Confessions of an Accidental Liberal, or: Speak Softly and Have Air Support on Standby

I should have listened to Nancy.

“Just say no!”

But like millions before me, I saw no harm in a little curiosity, some entirely legitimate

Mrs Reagan and 99 Luftballons?

scientific spirit of inquiry, and I tragically misjudged the slippery slope that my wide-eyed, guileless poking at the unknown should lead me onto.

The unknown of differing political viewpoints, that is. Radical, exotic, tantalizingly extravagant viewpoints. Elitist, even (don’t blame me, elite sounds so charmingly French! How was I to know the word that once meant ‘choice’ and later meant ‘of great quality’ is now yet another bad thing)?

Honestly, I thought I could quit any time. Even as my descent into flower-powered liberaldom was already painfully obvious to innocent bystanders, I still firmly believed myself the poster-child of the Moderate Independent. You know, the girl who goes both ways. The reasonable one who balances the scales and chooses political candidates not based on party affiliation but on (oh, dear) common sense.

It took nothing less than a full frontal intervention by a trusted buddy for me to see the terrifying truth. Engaged in the time-honored military maneuver known as “Hurry Up and Wait” we were completing a tactical analysis (debating which Hollywood movie contains the biggest FUBARs in terms of depicting the military), when Murphy (don’t ask)  declared in a matter of fact tone: “You’re such a Liberal!”

Naturally, my response was a decisive “Am NOT!”

“Are, too!”

“Am SO not!”

“Are so, too!”

Yes, we’re the people entrusted with your safety.


And it all had started out so well

Granted, mom has always been a staunch Democrat. The proud blue collar daughter of 3rd generation German immigrants (add a generous dash of Louisiana French for spice, and of course there’s great-uncle George the cranky Alaskan but every family needs one of those) has always been pro unions, pro reasonable taxation in exchange for social safety nets, and has some rather fierce views on healthcare. Yet to many of her fellow Democrats in the Empire State her political leanings tend rather a bit too far right of Mr Bill Clinton, disqualifying her from the “Centrist” label by 20 degrees starboard of fiscal responsibility. And please don’t get her started on Mrs Clinton. Or Mr Sanders, for that matter.

One wonders how she ever gets along with the Republican she married -holy cow – in 1967. Or perhaps not, seeing as the gentle Scandinavian bear, self-chosen blue collar son of a white collar East Coast clan, declares himself a Moderate Republican (when he can be bothered to have any label affixed to his broad shoulders). Far, far out of right-swirling waters in matters of environment and education, he was (and is) nonetheless the poster-man of Reagan voters (“Bad actor. Good president”), and still champions supply-side economics and much of the Gipper’s free-market philosophy. Dad also quite reasonably decided that voting for Bush the Elder and (less enthusiastically) the Younger, gave and gives him license to exercise his 1st Amendment rights at his leisure by offering mild rebukes and occasionally scathing commentary on either’s performance in the White House. Please don’t get him started on Mr Trump. Seriously. Please don’t.

So what happened?

How does a child destined to walk the moderate, centrist ground of politics suddenly find herself tumbling out of that comfortable, stable middle ground and slide headlong into the rabbit hole of the (gasp) Libertarian Left? cartesian plane with horizontal left-right axis and vertical authoritarian-libertarian axis

As a good Snowflake/Hippie/[insert insult of your choice here] should, I blame my parents. That’s right, the ex-Catholic (aka Agnostic with an Attitude) Democrat and the laid-back Protestant Republican, who huddle snugly in the political middle. The couple who for over 50 years now have made an art of not merely coexisting with a different opinion, but celebrating their differences (admittedly, that celebration sometimes involves ballistic kitchenware from the Democrat and pithy retorts worthy of a Spartan warrior from the Republican).

On the political compass it’s astonishing just how close these two warring lovebirds are –Image result for churchillboth are floating companionably near Winston Churchill in the middle to lower left of the blue, with mom but a bunny-hop and a skip left of dad on the economic scale, and him (my goodness) beating her and any other self-respecting Republican on the social scale with a noticeable southward drift. “Must have been the porn questions” spoke the Viking and went to stack some firewood.

Mother dearest disputes this conclusion and places the blame squarely on his insufferable feminism. Sometimes I really can’t tell when she’s joking.

And I guess therein lies the rub. They don’t fit the stereotypes. Despite loud (or laconic) protestations to the contrary, my parents are fierce individualists, liberal in the literal sense of the word. The “Believer in Liberty” sense. The “Freedom and Pursuit of Happiness” sense. Each of them may have chosen to align with a party that most closely resembles their views, but within that framework they refuse to be pinned down, corralled, labeled, or herded along party lines.

