30 years ago when I was a youngster of 18 attending a small college in Vermont, I registered to vote in that state. At the time, my politics was very left-leaning, and my grade advisor (who was only in his 20’s with a PhD and two Masters) was an unabashed fan of jazz and he was also a registered Socialist. I learned a lot from him over the two years I was at that school; so over drinks or coffee (usually with Miles Davis as the soundtrack), we would both bemoan the fact that Ronald Reagan was President and that any chance at a serious Progressive agenda was DOA. The vast tentacles of the Right were infiltrating every portion of my life, most especially in denying me the Guaranteed Student Loan for my 3rd and 4th years of college, because my father made too much money; which is why I had to change schools (and eventually my major from Political Science to Journalism). But back in 1979, influenced by my ideals and hatred of Republicans (Nixon’s resignation just shook me to the core) I signed a piece of paper that made me a card-carrying member of the Vermont Socialist Party.
You see, it’s quite simple. I believe in single payer Health Care for all Americans. I believe in single payer Education for all Americans up to and including a Bachelor’s Degree. I do not believe in the Death Penalty except in cases of Crimes Against Humanity. I believe in a woman’s right to do as she chooses with her own body (quite a Libertarian view in fact) as well as access to the same salaries as their male counterparts. I do not believe in the United States being the Policeman of the world (yet another Libertarian view). When I had to register for Selective Service (we were the first to do so along with those born in 1978), in large black marker I wrote on my application, “Conscientious Objector”. I organized protests at an all-boys Catholic High school (something not easily done), most of them “silent” by us choosing not to do something and doing something else. I wrote a rather unflattering letter to the Editor just prior to my graduation; about recent events in the school that caused the administration to deny us a Senior Day. They wanted me to edit it myself and to tone it down in tenor…I refused. They published it anyway, and I still hear about it from my classmates.
So you see, by registering a Socialist, I codified my beliefs under one umbrella; the beliefs that were already there but needed a name to unify them. The beliefs of Socialists clearly reflected my views at the time, and I proudly became one.
As the years wore on, I became a Registered Democrat and then a Registered Independent, as I started to vote for the candidate rather than the party…which I till do. Only now, I am a proud Registered Democrat. I did so last year in order to support Barack Obama in his quest for the White House. This too came as a decision based on several years of being a free soul thanks to being downsized in 2004. Yes, I was also disabled; but in the quest to find myself, I awakened those core principles which had remained buried for so long. I took my new found life experiences and codified them under the Democratic umbrella…and here I am today.
I sit poised to remember something horrible that happened in my life 8 years ago, as the anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center loom on the horizon just 7 days from now. But what happened to me was that out of those ashes and flames, I was born anew. I have my mental (and now physical) challenges directly (or perhaps indirectly) related to that day; challenges I face on a daily basis. But I have become more open in my heart, and more willing to allow my Humanity to shine through in a way that has never shone through me before. The fact of the matter is, I give a damn.
And this is what motivates me politically. This is what and who I am now. I have come full circle…and although I have a label on me politically, I am so much more than that. I wonder how many Republicans can say that, now that their once great Party has been taken over by zealots and wing nuts?
“Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of man will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint.” – Alexander Hamilton