“The snake that cannot shed its skin perishes.
So do the spirits who are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be spirit.”
~ Friedrich Nietzsche
I’m a Republican.
I mean, that’s what it says on my voter registration card.
I was raised a Republican, by Republican parents, Republican grandparents, republican Aunts and Uncles. My grandmother was in town politics, Town Clerk and Town Supervisor. I attended Republican Committee meetings. I even painted signs for the candidates at election day. I was a proud Republican kid, and made sure my Elementary school friends knew it. In college, even though I was an art student, surrounded by many very “Un-Republican” friends and professors, I was a member of the Campus Young Republicans. I have always voted Republican (except for one time, when I voted Working Families Party and another time where I voted Moderate for RI Governor)
See, I’ve always been a Republican.
Until one day, I wasn’t.
Before I continue, let me be very clear. This post is about ME. I am not writing it to change anyone’s mind. It is not a debate. It is not a fight. It’s just what I feel, and what I felt compelled to write. About myself.
So, like I said. I’ve always been a Republican. I have never considered myself a Conservative, because I have always felt that didn’t describe me. (I’m tattooed, and my hair has been pink, purple and blue, for goodness sake!) But Republican felt right. It was part of my identity. It was all I’d ever known.
I didn’t have many Liberal/Democrat friends growing up. Of course, as a child, most of my friends didn’t discuss politics the way I did. As a young adult, they felt almost exhausting. They always seemed to be angry about something. Fighting some fight. Challenging. Judging. Open minded unless your opinion was different from theirs and then all bets were off. I didn’t want to deal with it. I was happy with my Republican friends in my happy bubble. I mean, occasionally, we’d get up in arms about something, but that was usually only around an election, and we’d get over it pretty quickly, and move on.
Often, I felt judged by people–by friends. I had friends decide that, based on what they assumed to be my political views, we couldn’t be friends anymore. They felt that if I called myself a Republican, and voted as such, that I must be against many of the things they were fighting for. Like Gay Rights and Women’s Rights. And I must be all for guns, and big corporations controlling the world. None of this is true of me or my family, of course, but it’s what people assumed. I don’t fit the “Old, rich, white, man” stereotype, but I was still thought to hold those same ideals. I was always telling people “Don’t lump me in with those ultra-conservatives! I’m not like that!” Their views of me were wrong, so incredibly wrong! Right?
It became harder and harder to prove that I was not those things. I mean, when you are part of a group, those looking in tend to see you as all the same. I was just “One of them” And if I was voting for these people, I WAS “one of them” wasn’t I? I sure wasn’t doing anything to prove that I wasn’t.
In my mind, I could support a candidate for their views on things like domestic and foreign policy, while strongly disagreeing with their stance on social and environmental issues. While I could do this in theory, when it came to voting, it didn’t matter which parts of their platform I agreed/disagreed with…it was all or nothing. You support the candidate, you give that candidate your vote, and you are supporting EVERYTHING they stand for.
The problem with that?
The people I was supporting, were hurting the people I loved.
I have learned a lot the past few years. Really, the past few months have been incredibly eye opening for me.
After years of identifying as a Republican, I mean really, I truly felt that it was a part of who I was, based on it being a huge part of my upbringing, I started to have some doubts. Hearing “my” elected officials, and “my” candidates speak, and vote in ways that I did not believe, and often strongly disagreed with, started to get to me.
I also started to listen, really listen, to my friends and hear what they were experiencing. Friends with black sons, who lived in fear, I mean deep, panic inducing fear, when their boys were walking home from school and weren’t home right on time. Friends who couldn’t be with loved ones in ICU, because “Family Only” didn’t include their partners, or their family didn’t want them there. This stuff is real, it’s happening, even if we don’t see it.
My little bubble burst, and suddenly I saw. I saw what I’d been trying not to see for many years. I saw what my privilege left me blind to.
I saw that a lot of what I believed, was wrong.
That’s a pretty hard thing to admit.
I was wrong.
This change didn’t happen overnight of course. This was years in the making, and so many of my personal life experiences shaped my thinking. I became a mother, and that opened my eyes to the fact that it’s not all about me. My struggles aren’t the only struggles, and in the grand scheme of thing, my struggles are small. My circle of friends grew much larger and much more diverse, my career introduced me to some amazing writers and influencers, writing about the topics most important to them-topics that I’d never even put much thought into before (Because, privilege) My life is different than it had been at 18, when I checked off the box on my voter registration.
And I realized…I’m not a Republican anymore. That skin no longer fits. I’ve outgrown it.
So what am I? That’s a hard question. I’m not really sure. I’m not a Democrat. I’m not an Independent. I’m not really a Libertarian. I still lean more fiscally conservative and socially liberal, but I don’t really fit any of the political parties…
I’m Sarah. And I’m still growing, and learning, and changing.
I’m still me. I’m just shedding my skin.