Earlier today on my Facebook page, I made an announcement that most everyone who already knows me already knew: I am a Republican. And I am not a horrible person. I believe in being fiscally conservative, but am also quite socially liberal. I am a Christian. I don't hate any minority populations as a general rule. I don't believe everyone who happens to be poor is just lazy and living off the system. I think homosexual couples should be able to marry just like heterosexual couples. I'm not rich - far from it, in fact.
I wish the entertainment industry would stop using television shows and movies to play the "Good Democrat, Bad Republican" game over and over and over again. I wish awards shows were simply shows in which entertainment awards were bestowed and grateful winners did not take the opportunity to spout off about politics - no matter which party they support - but simply said, "thank you" and maybe shed a few tears of gratitude. I wish the sentiments of anti-bullying and being non-judgemental were applied to me just as I apply it to others. No one - of any race, color, creed, gender, persuasion or political party - likes to be judged on only one facet of their personality or belief system.
I grew up in a heavily Democratic family. In fact, I'm one of the only Republican members of that family and I have had my share of debates and even battles. Through trial and error, I learned which family members and friends were "safe" to talk to about politics; meaning they wouldn't cut me off or spout pithy remarks meant to belittle me and my opinions and they would actually hear me out and listen to my point of view. I'm quite certain that I have never swayed anyone to my point of view in any of those conversations, just as my opinions, while perhaps modified or more well-rounded, haven't changed, either. I always appreciated having conversations with those who listen, share their thoughts and don't make it personal or argumentative.
Rather than feeling truly free to think and express my opinions and leanings, I've more often than not covered them up. Not really hiding them, per se, but just not being forthcoming about them. I don't have bumper stickers or key chains. I don't make financial contributions to any political party or group. And I hold an equal disdain for telemarketers from both campaigns. Democratic and Republican ads alike receive the same treatment when the remote control is in my hand: the mute button is firmly pressed.
But I've grown tired. From my observations, bullying a Republican is okay (we're heartless, selfish and unfeeling anyway, right?). In my experiences, admitting to supporting or agreeing with a Republican political official is an invitation to name-calling, pulled faces and snide remarks. Even though I, personally, go out of my way to not begin or respond in kind. Several years ago, someone said to me, "When you grow up, you'll realize how stupid it is for you to be Republican." I once was tempted to put a pro-Republican bumper sticker on my car and someone else told me I shouldn't because my car would likely be keyed for the sentiment. Those, and many other examples, have led me to believe that, as long as you aren't a Republican, you are entitled to your opinion, and your voice should be heard by anyone and everyone. There's free speech, after all. That is, as long as you're not a Republican.
Now, I don't believe this is true of everyone. But, this has been true in much of my personal experience with a great many of my personal friends, family members and acquaintances. Many, but not all. And it strikes me as sad. I should be able to make my voice and opinion heard - in appropriate venues and at appropriate times - without fear of being shushed because it isn't the opinion or belief of the majority in the room. Without fear of reprisal in the form of snide remarks and character judgements. Without the reaction I honestly received from one person when she found out that I am a Republican: "But you can't be! I like you!"
Sure, to a large extent, this is human nature. The baser inclination to mock someone or something different than ourselves. And I certainly can't expect the whole of humanity to rise above that instinct (though I wish it would!). My point being is that I'm done biting my tongue and covering my tracks so that people don't feel differently about me or don't look at me differently or judge me because of my opinions and political leanings. I am me. I am a Republican. I am a good person. And those who are going to judge, demean, mock, ridicule or not like me anymore because of it can go right on ahead and do so.