Friday, May 07, 2010

My Politics from the heart

Politics was never something I aspired to. So I only have two solid memories of political moments during my youth. The first was when I was eight years old and walked into my grandmother’s living room, having just returned from Cedar Point. My mother sat in front of a TV. She was crying. I saw a man on the screen who I think I recognized as the President. I asked mom what was wrong, and she said the President was resigning. I had no knowledge of Watergate, only that it was a word I’d heard often on the news each night. But I did know something wasn’t right. Presidents were not supposed to make my mom cry. They were supposed to be fearless leaders, heroes who lead our nation and inspired millions.

My second “political moment” came in 1981. By then I was fourteen and a sophomore at Bruton High School in Virgina. Dad was a career Navy man and we’d just moved to Yorktown Naval Weapons Station. As it turned out, 1981 was an important year in Yorktown. Two-hundred years prior, the new Americans handed the British a decisive defeat on that peninsula. In 1981, we got a whole week off from school to participate in the bicentennial celebration.

I’d spent that week with my friends, checking out all the displays, cannon demonstrations, girls, and re-enactments, slowly developing a sense of awe over what had happened there. Toward the end of the week, our new President was scheduled to make an appearance. Oddly, I remember nothing of the speech itself, though I’m sure I listened with my father. What I do remember is standing along the road that entered the park. The Presidential procession rolled in, sirens flashing, the long black limos crawling along between the crowds.

When President Reagan’s limo rolled by, I caught a glimpse, just a glimpse of him as he waved at us. Now, at fourteen I still knew little of politics. Military families tend to lean Republican, so my parents were happy with the new President. But when I saw him, I felt a sense of pride. Reagan had that way about him. All he had to do was show up and we had the feeling that all would be well. President Reagan would never make my mom cry.

Again, at that moment in time, I didn’t know what were the differences in the parties. I certainly didn’t know what a “conservative” was. By the time I finished my own tour of duty in the Navy, I still didn’t know. It wouldn’t be until the early 90s, having met my wife-to-be and getting started in college, that I would learn. I took the pre-requisite courses in American Government and Economics, usually taught by Democratic ex-politicians. I disagreed with much of what they said, but couldn’t articulate why I disagreed. I found this quite frustrating.

Then I discovered (my wife will say she discovered) a boisterous, somewhat obnoxious man on the radio. I’d never imagined I’d listen to talk radio. That’s something that old people did. But Rush Limbaugh brought something new to the format. He brought a passion that was contagious. He also brought with him the best education in conservatism I’d gotten up until that point. His simple message of self-reliance, personal accountability, and limited government filled the missing gaps in my knowledge of the conservative movement. Later I would read for myself what the core beliefs of conservatism were.

I also discovered that conservatism, not Republicanism, was at the base of my system of values. A party is just a shell, a home club so to speak. The party is made up of men and women with varying opinions and beliefs. But I had to choose a party that fit most closely with my conservative values. Naturally, I assumed the Republican Party—Reagan’s Party—would always be a safe home. I was wrong.

Politicians are driven to find approval. It’s how they get elected and re-elected. And the temptation to stray from their core values for the sake of re-election is often more than they can withstand. Oddly, it was those core values that got them elected in the first place, but the fickle winds of public opinion, driven by a questionable media, often steer them off course. I saw my Republican Party break free from the solid moors of conservatism in the last decade. Spooked by a couple of Democratic victories, they shifted into the mushy world of the “moderate.” I prefer to call it the “Can’t we all just get along” mentality.

By the time I hit forty, I knew enough of history and politics to realize that what is happening in Washington is far from what the founders intended for this nation. Any personal sacrifice I had to make was insignificant compared to the consequences of silence. I, and millions of others, did not go to a Tea Party. The Tea Party gravitated toward us. We did not follow. We made the movement, much like William F. Buckley and like-minded conservatives created that movement fifty years ago. We were not blindly following a man shouting “Hope and Change.” We already knew where our hope rested, long before the ’08 campaign rhetoric.

As individuals, we hold certain truths to be “self evident,” that we are accountable for our actions, responsible for our futures, and no man-made government maintains either the right or the wisdom to direct the fortunes of hundreds of millions of people.

For those who disagree, who think that we the people are not smart enough to handle our own affairs, they will point to the Tea Party and denounce it as a fraud. They fail to see, because to them everything that matters is on the surface, the underlying pulse of conservative, freedom loving Americans who somehow managed to pull away from their busy lives and gather under signs and yellow flags. Take away the Tea Party if you wish. The patriots will remain. Yes, they won’t annoy you as much if you can’t see them, but the sleeping giant still lives whether he shouts or whispers.

Only a fool believes he has silenced the will of the masses by diminishing the importance of the banner under which they stand. Take my yellow flag, take my sign, take my buttons. That which you fear still remains. We are tens of millions strong. And we are not going away.

The city on a hill will shine again, Mr. President, with our without your approval. Follow your beliefs, my conservative friends, speak boldly and passionately your convictions, do not fear disapproval, know that you are more intelligent than those who claim to hold all wisdom, and nothing can stand in our way.

Let’s get this party started.


Aaron Grayhek said...

I can remember an 8th grade civics class where the teacher was explaining the political spectrum and how you have pure socialism on one side and laissez Faire capitalism on the other and that the US always teeters between both extremes. Then the teachers asks "what do you think of socialism and capitalism". I remember even then, my instinct was that capitalism was correct and fair. It's amazing how you can go to any college campus and you find some brain dead drone with a che Gueverra T shirt rambling on about the evils of capitalism and corporations. Those same kids would revile at the idea of of a professor taking their good grades they had to work hard for and "leveling the playing field" by giving everybody a passing grade at the expense of their A. You can ask them Why can't you share the wealth, these other kids really need a better grade to graduate. "I had to work hard for that A, that's mine and the other students didn't earn it". If only then they would realize their insincts are toward individual responsibility until they get corrupted by ideas that some outside influence programs them to think.

Anonymous said...

Your wife is right...I discovered Rush, and turned you into a listener!!!

Ron Estrada said...

I'm sorry, I must ignore all "anonymous" comments. Aaron, you've reminded me of one more political memory. I was in 5th grade in San Diego when Proposition 13 was on the ballot. It's a very famous proposition that had a big impact on California teachers. My teacher informed his students on how to vote for prop 13, and that we should tell our parents. Even as a 5th grader, I knew this wasn't right. I have little patience for teachers who use their students as political "go between" to the parents. The kids don't pay taxes.