What Exactly *Is* My Political Side?
October 22, 2010
This blog began as a page on my other blog, The Expanding Life, where I write about the life of our family: no school, lots of learning, plenty of intellectual and creative stimuli, and more than our share of love and laughter. I wanted my readers there to understand why I occasionally wrote about things political.
Then, my political side grew, as I became the Democratic Party Editor for BellaOnline.com. I wrote essays I was proud of for that site, but I eventually came to believe that an online gathering place for everything from soap opera fans to car racing devotees was not the best place to pursue a serious discussion of politics. BellaOnline.com does what it does very well; it was not the right place for me to do what I do (however well I do it).
That’s when this blog was born. I wanted a place of my own to store my essays, and I wanted to write more of them. It’s been a confused journey. I read voraciously about politics, and I often wondered why I want to write about it at all: so many others tell it so well that I see no place for myself. I enjoyed writing my book and film reviews, but I didn’t see that as my main role here, either.
Looking for a friendly place to send my posts to get more exposure, I found none, and so I began the Blog Carnival of Progressive Politics. It really took off; others must have been seeking the same kind of haven I sought—a place to write and read about true liberal values, such as civil liberty, environmental protection, clean energy, and compassionate policy-making. Organizing the carnival each month was a joy for me, but I still wanted more from this blog.
Recently, I received a carnival submission from a blog that has a bona fide perspective. It made me see that what I’d been doing here—poking around with posts, trying to find my way into this blog of mine—had been a very unfocused attempt to write about politics from my perspective. The problem: I hadn’t defined here what that perspective is.
- I grew up in the projects (government-subsidized public housing).
- My father was chronically disabled from the time I was born until he died when I was twenty-three years old.
- My family lived on Social Security disability checks.
- We had no savings.
- We had no car.
- My mother took impeccable care of my father every day.
- We lived in a town with a main street and local businesses galore.
- I went to college on Pell Grants (they were called Basic Educational Opportunity Grants then) and state scholarships.
- My husband and I have schooled our child at home, for mostly political reasons (not wanting to turn her over to the capitalist, consumerist culture at large).
- I was raised Catholic, but the only Biblical thing that ever stuck to me was The Beatitudes.
- My first ideas about human relationships (i.e., politics) were formed by my much-older sister’s Pete Seeger and Peter, Paul, and Mary albums.
- The first presidential campaign I followed was the McGovern campaign in 1972. I was fourteen years old.
- My first-ever vote, at age eighteen, was for Jimmy Carter for president.
- If Bill Clinton could have run for a third term, I would have voted for him. I’d still be voting for him, if I could. In my opinion, my president’s personal life affects me no more than my dentist’s personal life affects me. Both are people I pay to do a job. I wouldn’t change dentists because mine was unfaithful to his wife. I’d only change dentists if mine destroyed my mouth. (And no, to anyone contemplating a cheap joke here, Bill Clinton did not destroy this country. I’d give that prize to Ronald Reagan.)
- In 2000, I foolishly assumed Al Gore would win the presidency.
- In 2004, I worked for John Kerry, but not hard enough.
- In 2006, I “called for change” with MoveOn.org and felt the power of activism for the first time.
- The experience of learning these things from a professorial Bill Clinton at Radio City Music Hall in the summer of 2008 deepened my understanding of the world I live in immeasurably.
- In 2008, I worked with MoveOn councils to help elect Barack Obama.
- In 2010, I became an elected official, a Democratic county committee woman.
So, that’s who wrote My Political Side. Not some anonymous book reviewer, or would-be opinion columnist, but a poor daughter of parents who never owned their own home, an honor student who couldn’t afford to pay for college without the government’s help, a woman with 1960’s sensibilities who has participated in 21st-century campaigns, and an American who wants her country to allow the meek to inherit.
My Political Side is not just my left side. It’s my most personal side—the real me, formed by my experiences. Now, I’m going to focus on writing a book and let this blog stand as a personal and historical record, however small. Thank you for reading here.