Breaking Free of Party Lines
I go to a school where most everyone has an opinion on everything. The students are intelligent, and most stand firm on what they believe. At my school, you have to know what you think and be ready to fight for your opinion. At my school, you are either a Democrat or a Conservative (though, for your sake, hopefully a Democrat).
One Friday last fall, my friends and I decided to lounge in the oversized chairs of a conference room hidden behind an old oak door at the back of the lunchroom. We sometimes slipped into the room just to talk, never completely sure if students were allowed in there or not. That day the topic was politics, and we debated everything from teaching evolution in schools to the war in Iraq. My democratic friend came armed, ready to reject my beliefs and grind them beneath the sole of her sneaker. As we talked, I became increasingly angry. Though I tried to consider her points, my friend’s responses to my opinions were unchanging: she would raise her eyebrows and degradingly laugh, “Are you serious?” By the time next period arrived, my head was fighting a civil war. While ultimately my beliefs did not change, temporarily I felt as though my opinions were horribly wrong and ridiculous. When we arrived back at the schoolhouse, she assumed she had completely sized me up, saying, “Geez, Molly, I never knew how conservative you were.” Maybe I am, I thought. An hour later I see another friend, an avid Obama supporter, on the way to my car. With a snarl, he sputters, “I heard some interesting stuff about you,” and won’t make a further comment.
Three weeks later, in my college counselor’s office, I tried to explain the requisites I looked for in my ideal school. My counselor attempted to organize my baffled words. From simply teaching me in history class and talking with me about college, he figured that I was associated me with the Democratic Party. Halfway into our meeting, he said, “Molly, you seem quite liberal to me.” I guess so, I thought to myself. My peers and my teacher were able to categorize me politically, but I myself was unsure of which end of the political spectrum I belonged to.
Over the next few weeks, I decided to sort out my own beliefs and force them into the prickly mold of what it meant to be a Democrat or a Republican. I spent hours investigating party websites, writing out lists, and searching for my opinions within the countless political charts and graphs imbedded in Time magazine. I was determined to make myself fit but had trouble doing so. Then, with the Obama inauguration near, I knew I wanted to experience the history that was being made from the stance of a strict and devoted member of the Democratic Party. The infamous day arrived, and I buried any beliefs that were not so liberal in the back of my head, focusing on my most democratic political opinions. But while leaving the auditorium after watching the inauguration, I felt fake. I wanted to have a straight political identity, but at the same time, I didn’t-I couldn’t. I have experienced a cockiness, an arrogance, and an ignorance that has come to be synonymous with being a supporter of a political party, and I just didn’t hold these feelings. I had trouble becoming passionate and devoted to one party, because from what I have witnessed, that meant completely overriding and dismissing the beliefs coming from other parties, even when they held some truth.
I then further realized that I would never belong to one party because my beliefs will never be single sided. My life is full of different sources of political influence, and though I choose to agree with some and reject others, my opinions are ultimately my own. I believe that people need to stop feeling the need to staunchly define themselves by one political party. People must not let the views of a party decide what they believe before they decide for themselves. I also believe that arrogance and ignorance need to be ridden from political conversation, for respect and the appreciation that everyone has the right to their own beliefs should forever trump the need to prove someone else’s opinions wrong.
I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican. I am an Independent.
Deal with it.