Today, Washington D.C. is chock full of citizens of this great country who are celebrating the second inauguration of Barack Obama. I am glad. I am going to repeat that because I really mean it: I AM GLAD. Since my blog is entitled “Finding Peace in the Middle,” you might wonder why I would approach a topic so full of the potential for strife. Well, I’ll tell you. As I have become older, I have begun to realize the importance of political process. I try really hard to read the news, to know who I am voting for and where he/she stands on issues that are important to me. I believe that peace in this case is not found by avoiding conversation, no matter how heated, but by making informed choices, standing by them, and courteously acknowledging that other viewpoints exist and are legitimate. My thoughts and beliefs have definitely evolved throughout my life. As a youngster, I listened to my father and parroted his opinions on Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter (my dad was an absolute model of moderation and fairness, I might add. He might have disagreed but he never slandered). In my twenties, I listened to Rush Limbaugh (I am not sure there is a penance great enough for that, at least for this girl’s heart) and kept myself insulated with people who believed just like I did. But something interesting happened as I reached my mid thirties. I began to know and listen to people whose experiences were not the same as mine, whose religion or lack of it engendered a completely different political conviction that was every bit as patriotic as any I had encountered in my right-wing white-bread world. I began to know and love people who were homosexual, had had abortions, were not white, had needed to avail themselves of welfare, or who had fled their native countries, desperate to make a better life for their families. I began to see that a government that guards the interests of the wealthy CEO while allowing middle class firemen and struggling single mothers to slowly sink into financial ruin is criminal. I read about the religious practices of genuinely kind people who revere the planet as a creation of the Divine worthy of protection from rampant consumerism and negligence. I became convinced that the Arts are as important to a society’s growth as Commerce.
Currently, the hot topic is gun control. I find it interesting that good people, many of whom call themselves people of faith, are so willing to fight for the right to keep an assault rifle in their homes while taking away funding from the kindergartner who only eats because his mom is accepting food stamps. And I have heard all about the hand out thing. But when we were in grad school, we were on food stamps and medicaid. My children ate and my son got medical care when extremely ill because of the system this country had in place to help people who are struggling. It’s easy to point at welfare recipients and generalize that they are all trashy, lazy, drug addicts who sit at home watching television and drinking, but that’s just not the truth.
I live in one of the most conservative districts in one of the most conservative states in the country. I am out of step with most of my neighbors. My Obama/Biden sign was torn out of my yard and ripped into pieces this fall. My friends who are supporters of President Obama expressed concern that if they put signs out in their yards or bumper stickers on their cars, their homes and vehicles would be vandalized. My friends, there is something wrong with that picture. We live in a country where political discourse is one of our rights. The message that ultra conservatives are sending is one of intolerance and hatred, whether they want to admit it or not.
I encourage my conservative friends to take a minute and examine their thoughts. Is it possible that President Obama was elected twice in a row because there is a large part of this country that agrees with him on issues like gun control, education, a woman’s right to choose, the rights of people to marry whomever they wish without government interference, religious tolerance, and trade policies? And that just because our opinions are different than yours, they are not less relevant? Reverend Jesse Jackson said,”America is not a blanket woven from one thread, one color, one cloth.” Readers, understand I am not saying my political beliefs are right and if you disagree with me, you’re wrong. What I am saying is that each of us has the inalienable right to vote our conscious and a responsibility to respect our differences and honor the office of the POTUS.
I am an American. I love my country. I love my president. May you each find warmth and joy in the multi-colored and multi-textured blanket that is this great country.