Over the last six years or so, I’ve asked myself repeatedly why I never, ever considered changing my values from liberal to conservative. How have I stayed true to liberal values of kindness, compassion, empathy, and conscience? Simple: because for the last forty years, conservatives have demonized those values and turned them into weaknesses when in reality, they are the greatest strengths a person can ever have. But how can anyone reject those values and justify hatred, cruelty, and malice? This last question has taken me quite a while to find an answer to, but one has come to me: if someone asks, ‘how does this benefit me?’ before making a decision to help anyone, or to debating whether or not to treat someone with kindness instead of shitting all over them, that’s why they can demonize the value of kindness and most of all, love.
The origin of my values goes back to when I was twenty-one years old and made the decision to become my mother’s caregiver as she battled cancer. At the time and in years since, I was told I was making a tremendous sacrifice and I was doing the right thing. Behind my back and to my face even, I was also told I was nothing but a self-serving martyr and a cold, emotionless bitch for keeping my thoughts and feelings to myself. But I don’t see that decision as a sacrifice now, and I didn’t back then either. Back then I saw it as a decision I made without any hesitation or any consideration of what it would do to me. And I sure as hell didn’t ask, ‘what’s in it for me?’.
(And I want to add here it wasn’t just because my mother would have done the same for me, because she would have. She wouldn’t have done it because she was my mom and out of some sense of duty or obligation or some bullshit like that. She would have done with NO expectation of anything in return. That’s how she lived her life, but she wasn’t one to talk about that like I am now, In the last twenty years since she’s been gone, I realize just how much she and I were alike though that’s a story for another time and place.)
Last week, in two different states, the values of kindness and hatred for children were clear to see. In Minnesota, the governor signed legislation into law giving every school child in the state free breakfast and lunch regardless of income level. In Arkansas, the governor there signed legislation loosening up restrictions on child labor that would permit children as young as twelve or thirteen to work in such dangerous places like slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants with no protections under law for health and safety. Arkansas’ governor is a conservative Republican and Minnesota’s governor is a Democrat. The values of both parties are clearly on display here and if you think children should work in dangerous jobs instead of being in school and eating, ask yourself why. Though as always, I will warn you if you ask yourself why you want people, and children to suffer, you might not like the answers you find. And sooner or later, you will have to deal with them.
Most of all, I believe conservative ideology is rooted in the belief that suffering is justified, and even glorious as my late maternal grandmother used to say. I have always rejected that simply because suffering will always be a part of the human existence, but people don’t suffer in glory and revel in it. Poverty, hunger, and pain are not glorious or justified in any way. Jesus Christ preached a gospel of alleviating suffering with love and compassion, and action. He sure as hell didn’t place terms and conditions on who he helped or told us to help. And he sure didn’t ask for anything in return for himself.
And I’ve heard people say they learned how to be compassionate and loving ONLY after suffering themselves. If that’s the way you are, that you have to suffer before you will believe in another person’s suffering and try to alleviate it, you are seriously fucked up and need to do some serious work on yourself. That to me is the epitome of self-centered personal entitlement and definitely someone who will always ask, “What’s in it for me?”
It wasn’t easy for me to learn the origins of my values and why I’ve held on to them as strongly as I have. But my answers are good ones and my decision to do my best to live by my liberal, progressive, democrat beliefs is one I will never abandon. Nothing in this world is perfect but I believe we have to try to do the best we can with what we have to work with. Personally, I don’t want to see this world die and I don’t want people to suffer. So, if my tiny bit of support here can make a difference, then I’ll do my best.