How did they end up raising a scion who snuggles up with Nelson Mandela (not that I’m not mildly flattered, if bewildered) in the green square?

I believe it’s because they’re Americans. Yes, you read that right. Solid, patriotic, “Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground” honest Americans. Firm believers in

Image result for statue of liberty
Looking good, old girl!

the First Amendment (please don’t get them started on the Second, though. The last time that discussion happened we had to evacuate half the county and apologize to Canada for that friendly-fire teacup), in self determination and inalienable rights. Including their daughter’s right to be a gun toting Hippie, a grown-ass woman in uniform who volunteers for animal rescues and pesters the commissary for more organic food (I draw the line at kale, though), who believes that putting her hind end on the line for her country means she damn well can argue for renewable energies and better health care. And don’t get me started on minority rights, or protecting my beloved rivers, lakes and mountains. Seriously, don’t. My weapon was made by the lowest bidder.

The Oxymoron resolved

How does this individualism square with the lovebirds’ relatively high scores on the authoritarian scale, and mine own willing endurance of the most hierarchical command structure available?

I recall asking dad many years ago, before donning my own uniform, how he had resolved the dilemma for himself. Thusly spoke the Viking: “Freedom isn’t saying no to authority just because it’s authority. It’s saying yes when and because you choose to. Now go help your mother with the horses.”

Yes, dad.





12 thoughts on “Confessions of an Accidental Liberal, or: Speak Softly and Have Air Support on Standby

  1. Excellent. I wish we could all banter our differences and still show love and civility with each other. We are all Americans, and nothing in the news reflects how good life really is here. If you just go outside and visit with your neighbors, life is pretty darn good!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, the love between my parents is undeniable – and an absolute marvel to behold for a cynic like me. The civility takes occasional timeouts though, my mother has a magnificent temper. 😉

      Absolute agreement on the visit with the neighbors and realizing just how damn good we have it!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a very interesting post for me. As a Canadian it is fascinating to see Americans debate their politics and also to declare their allegiances so openly. We Canadians shuffle about never discussing politics or religion with friends or at least not often. We are not as passionate about it perhaps? I don’t know. But in any case I enjoyed your post..

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Maybe it’s because Americans enjoy a good fight, and Canadians by and large are too polite? 😛 Then again, I’ve seen Canadian hockey fans who would make any ‘Yank” pack up and go home, because … wow. Not messing with that.

      OK, kidding aside – that’s a good question. I think there may be several factors in play. One is certainly the idea of “American Exceptionalism”. No matter which definition of that you use, it puts a certain obligation to participate in your government on the citizen. Another reason may be that we’re predisposed to individualism rather than a large, centralized government – another trend that can be traced back to our founding days. So we grouse and bicker and fight the reins every time the government interferes with our personal choices – EVEN if the overall idea would be beneficial (healthcare!).

      If governing the French is akin to herding cats, governing the Americans must be like trying to teach dressage to a bunch of scrappy, thickheaded mustangs.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have always thought that Canada has followed a rather English or British lead. We “went along” with the Brits and the Americans threw the tea into the water and said “get lost” and fought for independence. French Canadians my have historically have protested and threatened to go their own way but at the end of the day they have remained in the confederation of Canadian provinces. And as for dressage and Mustangs….well that would be interesting!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Those lively French are keeping things exciting, non? 😉
          But yes, our differing approaches to colonial life have led us down some different paths. In my mind that’s a marvelous thing though, only superseded by the fact that we manage to be good neighboUrs 😛 Well, except for that little scuffle in 1812. When we got our hind ends handed to us… *cough*

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Haha! I shouldn’t laugh but 1812 we had the Brits who were experts and also the enlisted the help of Native tribes who were also experts at warfare. Anyway all’s well that ends well and it has been a good relationship since then!

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Damn this is amazing. I call myself an Independent – fiscally conservative/socially liberal. I know that translates into waffling indecisive neurotic in some parts. Your parents sound magical. So glad we met – virtual fist pump.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Waffling indecisive neurotic … or just refusing to be corralled and herded? 😉
      And yes, they are. Baffling, vexing, annoying as all getout, wondrous, caring, independent, stubborn, loyal to a fault, generous … magical. The “I won the lottery and was hit bit lightning on the same day” type of parents.

      👊 right back atcha – very happy to have found your blog, too (*eagerly stares at laptop waiting for new posts*)

      Liked by 1 person

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