I recall my Mom having a very short talk with me when I was twelve years old. She said, “Wes, you are entirely too independent and I don’t know what to do about it. So here is what I expect going forward; You will not ever call after having been arrested, you will not get in trouble with a girl, and you will not come home dead.” Subsequently, she simply turned and walked into the kitchen. I think Mom was a bit frustrated with me.
At the time, I did not understand what she was referring to when she said ‘too independent’. My brother and I had been encouraged to be independent, and our style of life sort of forced, or at least encouraged, independence. So how can one be ‘too independent’? As time went on, I did figure it out, but that is another very long story… . My independence has, as most things do with age, become less …. shall we say ‘militant’? Perhaps the best way to say it is that the sharp edges have been worn off. However, at the core of my being I am independent. It is what I have chosen to be.
But true independence is something one develops over time, and sometimes we don’t develop certain areas of it for a long, long time. Mostly that happens when we think we know who and what we are, and therefor don’t do a lot of thinking about it. That has been the case with me in two very important areas (important to me, that is): Politics and what is commonly referred to as religion. My parents met in seminary, and had deeply ingrained beliefs. Needless to say, my brother and I were brought up in an atmosphere of faith, which was ok….except…. .
Two things really bothered me about our lifestyle. First, we were expected to be ‘different’. For evangelicals, how one presents oneself is very important. Your life is supposed to be a testimony of faith. That is restrictive, or at least is was to me. If there is one thing I really despise, it is hypocricy, and yet I became so good at it. Act one way when actually thinking another. It boils down to living a lie. It is not that I did not have faith, nor that I did not believe in what Mom and Dad did. It is just that, to me, there were so many parts of life which were assumed to be off limits, and heavily regulated when within limits. Many of faith talk about how they are freed by their faith. And I agree. However, most of those folks, while being freed by their faith, are then bound by their religion. And there is a lot of difference between faith and religion! As time went on, I came to appreciate my faith more and more, and reject all religion catagorically. And so I am independent. Way too independent I am sure based on Mom and Dad’s point of view. But there it is….
The second thing that bothered me was that due to the previously described expectation, it was very hard to socialize. I constantly found myself questioning everything I did. Was what I was doing or saying reflective of our faith? Was I going to disappoint my God, and worse yet, my parents? That is not a good way to live, and I started rejecting it right around the time Mom gave that little speech to me. To this day, I absolutely reject religious doctrine taught by any organize religion. It is nothing but a celebration of slavery. I have attended many kinds of churches and religious ceremonies. They have value, but not for me.
So these things I did a lot of thinking about early on. But one thing I did not think about, even though Mom and Dad and most of our friends spent a fair amount of time talking about, was politics. We were Republicans. We were conservatives. Democrats and liberals were simply fools….mostly Godless fools too. And that stuck with me. I liked it. We had principles and Republicans had principles too. I just never really thought about it until decades later. Frankly I was too damn busy trying to make a living and supporting my family to spend much time thinking about it. I just knew I was a conservative Republican and in any discussion that came regarding politics, I could generally hold my own based on fundimntal conservative principles. But I really had not thought through the arguments….
Many years later, after having reached a point where I had time to think, I began to ask myself some questions about who and what I am. And my political point of view began to take shape. Previously it was just this square box into which my un-examined beliefs were tossed. But as I took the time to become more informed, and started to actually listen to folks who had done some thinking, the sharp edges of my political box began to dull a bit. Along with that, I had gained a lot of experience over the years, had seen and done things which when looked back on with some objectivity, provided fodder for thought. I began to grow up politically around the time I turned 42. I owe a lot to my wife in that regard. Her experience was so different than mine, and I tried to see the world from a very different perspective. My world opened up when I turned 42.
Let me tell you: When one spends most of ones life not thinking about something, and then starts to think about it, it is … well… shocking. Very uncomfortable. Here is the odd thing: I came to the same conclusion about politics that I had about religion. I am entirely too independent.
Bush Jr. is the last Republican I voted for simply because I considered myself a Republican. By the time our troops had ‘won’ (according to Bush), I was fed up. The evidence pointed to his administration having blatantly lied to the American public about the situation in Iraq. An that was the birth of my political independence. No more Republicans, and no more Democrats either. To me a party is like a religious denomination: A bunch of folk who think their vision of the world is the best, and who will do anything to ensure their party wins, regardless of whether or not the vision follows the winners into power or not. I have no time for it. I am happy for the folk who need a crowd to back up what they believe. Good for them. but I ain’t joining. I prefer to think for myself when it comes to religion and politics, thank you kindly…
Now as it happens, I enjoy political discussion. It is stimulating to me. I like finding out how other people think and will ‘stir the pot’ a bit now and a gain to see what churns up. I do this on Facebook fairly frequently. And what I discover, or at least perceive, is that folks these days are stuck.
They are stuck on fear. I have alluded to this before and I come back to it because it is strange to me, and so pervasive in our political personas. Of course, as most of us are aware, fear leads to aggression and knee-jerk responses. It also leads to a tendency not to think. Fight or flight is the normal response, and I see it in the commentaries of well known journalists as well as on social media. I hear it too, when I listen to neighbors.
So what is this fear thing? Where does it come from? And what are we to do about it? Those three questions keep coming up and disturbing my thoughts. Rather irritating they are. And they are very hard questions to answer. Part of the problem is that we take them in the wrong order. Our tendency is to jump right to that last question, which is what we did collectively when we voted Trump into office. Trump is a knee-jerk response to an undefined problem. And that leads right back to independence. Too many people asking the right question at the wrong time and an individual who knows exactly how to take advantage of that situation. But this is not about Trump, this is about people who didn’t define the problem before they came up wit a solution.
I see and hear far too many folks that adhere to their party just like they do to their religion. It is something they don’t even think about…. “I am a Republican” or “I am a Democrat” or whatever. Are you? Have you really thought through it? Of like me before my world opened up, are you just floating along with what you ‘think’ you are. Not examining either of the critical question: “What do I think?” and “What do the people I associate with think and do?”
i Asked that question a few years back, and dis-associated myself from those who would tell me what and how to think. Who would tell me what the important issues really are. I found them to be wrong. Perhaps they are right for some folks, but I think that if most folks really examined what they stand for, they would find themselves becoming a lot more independent.
Might I suggest asking the questions it the logical order, answering them in the best way you know how for yourself, and then seeing if what you come up with for yourself matches a ”party”. Do that with each issue you find important to you. I am willing to bet that most folk would become independent pretty quick. And I bet most folk would be surprised at the mix of candidates they end up voting for come 2018.
If your one of those that like those little catch phrases, here is one for you…
Free yourself, Be Independent! It is what made America Great in the first place!