For over a year or more I have felt like I must be in the midst of my own personal mid-life crisis. I still haven't gone out and purchased a Corvette or anything like that, and there isn't any real physical benefit of what is going on. For instance, in spite of the fact that I want to live healthier and get on the treadmill more often, in fact, I think I've gained a few pounds. I suck at this mid-life crisis business. I should be chasing ladies half the age of my wife or at least, since I'm bi, blowing some young guy on the side. None of this stuff is happening. Instead, I think my politics are changing.
CAUTION: This post contains discussion about political views. I hate talking about politics, but it is relevant to my mid-life crisis. If it isn't your bag, feel free to skip it all. I'll understand!
When I registered to vote at age 18, I registered as a Democrat. I did that because, in spite of the fact that Jimmy Carter (worst president ever) had just led us through the Iran Hostage Crisis (well, up until just before the release), I was sure Reagan would get us into WWIII. But then just a few months later, I was actually in the military and suddenly was learning the value of real leadership. Say what you will (and please, I'm not looking to debate), but Ronald Reagan was truly a leader that brought pride in country back to our nation. Yes, like all presidents and leaders, he had some serious shortcomings. You don't need to give me any statistics about AIDS or a whole host of other issues, I get it. I'm just pointing out where in my young life I made a personal decision based on very little information to register as a Democrat, and then made a second personal decision based on something slightly more emotional.
Over the years, I have only followed politics as a spectator, and sadly I think, like a sport. In football, I can list off the names of most of the main stars, give you a general idea of which teams suck and which ones are doing well. But I don't sit down and have a draft day party or eagerly await the new rule changes that might come out each season. I don't spend hours at a time glued to ESPN to see who got injured or wait on pins and needles to hear about the next trade. In politics, I can usually tell you which bonehead made the current idiotic comment or what have you, but I don't spend hours of my life scouring the Internet for details of the latest bill and such.
What I did do for years was watch Fox News. Watching Fox News for Conservatives or watching MSNBC for Liberals is really like watching a locally produced sports channel for your favorite team. What has turned me off from politics in general is that it has become a sporting event. If you are a Dallas Cowboys fan (and I am), and you tune into a Cowboys game with the Cowboys announcers, no matter how bad things are going, you don't expect to hear the Cowboys announcers rooting for the Redskins. And you can listen to the same game broadcast on the Redskins network with Redskins announcers, and those dirty bastards will lie and tell you that all is well with the Redskins! In short, that is Fox and MSNBC in a nutshell.
I stopped watching all that cable shit period. Ditto (pun intended - and many of you will get it) for radio. It isn't that Sean Hannity has the most irritating voice ever or that he spouts off so much crap that it is impossible to believe he believes it all, it is his sycophantic callers who make me want to slit my wrists when I hear the absolute playbook, religious right drivel they have to spout out. You can almost hear Hannity cringing at how ridiculous the sheep in his flock are.
So some time ago, I just turned it all off. And frankly, the Internet is just as bad. Have you ever read the comments on any story that can be slightly politicized? You read a story and no matter what it is, suddenly you have people from the left blaming it all on Bush. Then, you have people from the right blaming everything on Obama. WTF? It is a story about a kid winning a spelling bee! If you refer to Republicans as "Re-Puke-licans" or Democrats as "Demo-Craps” I have no time at all to read your silly comments. If you are still hell bent on finding the real birth certificate for Obama or believe W didn't actually serve in the Guard, you have too much time on your hands.
It is more than just the politics as a sport idea that has turned me off. I have looked at many of the positions I have taken over the last several decades or more and stripped away the party line and simply asked myself, what I really believe.
