Growing up in small-town Texas, there never really was a “question” of politics. You were conservative. To the bone. George Dubya was your greatest role model and Rick Perry was your pride and joy. And for most of my adolescence, I never questioned it. I was a full-fledged, good ol’ Republican girl, pearls and all.
But then I started to see cracks, little holes in the surface of the “truth” I had held so dearly that broke up so many of the ideals we God-fearing conservatives believed and stood for.
In 2010, the popularity of Facebook was at its high. Everyone in my high school was on it, as close to 24/7 as our church-group filled schedules would allow. And I, little freshman that I was, was no exception. I would get home, open my Toshiba laptop, and log on, eager to see the drama of the day overflow into the evening, with the security of the screen to help keep you honest—or just mean, it was really up to you. Unfortunately, my classmates usually chose the latter.
I remember the drop in my stomach, the lurching in my chest—all my muscles clenching together in shock of what I had just read. A boy in the grade above me, a well-respected football-playing, Church-going sophomore had just started the biggest Facebook fight I’d seen.
To understand the fight, however, I have to give you a little background information. First, my high school had only one openly gay boy in the student population. He was a freshman, in my class, and all my naïve self thought about him at the time was that he was ridiculously kind, ridiculously charming, and ridiculously strong for putting up with all the bigotry my school had to offer him. This particular week, however, we had our annual “surprise” drug test. Anyone involved in any sports, extracurricular activities, or who parked on campus had to go into the bathroom with that little cup, fill it up with urine, and then carry it out. It was mandatory, it was disgusting, and it was a great excuse to get out of class. We all secretly loved getting drug tested. It gave us a perfect venue for gossip, allowed us to see friends in other classes, and most importantly, scope out all the cute boys.
For most of high school, I lived with blinders on. I didn’t see a lot of the bullying that went on, I didn’t notice when someone came to school hungover or high. I lived in a bubble. A perfect bubble where everyone was Christian, conservative, and followed all the rules. For the longest time, I thought everyone was just like me.
That Facebook post shattered that bubble, though. On the evening of the drug test, Mr. Popular who I introduced to you above, had taken to Facebook to vent his feelings of discomfort at having a “faggot” seeing him pee. He argued that “people like that” should have to use the girls bathroom, or better yet, that they “all be sent to an island, and the island get blown up,” preferably by him.
My heart felt like it was going to beat itself to death. My breathing was ragged and heavy as my eyes moved down, reading the comments agreeing with him. I kept waiting, praying for someone to tell him he was wrong. He was being hateful, mean-spirited, not like the Jesus he believed in at all. But no one did. Everyone thought it was hilarious. The joke of the century.
Flash forward four years and I am a freshman sitting in my first class of the semester at one of the most liberal universities in the country. My priorities had shifted, I was so sure that I would flourish here, that this school would help me find my real me, I would be surrounded by people with the same values as me.
I was wrong.
Call me crazy, but I don’t necessarily enjoy having professors call anyone from the South ignorant rednecks. I got a little upset, and that anger grew as more and more assumptions about Southerners and conservatives were made. My mind was boggled and my allegiances shifted to the outskirts—I didn’t know where I belonged anymore.
Since the Facebook incident, I have realized that the kids in my high school were just as confused and misunderstanding of the real world and real life as I was, and as I still am. I understand now that hate and discrimination were the only way they knew how to deal with people who were different than they were. And I understand so much more about myself.
That moment for me, of reading the mean comments and distasteful utterances of people I thought held the same beliefs as me, was a turning point in my personal arsenal of values. And that class, and my entire experience at college, has shown me that I am not a hybrid. I am not merely conservative or liberal. Yes, much of the economics behind conservative thinking makes sense to me, but much of the humanistic values in the liberal agenda are in agreement with my heart. I love people, and hate to see suffering. But I also know hate and cruel words are on both sides of the spectrum.
How many times have I seen a liberal friend call someone an idiot, uneducated, heartless scumbag for taking a stance against abortion? And on the other hand, how many times have I heard a family member call someone the same for standing up for women’s rights?
For me, compromising a conservative mind with a liberal heart means there are no right answers. There isn’t a clear-cut picture of the way things are supposed to be. I know that sounds cliché and you’re probably wondering what my point is, but that is the point. There is only the way things are, and we only have our minds and our hearts to make decisions to get to where we want to be and where we want the world to be.
For the heart-followers, thank you for choosing love. For taking such important stances on matters of human rights. And for the head-followers, thank you for looking out for our bank accounts, for our futures and security.
Which one am I?
Ask me in four more years.