Friday, November 04, 2005

If My Grandparents Could See Arkansas Now

I'm sure you realize that I'm a Democrat. I wasn't always, but as time passed and I looked at the negative traits of both parties (and there are many in both camps) and as I looked at what kinds of things tended to motivate them, I realized the Democrats are closer to my own values. I didn't find out until later that my grandparents are/were Democrats as well. I'm not sure about my dad's dad. He died before I was born, and my dad and I don't talk politics very often.

I had very little in common with my dad's mom. She had a hard life and she became a hard person. However, in her last days when I would visit her in the nursing home she and I would talk politics. Before long, I learned that she was a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat--more hard core than I ever thought about being.

I was happy to finally meet someone to the left of where I was. Those turned out to be the most meaningful conversations we ever had. She would always end our conversations with, "Well, that's just the way I see it." I've tried to keep that, "this is just my point of view" philosophy in my own discourse, but I'm not always successful.

My mom's mom, who is still with us, and dad, who passed on a few years back, were not hard people at all. They were fun, gentle, and had a wide circle of friends. My Mamaw still does. She seems to know everyone within three counties' distance. I figured out that they were Democrats during Clenis's first term. I'd been stewing as a semi-silent minority Clenis supporter (I know, hard to imagine me being even semi-silent). I was spending the night with Mamaw and Grandad and we were watching the news, and some Whitewater piece was running. My Grandad said, "I don't know why they don't leave that man alone and let him do his job." My grandmother agreed. All of the sudden I didn't feel so alone anymore.

When Clenis actually compromised himself publicly they, like me, were hurt and dissappointed. Still, the Dem's focus on the common good rather than the "I've got mine, so everything is fine" approach was still intact, so it never occurred to me or them I suspect, to change our stripes.

But Arkansas has changed in the last few years. It used to be a heavily Democratic state. Now many conservatives there talk about how the liberal media and liberal politicians have so much power, but it isn't true. (It never ceases to amaze me how the Republican party can control the Whitehouse, the Congress, and the Judiciary and still manage to squeal like they are tied helpless and alone to a set of railroad tracks.)

Gay people are assumed to be lurking around every corner waiting to pounce and rip apart the institution of marriage. People who bother to question why and how we ended up spending the lives of our young (and not so young) and billions of dollars on a war in Iraq rather than chasing Al Queda are dubbed terrorist sympathizers. If you are a Christian who doesn't walk in lockstep with social conservatives on every issue as they define it, you don't even qualify as a follower of Christ in their books. Fear, fear, and more fear is used to control the public.

But I believe there are good people in Arkansas. A lot of them. And someday, maybe not too long from now, people will begin to realize their fears have been manipulated for purposes that serve primarily the wealthiest among them while disenfranchising the poor and the socially vulnerable, many of whom live in that state. Will people in Arkansas return to the Democratic party? Some will. I don't think everyone should (balance of power is a good thing). But if the Dems can get over their identity crisis and develop viable alternatives to the grave-digging strategies we are faced with now, maybe some families will wash the red off and rediscover their historically blue roots.


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