Thursday, November 8, 2012

red, white, blue, and respect

Dear Family and Friends,

I made no secret about who I voted for during this election cycle. I've written about it (diplomatically, I might add) on this blog and on social media. I've discussed it openly with all of you, and engaged in healthy debates regarding everything from the economy to women's healthcare.

As expected, I was happy that the American public chose to reelect President Obama. However, I was unhappy to read the dialogue that occurred in the aftermath of this decision. I read so many hurtful, negative responses from members of both political parties. It made me feel embarrassed to be an American. To be honest, it made me feel embarrassed to associate with some of you - particularly those who brought up issues of race and who painted those of us who support our president as anti-American.

There was a time, before social media, when we voiced our political opinions yet maintained respect for our country's leader and for each other. What happened to those ideals? What happened to the concept of a "civil" debate? I'm not quite sure, but I do know that it's gone. Our country has become polarized, and with it, so have individual relationships.

Eight years ago, I voted for President Bush in my first presidential election. I'm not ashamed of this; I considered myself a "moderate conservative" on most issues, and I believed in the idea of small government. I still do in some ways. I firmly believe in hard work and responsibility.

But part of the responsibility I believe in is social responsibility. I believe that we have a duty to look out for one another. I believe there are times when some of us may need extra help. We used to be those "somebodies" when Joey lost his job back in 2008. After six months of unemployment, we were forced to move to a completely different state in order for him to find work. We lived with my mom for 10 months in order to rebuild our finances. It was a humbling time, and it pains me that others who are enduring similar circumstances are painted as villains.

I believe that we have a duty to respect who others love. My love for my husband is not affected by gay marriage. It doesn't make my relationship any more or less valid. I admire the strength and courage of so many gay couples whose relationships have lasted not only the tests of time, but also the persecution and ridicule from those who do not respect their love. I believe that families whose parents are made up of two men or two women are, aside from appearance, no different than mine and therefore should not be treated differently under the laws by which we are governed.

I believe in the separation of church and state. While I believe in God, my neighbors may not. They may believe in another higher being or they may believe in nothing at all. And that's okay. Just as I have the freedom to practice my religion of choice, so do they. I believe that, as a result, those individuals shouldn't be subject to laws based upon my religion or anyone else's.

And I believe that we have a duty to honor a woman's right to choose what happens to her body, whether that be in regard to abortion or birth control or any other issue related to reproductive rights. I wish, more than anything, for my daughter to grow up in a country that values her as a woman and allows her to make decisions about her body that are best for her. I also wish for her to receive equal healthcare, equal pay, and equal respect to her male peers.

I did not vote for President Obama because I receive government "handouts." I have a job, and I work very hard to provide for my family, as does Joey. While I am pro-choice, I am not pro-abortion; I am not a "baby killer." I support the millions of troops who protect our freedoms abroad as well as those who protect us domestically (such as the National Guard, Coast Guard, police, and firefighters). Being a Democrat and voting for President Obama isn't a racial issue. It's not an issue of wanting or needing more from government. It's not an issue of being patriotic. I'm the granddaughter of a World War II veteran, the daughter of a former member of the National Guard, and I'm as patriotic as they come.

And I believe President Obama is as patriotic as they come. Those of you who wanted Christian values in the White House? They were already there. Those of you who wanted an all-American family to represent our country? They've been living in the White House for four years.

I feel blessed to live in this country, where we have the freedom of choice and the freedom of speech. We are allowed to choose who we feel will best represent us and our interests in government. We are allowed to talk freely about our political views. But we've stopped doing this peacefully. We've stopped respecting others in the process, including our President.

Toward the end of President Bush's second term, I began to disagree with many of his decisions as Commander in Chief. But I respected him as our leader, and I respected others who continued to support him. Today, I ask for the same from all of you. Please respect our leader, and please respect me for supporting him. Being a Democrat doesn't make me ignorant. It simply makes me American.