I’m a Liberal, not a Progressive. I’m not sure what a Progressive really is, except that’s the term that’s floating around to describe Democrats, maybe just left wing Democrats. However I call myself a Liberal because I’m 66 years old and I became a Liberal during the 1960s and I’ve only gotten more intense since then! The word “Progressive” doesn’t do justice to what I am, a true-blooded, bleeding heart, died in the wool, 1960s liberal. But, I’m not a hippie, and never was.
I am not just a vegetarian, but also a vegan, and I believe in all of the things you say I believe in, such as the environment, social justice, and entitlements. So, you might just call me a Progressive and I would just shrug my shoulders. Go ahead, demonize me! Because, up until Wednesday night, February 2nd, 2011, when I attended your Ventura Tea Party general meeting, I demonized you!
I’m starting a new career and have returned to school to become a psychotherapist. Part of this process is to learn to be nonjudgmental towards other people. I think I’m pretty good at that. But, in my multicultural psychotherapy class, we went through a process to find where our hang-ups were, our hot buttons, our prejudices, our blind spots, and to deal with them, so that when we do become therapists we can keep these prejudices from interfering with providing quality psychotherapy services. And where was my hang-up? First let me tell you a bit of my story.
My dad was a union organizer and fought for workers rights. He most likely was actually a communist, back during the days when it was okay to be a communist, and there were those times in the United States. My mom did volunteer social work at the Henry Street settlement in New York. My family members are Democrats. As a teenager I handed out information about John F. Kennedy and police beat my sister during one of those well-televised protests in Los Angeles. During this last presidential election I worked a phone bank for Barack Obama and was part of many groups that went to Las Vegas to help register Democratic voters. I have worked for nonprofit agencies and I’ve been a grant writer for many nonprofit agencies trying to improve the world for the “have-nots”.
So you see, as one of your speakers said during Wednesday’s meeting, as far as you are concerned, I am your enemy. But that’s okay, because I felt the same way. Until February 2nd.
I needed to deal with my enmity towards who I thought you were, because you were Sarah Palin, Bill O’Reilly, Michele Bachmann and Fox news. Wednesday night I discovered I was wrong. You are none of those. Most of you are good, sincere, citizens who come to public meetings to stand up for what you believe in.
I sat across from Jim, a guy about my age I would guess, with a white beard like mine. He has six grandkids that he loves; I have three grandkids that I love. I’ve returned to school, he’s thinking about returning to school. He was an engaging and likable fellow. He seemed to think the same of me.
Before I came to your meeting, I had several e-mails going back and forth with George Miller. George graciously allowed me to attend your meeting, welcomed me when I arrived, and warmly chatted with me following the meeting. No one else knew I was there. Me, the Liberal. He asked me to write up what I thought of your meeting.
Your folks and my folks, me and you, we disagree on some very basic issues, but outside of that, I would welcome you, your children, and your grandchildren into my home to meet my children and my grandchildren. I would feel comfortable with you because you are real, and you are sincere. As long as we don’t talk politics, we have a great deal in common. Or as they say, Americans All!
But there is one thing I would ask of you and that is to think about this: all night long your speakers kept referring to “they” want to do this, and “they” want to take this away from you, and “they”… Get the idea? Well, I am not “they”. I have my beliefs and I am working towards my goals. Those goals may conflict with yours, but I am not looking to take anything away from you and I’m not looking to make you do anything. As a very liberal Liberal, I hardly ever think about you. I think about the people I’m trying to help. Should you have problems such as alcoholism, drug addiction, family problems, lose your job, have a special needs child, be wrongly accused of something you didn’t do, or want to start a small business, employ people, or fight for the rights you believe in, then I am on your side and want to be there to help you. But I am not a “they”. I am not part of some vast conspiracy.
George reminds me that these social programs I work with have to be paid for. Yup. He’s right. But during these discussions about funding, how about we both remember that I have a family that I love just as you have a family that you love, and let’s discuss the issues, and not get into “they-ism”.
I do believe that the media polarizes us. The media tends to focus on the extremes because that’s where the news is, and I will admit that even “I” tire of Keith Olbermann. I work hard and I study hard and I barely have time to turn on the news for a few minutes a day. When the media tells me that the Tea Party is doing such and such, that’s my source of information. And when the media tells you that Progressives are doing such and such, then that’s your source of information. Let’s not let Keith Olbermann and Bill O’Reilly come between us.
So, if I’m fighting for my agenda, and you are fighting for your agenda, I’ll try not to demonize you if you try not to demonize me, and I would be proud to call you my friends.