I have always thought that as a nation, we should do better when it comes to abortion. The problem is, the same group of people who so strongly believe that all abortions are wrong, are the same group who are so vehemently opposed to sex education in schools. For me, I wish that we lived in a world where the only pregnant women were adults, educated, in a committed relationship and able to support themselves and their child. But when you throw in a policy of burying our heads in the sand about how babies are actually conceived while simultaneously sexualizing everything else in society, young people will get pregnant. And this doesn’t even take into account sexual assault. No, I think abortion needs to be safe, rare and legal. And even the rare part seems like as much of a fantasy as the desire to have all pregnancies planned and carried out by competent adults.
Very often, the same people are so upset about a stranger in a school teaching their little darlings about the mechanics of sex, stating that it should be up to the parents, are in fact the same people who won’t have frank conversations with their kids about sexuality. I have laughed over the outrage many religious conservatives have about strip clubs. The big rallying cry seems to be, “What will we tell our kids?” If your only struggle in life is that you might have to have a conversation about a building that generally looks no different than any other bar in your city, but you have no problem at all explaining all the other things in this world like hunger and homelessness and war, and rape, and cancer, and bullying, and theft and tornadoes, I’d say your life is pretty easy.
One of my sisters is a huge liberal who feels like the government has to take care of people because people are too stupid to take care of themselves. I find that position wrong and potentially racist if the focus of your concern is minorities. One of the key foundations of my conservative thought is that the government should keep us safe from outside enemies, but generally leave us alone to live as we wish. I am not such a Libertarian that I don’t want the government to make sure the water is clean or cover the needs of destitute people who are too sick to work. But to simply create an entire underclass of people dependent on the government because they have been brought up to believe that is the best they will ever have is wrong and it sells people short. I saw a sign posted on FB that read, I don't mind helping the needy, I'm just tired of supporting the lazy. I guess the real problem is, what rule do you use to define needy versus lazy? I suspect we all have various formulas.
I guess you could read this and believe I am a huge fan of big business and my idea of freedom is that the small entrepreneur working out of his home office can do his best to compete and really have a chance. Hey, build a better mousetrap, right? Well the truth is, these days, I think big businesses have an unfair advantage over the small business guy because tax laws have been written in favor of corporate lobbies, the Food and Drug administration is bought and paid for by big food corporations and drug makers, and though I totally believe that the impact of global warming by man is overstated by the left, I do believe that energy companies use our government to stifle innovations that could reduce our need on oil. And by the way, drill baby drill. As much of a conspiracy as there is against the small guy trying to come up with fuel and energy alternatives, I think there is a bigger conspiracy by tree-huggers everywhere to make our gas prices higher because they hate the fact that we aren’t living in the 1800’s. Of course global warming is real - and so was global cooling back in the 70's when everyone thought we were headed for the ice age. Both are true. And buying carbon offsets won't change either.
My biggest departure from the conservatives and the Republican Party is the impact of the religious right. In my own life, I have taken a more active interest in the right for gay folks to marry and to be treated fairly. Through no effort whatsoever, my wife and I have met and become friends with many gay people. Several of our (gay) friends who are couples have been partners for 15 and 20 and 25 years. To sit back and watch the party that I'm registered to vote in even consider for a moment, a candidate like Rick Santorum or the beard, Michelle Bachman, whose husband is clearly, well, I have no intention of ever outing anyone... Now, the candidate is Mitt Romney. I do like that he is a businessman. I won't hold his faith against him, but what he represents is a platform that goes beyond the economic needs of our country. He is leading the charge of a bunch of religious zealots who are hellbent on unneeded constitutional changes that impact the people they fear - the gays!
There are many older folks who look back on their lives and come to realize that they were on the wrong side of the civil rights movement. They opposed equal rights for blacks, for women, for interracial marriage. Now that society has changed, they come to realize all the imagined dangers were simply imagined. Now there are people who for religious reasons oppose marriage rights for gays. They opposed the repeal of DADT and thought there would be one huge gay orgy in every foxhole if that happened, and look - nothing at all like that has occurred. I have no intention of being an old guy (assuming I get beyond this mid-life crisis) looking back and realizing I was on the wrong side of this argument.
That's it. Rant over. Maybe it isn't a mid-life crisis.