why some did (mostly because I asked and read about it). My vote came down to Hillary and Gary. And only a few people know who I ultimately chose. But I am okay with my decision. My vote did not change the outcome, as Trump won PA by almost 60k. I am not sure who Johnson took votes away from, but my guess is more Donald; most of my conservative friends voted for him.

So why the "Other" party? Because I am not much of an R or a D; I am still pretty conflicted. But unlike a lot of people who are firmly on one side or the other, I have read a lot on both sides. I have not dropped FB friends as so many have done and continued to do. In fact, I have been dropped by people on both sides; I bet not many can claim that! I want to hear and understand both sides. I don't know want to know what just "my side" thinks. Of course, I don't really have a side.

Here is the thing: I get a lot of it. I get people who are scared about terrorism and that fear wants to keep people out of the country. But I also don't want to generalize. Just like I don't think banning guns will necessarily save lives, I don't think banning Muslims will necessarily either. For the record, I am for stricter gun control; I don't want to take people's guns away, though.

I have friends who had no insurance before the ACA. So I very much get that. But I also am married to someone who worked for a small company that pretty much fell apart due in no small part to high premiums because of the ACA.

I get people who believe you were born a man or a woman and you should stay that way. I get people who cannot accept gays because it is against their religion. It is against mine (well, not being gay, but acting on it). But I am a tolerant person who believes love is love and you cannot make yourself one way.

I get women's wanting the right to choose. I likely won't fight to end abortion. But I am pro-life; that is likely not going to change. And I am pro-life in everyway, whether a baby in the womb or an adult on death row.

And I get so many other things. I can see both sides, and a third side in many cases.

So even though I will be sitting out the primary this year, because unless you are a D or an R, you don't get to participate in PA, I am okay with that for now. As I said on FB, I just need to be "single" for awhile.

My Other party is about kindness; it is not about hate. My Other party is about seeing both sides and not being so quick to dismiss differing viewpoints. My Other party is about standing up for what we think is right or at least speaking up against what seems to be wrong. My Other party is about fighting the good fight. It's about helping others. It's about trying to do the right thing. It is about respecting ALL lives, no matter what stage, religion, nationality, job, gender, orientation, socio-economic status. My Other party is about starting small and caring about the community around us and focusing on things we can have an effect on. My Other party is about hoping for the best, but knowing the worst could happen. My Other party is wanting people, all people, including the President, to succeed. My Other party is about working hard and doing our best. My Other party is about saying sorry when we are wrong, and forgiving others both for our and their sakes. It is about saying thanks to those who deserve appreciation. It is about moving on and not beating ourselves and others up because we screwed up.

I am an Other, and that is just where I need to be right now.

The End. But hopefully really just the beginning.

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