America first, politics second
Published: Monday, October 21, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 21, 2013 23:10
I grew up in Washington D.C., which is not only the capital of the United States but also the heated epicenter of all things political. It was hard to not develop an interest in politics at an early age. My parents would be up at 6 a.m. every day devouring The Washington Post, and my mom made a point to recite the current events to me on our drive to school. Neither of my parents ever pushed me into being curious about politics, rather, the desire just manifested itself within me by the time I was in fourth grade. I remember sitting in my government and American politics classes when I was 11 and just being wowed. I couldn’t even take a note in the class because I was so captivated by what I was hearing, and the more I heard, the more opinions I formed, and the more certain issues really started to bother me to the point where they began to make my blood boil. By the time I was 12, I proclaimed myself a proud member of the Republican Party.
Allow me to familiarize you with D.C.’s political party style. Since the Home Rule Act was passed in D.C. in 1973, allowing D.C. residents to vote for a mayor and city council, not a single Republican has ever been elected in a D.C. city council ward race. Now add that to the fact that roughly 75 percent of registered voters in D.C. are Democrats: tough life for a Republican in the city.
At the age of 12, I already knew D.C. wasn’t exactly the friendliest city for a Republican to live. I remember asking my dad why everyone hated Republicans so much, and he smiled at me. It confused me because, in my mind, I had asked him a serious question and he was giving me a less-than-satisfactory answer. He explained that as long as I was going to be in D.C., politically, I would be outnumbered. “You’re going to have a lot of fun being the underdog,” he said. I was puzzled as to why being the outnumbered underdog could be any kind of fun.
In seventh grade, I had to take an American government debate course. I had one friend in the class who was also a Republican, and we were both immensely happy to have each other as some semblance of a support system for when the debating got too heated. My teacher was a staunch Democrat, but he always told us that he appreciated the diversity in views that we brought to the classroom. I liked him for that. It made me feel safe, until the first time we debated affirmative action.
I’ll say this: I’ve never agreed with affirmative action during my lifetime. I realize that at one point in history it served a great purpose, but to me, it’s very outdated and unnecessary at this point in time. I said something along the lines of this in the debate and was ordered to report to the school counselor the next day for being “racist.” That really shook me to the core.
I wasn’t scared or sad—I was enraged that anyone would label me like that for voicing my beliefs. Issues like affirmative action will always be sensitive, but sensitive issues need to be discussed. I could have stopped publicizing and having conversations about my political beliefs, but I didn’t. If anything, the experience strengthened both my beliefs and my support for the Republican Party.
What bothers me the most is the way people speak to me when they hear that I’m a Republican. I’ve endured Facebook comments calling me stupid, along with things far too terrible to even put in print. My question is: Why? Why does my political affiliation have anything to do with my intelligence? Why do people make such bold assumptions about my character and my life just because of the party I support?
I’ve never insulted a Democrat for his or her beliefs, nor have I ever questioned anyone’s intelligence based on which party they align themselves with. Part of the beauty of politics is that it allows for an influx of ideas and opinions that can create really meaningful conversations, debates and discussions between different people. I value political discourse between opposing parties because it tests your beliefs and allows you to hear someone from a completely different point of view.
Being a Republican in D.C. isn’t easy, but my hope is that one day people will be civilized and mature enough to simply acknowledge others’ beliefs and respect them. I find it distasteful the backlash that I’ve received for posting a picture of Newt Gingrich, sharing a quote from John Boehner or even wearing a GOP T-shirt to class.
My political party doesn’t make me who I am, just the way that your political party doesn’t encompass exactly who you are. Maybe the reason Congress is so polarized is because we ourselves are polarized. The polarization between parties is lethal, and maybe if we fix it first, then our leaders will catch on and do the same. There doesn’t need to be such a rigid and hostile divide between Democrats and Republicans.
We may disagree about spending, abortion and the plethora of issues on the political compass, but who cares? We’re all entitled to our different views, and I’m glad, because the world would be so boring if we didn’t all express our differences. We don’t need to agree with each other, we just need to be able to have an open discussion where we can explain ourselves fully to members of the opposite party.
I’m an American first, and a Republican second. I can only hope that others might adopt this mindset as well to put an end to polarization between the two parties.
I may have an elephant on my T-shirt, but there’s a lot more to me than the party affiliation on my voter registration card.
The views of guest columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Review.