Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lost!



The loss in my bid to become mayor of the little borough in which I live has me thinking even harder about just why I'm a Republican.
The Democrat to Republican ratio here is daunting. I am on borough council with people who never flinched as they changed parties for political expediency. I served as the lone Republican for the longest time until a fellow party member finally joined me. My “Republicrat” colleagues certainly sound and act “Republican.” I was advised that if I had any hope of winning I needed to change my party. I wouldn't. I lost.
Most people are more than a little surprised when they hear I'm a Republican. I'm not sure how you would describe me, I certainly don't fit any of the traditional images associated with the party of elephants.
One stereotype that is floating around is that we're rich. Well I'm not.
That is not to say I am poor – anything but – maybe I am rich. I have plenty to eat. My home is too big for my needs – never mind the ancient plumbing, wonky wiring, a roof crying out for attention, and a room beneath the kitchen that is never dry. We won't discuss the toilet sitting in the middle of the the third floor instead of on the appropriate pipe in the powder room. I have plenty of clothes. The vast majority are from friends or “family day” at Sally Armani, aka, the Salvation Army. Once in a great while I hit the super clearance racks at the local department stores.
Then there is the heartless cliché. There are many more generous people than me gracing this earth but I share where I can. I have a heart, if not a purse, for the poor.
Still lingering, despite Herman Cain, are a few “racist Republican” images. Perhaps it is my naiveté, but I don't even think it deserves a mention. My friends come in all hues. I like it that way. Life is far more interesting with a kaleidoscope of rich colors gracing your horizon.
You get the idea.
Not exactly what comes to mind when you are thinking, “Republican Woman.”
So, why am I a Republican?
I am pro-life. That is one telling factor, but even that doesn't explain it. One of my many Democratic friends, a staunch one, spent many years in charge of a home for unwed mothers. She has done more for the pro-life cause than I ever will do by just voting that way. She thinks abortion will end when women's hearts are turned and that the legislation is irrelevant. I don't agree in the least but as I said I don't know that my disagreement has saved one baby. Her stepping up and helping has.
The pro-life question though is the beginning of the answer. It is my belief that Republicanism, if done correctly, the way I believe it was intended, holds up the very dignity of all of us.
Some people find that a strange notion, “What about the poor?”
If we believe what we are told, the Democratic Party does more to look after the poor. They are creating program after program to address the suffering among us. What do my fellow Republicans do?
If my party's platform were allowed to flourish, I believe the very dignity, as well as the material needs of the poor, would be addressed. Republicans love business, big and small. I believe we can love our businesses by asking our government to stay out of them. Taxes and onerous regulations stymie even the most promising of endeavors.
Successful enterprises need people. Employees may work with the knowledge that they are capable of earning money and contributing to a growing concern. Character is reinforced with good self esteem to follow.
“Trickle-down” economics has been bastardized as ignoring the needs of the lowly worker. I beg to differ. Any intelligent business owner knows that its workforce is its life blood. Workers need to be respected both monetarily and socially in order to be retained. Grudging corporate attitudes breed nothing but turnover and waste. Competitive compensation is an intelligent business decision that pays for itself very quickly.
The other outrage expressed is the hardheartedness of those nasty Republicans -- denying the needy help and assistance at every turn.
I have been a Catholic chaplain for 13 years. I have seen my share of need. I would like to see more of a community response to the hurting among us. It does happen. We are a generous country with many, many kind, giving people, Republican and Democratic alike.
When a poor person comes to the local Catholic hospital, the nun greeting them has a few choices. She can direct them to the welfare office where they will have to stand in line in a dirty office, fill out numerous amounts of paperwork, then wait for the “nay” or “yea” that determines whether they will get emergency food stamps or not.
Another alternative is to take some of the money handed to them by loving people who want to help and pass it along to the person in front of them. They can buy them food with it, get their baby a package of diapers, put money in their gas tank -- the list of possibilities is a long one.
I went through an incredibly difficult period in my life when I was downright poor, frighteningly so. I can honestly say it was not my fault. My friends helped. I mean really helped in both material and spiritual ways. I didn't ask for the help, they just did it. Society did not tell them this was their obligation. They just acted out of kindness and love. It made all the difference. I retained my home and did not have to figure out how to live without basic utilities. A nun friend of mine, on hearing my house was going into foreclosure, made a phone call and arranged a $12,177.74 loan from a woman I had never met. That woman's act of courage in loaning me that money gave me hope where there was despair. Even though the shit hit the fan, I was loved.
To me that epitomizes the Republican view of social justice -- personal responsibility. Instead of pulling out their checkbooks, they could have driven me to the local welfare office. They chose instead to become personally responsible for their friend. Those who couldn't give money were kind and kept in contact, loving me, walking with me, holding my hand, sometimes literally, during that dark time.
The Republican Party as a beacon of love? Please do not misunderstand me. It was not just my Republican friends who helped me. I have a very Democratic neighbor who pro-actively loved me from the time she knew my world fell apart until this very day. She epitomizes pure love and has never once directed me to a government program but has always said, “what can I do to help?”
My camadre, a confirmed Democrat, was shocked when she found out the true state of my finances and immediately helped.
Another Democratic friend of mine consistently awes me in her personal generosity.
My theory is that my friends' behavior follows the Republican platform before it was hijacked by crazy judgmental people who really don't know that true Republican tenants do not carry with them a requirement for vitriol. There can be a world where good people can disagree and still be respectful.
Republicans are not better than Democrats -- no hacking way. Looking back at the sex scandals that have stained (pun intended with respect to Bill Clinton) our country's history, the lack of impulse control appears to cross party lines at very regular intervals. The Republican pro-death penalty stance makes me sick. I could not disagree with it more. Immigration is another area where I do not tow the party line.
I have just listed ways, in my own life, where both Republicans and Democrats came rushing to my assistance.
I know for me, the Republican way, is a better way to go forward. It is a way that demands personal responsibility and forces me to see my part in a brighter, better tomorrow. Perhaps it speaks to a weakness in me that I need to cling to my party's original beliefs. The beautiful Democrats in my life just do it naturally.

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