If you’re not a liberal when you’re 60, you have no heartby David Pinar on Jul. 04, 2012, under Uncategorized
Subtitle: Rambling musings on a Fourth of July
There’s an old saying (often incorrectly attributed to Sir Winston Churchill): “If you’re not liberal when you’re 20, you have no heart. If you’re not conservative when you’re 40, you have no brain”. Maybe I just do things bassackwards, but I was tuned out in my 20s, a conservative in my 30s, a moderate in my 40s & 50s, and now an unabashed liberal in my 60s. My mother and Grandmother were FDR Democrats from West Virginia. My Grandmother lived with us and her room was adorned with pictures, memorabilia, and even a bust of FDR, who she revered only slightly less than Jesus. My father was a frugal Republican from Pennsylvania; I grew up in suburban Columbus Ohio. I had to pick sides early on and, well, a fella has to go with his Dad. I remember making a stovepipe hat out of paper with the slogan “Nixon’s the One!” written on it and wearing to school in 1960; I must have been in 3rd of 4th grade. I remember listening to the radio in my bed late into the night in November 1964, sure the Goldwater could come from behind and win. In 1968 Nixon, was finally the One.
I graduated from high school in the “Summer of Love”, June 1969. June 9, 1969 to be exact: 6-9-69. Yeah, we had a good laugh about that. And man, did I ever tune in and tune out. Pot, hash, LSD, mescaline, magic mushrooms. Janice Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Animals, the Stones. I was arrested and spent my only night in jail in May 1970. No, not for the drugs – for violating a police order to disperse, participating in a large protest after the Kent State shootings. My mother assured me I was a disgrace to the family, the first member of the family to have ever been arrested and spent time in jail. It did get me to thinking that maybe I should consider doing a little more with my life. I drove cross country on my motorcycle to visit relatives in Denver Colorado. My cousins and I drove out to visit some friends of theirs who had a ranch north of Craig, near the Wyoming border. I ended up helping a neighbor rancher baling some hay, and he ended up offering me a job as a live-in ranch hand. For me, a fella who grew up in the midwest watching endless Western movies on my parent’s old B&W TV it was a dream come true. Riding horseback all day, driving the cattle up to the summer pasture in the mountains. Ropin’ the calves and branding them and castrating the hapless male calves. Herding up the sheep, tagging the lambs, docking their tails, castrating the hapless male lambs. We ate a lot of Rocky Mountain Oysters. Driving the huge John Deere tractor planting wheat, baling hay, and then harvesting the wheat. I traded smoking pot for smoking Marlboros and drinking Coors beer, and started started paying more attention to the rancher’s decidedly Conservative take on things.
It was a bitter disappointment to my parents that I didn’t go onto college after high school like my older brother, who by now had already graduated and was teaching high school. I hadn’t for one simple reason: I had no idea what I wanted to do in life. That time on the ranch on Colorado led me to realize the one thing in life I really enjoyed was to travel, to see new places and learn new ways of life. So I accepted my parents’ generous offer of support and got my Bachelor’s degree, in Hospitality Business Management. I had to decided the best way to travel and see the world was to work in Hotel Management. My first job in hotel management was working at a casino resort in South Africa. Although now solidly conservative (I had voted for Reagan in 1980), I was fortunate that my parents instilled in me at an early age that racial prejudice comes from ignorance. Under apartheid South Africa had set up separate homelands for the country indigenous African people, calling them “Republics”, loosely based on America’s system of Indian reservations. The resort I worked at was located in one of these “Republics” with a semi-autonomous black government, so there was no Apartheid there. I remember one of the white British ladies who also worked on the resort had a black boyfriend. It was no big deal there, but if they ever went to Johannesburg together they wouldn’t have been able to ride the same bus together, dine with each each other in the same restaurant, or even drink from the same drinking fountain. So my abhorrence of racial prejudice and discrimination was sharpened further by my experience in South Africa. Also my disdain for religion. You see, the policy of Apartheid was based on the teachings of the Dutch Reformed Church that South Africa was the “Promised Land” for the early Dutch settlers, who were the “Chosen Ones”. And God had conveniently placed all those dark skinned Africans there to be their servants, and servants should never be in the presence of those they serve unless they are serving them. People have done (and continue to do) some really stupid things in the name of religion. Still, I went to the trouble of driving to the U.S. Embassy in Jo’burg to request an absentee ballot so I could vote for Reagan’s reelection. I remember writing my sister, a Democrat, that I was disappointed in the 1984 election – I though sure Reagan would also carry Minnesota. She didn’t answer back for quite a while.
I was able to see a lot of the world and enjoy seeing new places and learning new ways of life working in hotel management. After South Africa came the Caribbean, and then Morocco, Egypt, San Diego, Las Vegas, and Hawaii, and I traveled on my own in between. The only continent I haven’t been on is Antarctica and, not a fan of cold weather, I can live with that. I lived in Honolulu for most of 90s, managing a hotel in Waikiki and then working for a Japanese hotel company. And my conservatism began to moderate. No fan of Slick Willy, I came to dislike Newt Gingrich even more. What a blubbering, egotistical idiot. And then the issue of gay marriage first came up in Hawaii, as conservatives pushed a voter referendum to amend the state constitution to define marriage as being between one man and one women. When you work in hospitality management you interact often with gay people; I had made a number of gay friends and was completely comfortable with gay people. Still, I have to admit that I didn’t get back then why two men or two women would ever want to marry each other. But I voted against the referendum because I felt we should never make laws that exclude one group of people from the same rights and privileges that everyone else gets to enjoy. The referendum passed anyway, but I had begun my journey into the land of liberalism.
The Japanese company I worked for transferred me to Las Vegas in 1999. I went kicking and screaming at first, but a nice raise & promotion soothed the pain, and I came to enjoy it. One Saturday morning in early 2003 I was inside The Bellagio playing the slots – I’d come to have a fair amount of luck with the slots, and Saturday mornings were my luckiest times. I looked out the window across the lake to The Strip and noticed a large group of people on the sidewalk. They were protesting the war in Iraq President Bush was leading us into. I remembered a time decades before, a time when I was a teenager, a time when I also was protesting a stupid, senseless war halfway around the world. I remembered what my father told me back then – although a Republican, he was no fan of American military adventurism. He had told me: “Be very wary of gray haired old men in Washington sending young men off to fight their battles for them”. I cashed in my slot tokens and went out and joined the protest. I hadn’t felt that good – and that proud – in a very long time. I surprised a lot of my family and friends when I changed my voter registration from Independent to Democrat. I explained it to them in three simple words: George W Bush.
So now my journey is complete, I am a Democrat, and a Liberal. I believe America should use it’s military might for defense, not regime change. I believe the greatest nation on earth should not let its citizens die for lack of healthcare. I believe all Americans should be free to love and marry whomever they want. I believe women should receive equal pay for equal work, and that they should the only ones making decisions about their healthcare and their bodies. I believe children should not have to pay for the sins of their parents, and that DREAMers should get to pursue their dreams. I believe these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
What a long, strange trip it’s been. Happy Independence Day