Friday, May 11, 2012

The Beginning Of It All

I suppose the first question that needs to be answered before any credibility or topicality can be established is just where I came from. Not the birds and the bees, we can save that for a later date, but rather how 22 year old American becomes an atheist and socialist while living in the reddest of red states. And not just that, but how someone who grew up with one side of his family in the far right and the other half in the far left chooses an option beyond either spectrum.

For starters, my father's family is about as Republican as a group can get. Without getting into specifics, Fox News is on constantly, and I would never imagine my grandparents, or even aunts or uncles, voting for any Democrat, no matter what the Republican candidate was like. On my mother's side, it is the exact opposite. My grandfather, and each of his three wives (not at the same time...) are and were all Democrats, or Liberals if that suits the concept more aptly. A Unitarian Universalist minister, my grandfather has marched for civil rights, protested wars and even rubbed elbows with the likes of Howard Zinn. But on each side there is religion. Including my parents, I can't imagine seeing a single member of my family being unreligious except maybe a various aunt or uncle. They may not all be Conservative Christians, and they're far from being Catholic, but instead my family is comprised of your typical, every day American Protestant. Growing up, I attended Sunday School and youth group events, was taught the major stories of the Bible and even participated Church functions such as "hunger awareness" fasts and homeless shelter construction.

It should probably be mentioned where I grew up as well, as that adds even more confusion to the mix. Despite my heart lying over the ocean (or at least a vast body of land) in western Washington state, I've spent the majority of my years in Indiana, both "The Region" and its state capital. Despite what many thing, Indiana does have "blue" areas, especially in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties in the northwest where I spent my first stint, in addition to pockets around central Indiana where I make my home currently. But, for the most part, Indiana is about as Republican as it comes. Conservatives have dominated the political landscape dating back to the state's inception in the early 1800s, but I feel it is necessary to note Indiana is a shell of the D.C. Stephenson era (luckily).

So, I am a Hoosier boy raised in a Protestant Christian household with influences from both sides. The question still remains, how did I end up where I am today? The answer to me is simple: Question everything.

I was always known as "Mr. Replay" when I was a youngster. My mother and father are both huge sports fantatics, and with replay in sports so common, it became a part of life for me. A NASCAR race would have angle after angle of a wreck, so when I played with my Matchbox cars (and oh did I play with them...) I would reset them after creating a crash, only to place my head in a different location to replay scripted event. While watching baseball, I would get my parent's attention to recreate the "homerun hop" of Sammy Sosa or Mike Cameron, even though the television did an ample job of showing the replay. So, as I grew older, it became natural for me to replay events and deicision to figure out exactly what happened. I know it sounds silly, but even ordering food (to this day!) goes through the review process. "If I had just seen the burger on the menu...No, this is the best choice...Well, look at how the fries are cooked..." The process is endless.

Some call it second guessing, but I like to think it is more of just being a rational human. So when I became cognisant of this, shall we say, feature of my brain, life took on a new meaning. I was about thirteen years old when I realized nothing was the same anymore. Going to youth group didn't make any sense, religion wasn't the answer to life's questions. Why bother accepting the results of an election when there was so much subversive activity? Why are there billionaires who can literally burn their money and others in the same city with absolutely nothing?

It began with religion. I knew my parents believed in the Christian God, but the only reasons that came to light from them, or anyone for that matter, were based in faith. Then it clicked in my head, the same was true for politics. Even economics. People had faith that those elected would do the right thing, but they never seemed to. The humans in charge of giant organizations were allowed their wealth because of the faith the shareholders placed in them. Even when no tangible good came from their paychecks, the faith remained.

So I ditched the mantra of faith forever. Sure there is still a bit left over for my sports teams, but sports are completely different than anything else on the planet. In the "real" bits of life, common sense just took over all together. Everything I thought religion explained so well was crushed by the weight of science when compared next to each other. I realized that God was no artist, but a figured created by primitive man to better explain the world around him. It all makes sense, why religion would be important. Humans overall seem to have this urge to know "why." And, becaue there was no rational explanation why the sun rose or why there were so many types of creatures, religions stepped up to the plate to explain it away.

The most difficult part came for me when I dove headlong into politics. As my mother can attest to, the whole process was quite overwhelming. I was about fourteen when a wave of confusion and pain hit me, and looking at the past (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, et all) I was confused how anyone, anywhere could ever feel superiority over his fellow man. Surely there are those among us who are smarter, faster, stronger, but at our core we are all humans. It came to me that, no matter what, we are always supposed to look after the well-being of our planetmates, focusing most importantly on equity for all. A person's skin color, national origin, sexual identity, religion or any other inhereted or acquired tendancy should ever exclude them from basic human rights. So why did it take so long for humans to realize that?

This question led me to the third and final area of realization, that economically the world is one seriously messed up place. Of course Communism is a great idea, I loved it until I realized that maybe it just doesn't work in reality. Not everyone should have exactly the same amount, and the government should definitely not have enough power to decide who gets what jobs. But the bigger issue still remained: Why do so many have so little while so few have so much? It can't be because they worked harder. Chief Executive Officers are known far and wide as some of the laziest members of the working class. They make millions or billions for sitting in an office letting others make deicisions while the men and women in factories suffer with small wages and horrible benefits. There is absolutely no way everyone should have the same amount of money, and before someone accuses me of wanting to "redistribute the wealth" or something classic like that, let me defer you to the idea of human rights. Yes, people in charge of large companies have a lot on their plate. Yes, some people do make more money than others and they deserve to do so. But why does that mean the rest of us some how are not worthy of basic human rights?

The days of "Life, liberty and property" are long gone. The modern world demands things like proper access to affordable medical care and the opportunity to further an education. Modern Republicans insist on people figuring these things out for themselves, because in America everyone clearly has the opportunity to do so. But I don't have to look as far as the woman I wake up to every morning to see that's not the case. My fiance worked a job through high school, eventually being accepted to an incredible university to prepare her for the only job she had ever wanted. She worked 39.5 hours a week for just over minimum wage while taking the maximum 21 credit hours at her university, but was still unable to afford her tuition. So after some financial setbacks, this extremely hard working young woman was relegated to the world of retail as a manager. There she worked 40 hours and made 25% more than she had made before, but was still forced to pony up half of her paycheck for medical insurance, a proposition that was impossible to meet. When she became ill, her medical bills began racking up as well. All in all, Republicans have it horrifically wrong. People have the right to attend a university to better their job prospects. The same people have the right to basic healthcare to keep them alive and out of massive amounts of debt. It is as simple as simple comes. The ideal world where everyone works just hard enough to get what they need doesn't exist. Humans across America work their tails off every day and, despite it all, are unable to obtain these basic human rights.

So, there you have it. A Hoosier boy raised in a Protestant Christian house chose an option farther left than he was given, and along the way the entire road was paved with ideas penned by common sense. But the story doesn't end there. This average, everyday American twenty-something has plenty more story to tell. So follow along and try to keep an open mind. You might just learn a thing or two about the real world.

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