Facebook can be both wonderful and terrifying but tonight it reminded me that despite our differences, it's good to have some different opinions littering up your newsfeed. If all your "friends" agree with you, you're probably the type who is afraid to leave the house and believes Obama is really some kind of diabolical Muslim sent here to inject Islam into the Constitution. Love him or hate him, that is just ridiculous. The guy might be a tool but he sure isn't some Islamic Antichrist sent here to erase God from America. God gave up on us a long time ago, come on now.
Personally, I appreciate my socialist friends. They remind me that I was raised by Democrats. I went to a suburban Madison middle school where Russ Feingold's promises to the people of Wisconsin were clearly written on his garage door across the street from our school's entrance. Disregard that his poor daughter Jessica had to go to the same school every day where Daddy's defaced garage door stood clear as day reminding her that she could never fit in with the rest of us suburban Madison brats shuffling in with our Starter jackets and JanSport backpacks. And never mind that I spent most of that time skipping school to play my guitar downtown on State Street for spare change.
In the final months of his life, my 80-some-year-old diehard Democrat grandfather sat in front of CNN with me bitching about how fake all of it was and I'll always treasure that time we spent together appreciating each other's viewpoints as adults. You see, the worst thing you could be in my family was a Republican, so when I registered as one in California just to have a say in the primary, I might as well have said FUCK YOU to my grandmother's beautiful face right to it at that (thankfully I was a few thousand miles away from her at the time and she couldn't slap me in the face). Fuck all the times she applied her hairdresser wisdom to my overprocessed bleached hair to make it blue because I would just "screw it up" without a professional, fuck all the times she got me out of sticky situations, fuck all the lovely French toast breakfasts she cooked me because she loved me... Of all the terrible things I did as a teenager, there was no greater offense than turning R. I wasn't really a Republican - how could I be coming from a very common Midwestern middle class family - but I believed more in limited government and limited regulation than my very Democrat upbringing said I should. And for that, I should have been shunned. But they never did, and it's a testament to the kind of people they were that my grandpa sat there spending some of his final weeks with me mocking the talking heads on CNN for their obvious nonsense. Those are the kind of people I come from. The kind of people you can thank for what you see on this website today. The people who cheered me on to be what I was supposed to be, even if it meant going against the things they believed. My grandparents never gave up on me, even when they maybe should have.
Both grandparents of mine lived through the Depression. My grandpa joined the Marines at the tail end of WWII and missed the fun. My grandma insisted we needed another New Deal and I never told her otherwise. Maybe we did. Maybe we needed something to polarize us as Americans. What they lived through I could never understand as a broke kid of the 80s who still managed to eat and squeeze a Nintendo out of my mom at 8. I distinctly remember being curled up on the futon in the living room of our tiny Madison apartment at 9 praying to God I'd get the New Kids on the Block earrings I wanted. I never did. In fact, I didn't get anything that year.
At the time, it broke little 9 year old me. All these years later, though, I realize how much those lean years helped me stay disconnected from the machine of capitalism. Who cares if you have anything at all when you have nothing? You don't. You crave it. You see your middle school friends with it. You resent it. But then one day, you emerge from all of it an adult and realize that none of it really matters and you're above it all because you fought for every single bit you call your own, promises to the people of Wisconsin aside.
So thanks, Russ Feingold and empty teenage idols for giving me who I am now. I couldn't appreciate everything I've been lucky enough to call my own without you all.
I've lost the love of my life to cancer at 31, my mother and both loyal Democrat grandparents by now so trust me, I realize that the "stuff" means nothing at all. It's not about what you had, it's about who you were and what you did with what you were given. I'd like to picture all of them looking down now saying "go, just go, we believe in you."
Good comrades go to heaven. And even if you aren't a comrade, know that someone up there is looking down on you proud that you're fighting the good fight when they can't, even if it means fighting battles they might not. I have no reason to believe the long line of Democrats from which I come would be ashamed by who I am today. Even if I vote for Gary Johnson in November. Because all they wanted was for me to be smart enough to make my own choices in this big scary world of ours.