10.16.2010

Just One of Many

Not long ago, Leila emailed me in response to a comment I made on a post, asking me to write a post on the topic of my comment.  What I had written in the comment box was something about my experience with the University I work and went to school at being liberal. At the time I told her I doubted I could come up with many specific examples, there is just little things and not so little things constantly.  However, as I mulled it over, I thought of one experience in the past, probably the most extreme.  I won't be able to describe it in crazy detail, but I will try.

I work in education.  As a result, I am surrounded by liberal Democrats.  That is what everyone is, everyone assumes that is how you are. Especially at my level, the doctorate level, people are more candid with you and even more comfortable making assumptions.  One day I got an email from my professor.  Not just any professor, but one that I work very closely with.  In fact, he is on my committtee.  The email was back when I was in his class.  He sent it to all his students.  Despite it being against university policy, he felt it was safe to do so as we were all sharing similar value with regards to education (and specifically the education of students with disabilities).  I just recall that the email crossed the line.  It wasn't just about education, but more along the lines of how we should vote on a topic or who we should vote for an office.  It was a forward, not written by him, but he had passed it on.  I actually had to say to him that I didn't really feel the email was appropriate from a professor.  He understood and we left it at that.  I don't believe I was treated any differently afterwards, and this professor and I still have a good relationship, thankfully.

Just about a week or so agao, however, I was the victim of more assuming.  This time it was on the other end of the spectrum.  My advisor, who knows me very well, assumed I was a tea party member.  To give a little history, though I am not a controversial person by nature, I don't like to let people think something about me that isn't so.  I am not a tea party member.  I have nothing against them.  I don't know enough about it.  However, I don't like to be put in any box, regardless.  I am not ashamed of what I believe.  I do not try to make others' uncomfortable.  I do not try to convert anyone at work.  But, as you can imagine, my advisor (and probably every professor I regularly interact with) knows I am Catholic and prolife.  However, I do not wear a big political sign on my back. 

As those of you read Leila's post know, I was a registered Democrat for a very long time.  I thought it was the party for the little man.  My whole life is about the little man.  The child with disabilities.  The unborn baby.  I always root for the underdog and made poor choices dating for a long time as a result.  I always give people the benefit of the doubt etc.  Though Democrat, I would say I was a pro life Democrat.  As I learned the content of the voter's guide for Catholics, I struggled with becoming a "one issue" voter.  One day it was explained to me about how the same number of babies were aborted daily, as the number of lives lost on 9/11.  I realized then that if I was to truly take abortion for the horrendous act that it was, that it should impact my behavior daily and certainly how I vote.  My car carries a similar quote on a bumper sticker and I hope it impacts others the way it did me. 

So back to voting, I was Independent for awhile and then changed to Republican to vote in the primaries.  Please know that this made a little ill inside.  I am not a text book Republican or Democrat.  I am not "happy" to be a registered Republican.  But for now there isn't another option for me. 

So, now that you have the background, I am sitting in a coffee shop with two much older men that I work with.  One of them is my boss for a consulting job I do; he is also my advisor.  He leans over and tells me I am his only tea party doc student.  Excuse me?  Now to be honest, I know of the tea party.  I watch O'Reilly and I am not a complete idiot.  But I also do not really know the tea party.  I do not particularly know what they stand for.  Then he tells me I am a conservative Republican and I don't know what else he goes on about because I am annoyed.  He isn't saying it mean or rude, but for pete's sake, he is telling me what I am.  And he is wrong.  So I set him straight.

I very nicely told him that a) I was not a tea party member, b) I am a Republican today, but I was a Democrat not long ago and that I am not really in line with either party, and c) the only thing that he can say with certainty about me is that I am a Catholic and I am pro life.  Those are the only two things I would proudly and blanketly put my name behind!  I think later I mentioned something about caring about the little man and not being pro big businesss, but rather in support of small business.  I should have added that, as important as some programs are in helping people get on their feet, I value those families that stay within their means and that the country isn't doing a good job setting that example.  He mentioned something about the tea party members all being really wealthy and angry and that those with money are never happy.  I told him I thought the poorer folks were the happiest people I knew, as well, and left it at that.  I also mentioned I was looking forward to learning more about distributism as an alternative to socialism or our current version of capitalism.  I think, I hope, he left with a better idea of who I am, and won't soon put me in a box again. The funny thing is, I don't even know exactly what the tea party is all about to the extent I should.  More and more I am learning that "I haven't had time to study that thoroughly" is not going to cut it."  We are called to be educated and be active on so many levels, regardless of al the other things fighting for our time!  I am just not sure where the time is going to come from...

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

People do have a psychological need to put others in a box; I think when someone thinks they know how to categorize you, they can then figure out how to deal with you.

I, too, work in education, having worked for a major university in California for several years. It is a fair generalization to say that educators K-college are mostly liberal Democrats. Yes, you are automatically assumed to be the same if you work in education. My being from NY only adds to that assumption.

I am a 40-something woman who grew up in a pretty Republican/Conservative family. I usually fell into those party lines (always with the exception of being pro-choice), registered as a Republican at 18, and, until 2000, voted fairly consistently as a Republican.

Over past 20 years, from contemplation and experience, I have shifted leftward in some areas. My views are conservative, liberal, and at points between the two. My family and some friends view me as a liberal. Some other friends and my co-workers view me as a conservative. I haven't voted since 2000 (voted for GWB and regret it), and I haven't registered since my move to the Left Coast several years ago. There are no parties with whom I can identify, and there really isn't one category into which I could be "boxed" appropriately. My comfort level is I am what I am and those around me will just have to deal with me as I have to deal with them. I hope you find your comfort level, too.

Tridentine Wife said...

Thanks for sharing this story, I too agree that it infuriates me that b/c I vote Republican, I am on board with ALL Republican stances on certain issues. Sigh.

Leila @ Little Catholic Bubble said...

It's so very interesting to read this. And, it's frustrating. Not only because they put you in a box (that's nuts!), but that the very people who claim to want diversity in all things are part of a group (educators) who largely think alike. Ironic!!!!

Thank you for this!!

Awaiting a Child of God:) said...

So true Lelia. I have so much to say about the political world that I am just going to keep quiet...haha, b.c if not, this would be a super long post. I love government (I teach about it) but politics in America is so darn corrupt that it infuriates me!!

Megan said...

Great post, WR! Sorry I haven't commented lately! I have been reading!
Good for you for standing up for yourself and setting the record straight!
I remember one time I was one the one making the assumption that one of my good evangelical friends was pro life... I started talking to her like she agreed with my opinions, but it quickly became apparent that this was not the case...

WheelbarrowRider said...

I just realized that I may also come off as doing the same thing, putting those I work with (or educators in general) in a box. Though it often feels like at least a majority are this way, I can not do the same thing that frustrates me and put them in a box as well. Just thinking aloud...

Suzie-Q T-Pie said...

I hate politics! But I can't help watching and learning all I can so I can stay informed on all the candidates and issues. I vote R mainly, but I definatly do not agree with all of what the R party stands for. The whole thing frustrates me.