My Political Volte Face, It Started With Katrina

volte-face[volt-fahs, vohlt-; Fr. vawltuh-fas]  

noun, plural volte-face. 

a turnabout, especially a reversal of opinion or policy.


I remember when Reagan was running for office in 1979, I was visiting my dad and we were at lunch with one of his work colleges. I over heard my dad say, "We have to work hard to get Reagan elected. I'll do whatever I have to, because Carter can not be president again!' That was my first memory of a political race.

We spent a month with my dad that year and I remember by the end of that visit I said to my dad "When I grow up I want to be a politician." to which he replied, "No you don't, trust me."

My dad is a die hard Republican and I adapted my fathers political leanings from that day forward. I believed as he still does that any Republican was better then any Democrat and I voted accordingly from the age of 18 to 40.

I listened to Rush Limbaugh's radio show every day from 1990 - 2002. I read his books and Anne Colture's books, I subscribed to National Review, and watched FOX news only, never CNN. I was a fully educated, indoctrinated, radical right winger.

For 20 years I was the personification of what I call a Republi-Christian. Church and state were not at all separated.


THE PERFECT STORM

But then Katrina happened and that storm began the destruction of my political beliefs and the marriage of Christianity to Republican politics in my mind.

For the first time in my voting, political, adult life, I began to question the rightness of the person I voted for. Mainly because I was sitting smack dab in the middle of his denial. Bush's interview with Diane Sawyer showed he was out of touch and in denial about what was going on down here. As we dealt with 150,000 new Baton Rouge residents who came for the evening but now had no home to return to, and as we went to New Orleans to help, I saw a complete disaster for New Orleans, the Mississippi Gulf coast and for George Bush's presidency.

Bush and his administration were out of touch and didn't have a clue what to do. 

And I had a blog where I could vent my frustrations. So I did.

But what I found was a hard core Republican questioning a sitting Republican president was not OK. Where I saw blame to be placed evenly throughout federal, state and local officials, for the slow and unorganized disaster response, others would not even consider giving any blame to any Republican in charge, especially the president. I watched as spin went into high gear and as my rose colored glasses faded to clear vision, I saw more then I wanted to.

Thank God the church here and around the world stepped up because our government (which we fund with our taxes by the way) failed miserably.

Volunteering time working with Katrina victims led me to working in the inner city here in Baton Rouge and I became immersed in the world that Democrats romanticize and Republicans don't understand and fear. I fell in love with the people of the inner city. It immediately felt like home. I knew that I had found my place in the world.  And for the first time I started to see the world from their perspective.

I saw a world abandoned by policy makers in a practical way but also used by them for political gain. Both Republicans and Democrats. I saw a world of welfare moms, street thugs, gang bangers, prostitutes, drug dealers, the homeless, the abused, the ex-cons and all the outcast of society. I saw social programs that didn't work but they continued to be funded, and I saw social programs that did work, get cut from budgets.

The cause of the poor and the fatherless, the huge chasm dividing the have's and have-nots and race relations became the filter that I started to view my politics through.

I'M A RESEARCH GEEK

If I'm doing something, If I care about something, I will study anything and everything about it in order to be fully educated on the subject. Since I had become eligible to vote I had been a Republican and I had researched and read countless books and magazine articles written from a right leaning standpoint, about the cause, effect and remedy for poverty in America. But in 2006, for the first time in my life, I started reading books about poverty written by Christian's who weren't Republicans. I read Ron Sider's book, "Rich Christian's in an age of Hunger", I read "The Irresistible Revolution" by Shane Claiborne and "God's Politics" by Jim Wallas and I saw a different Christian view of what they believed to be the cause, effect and remedy for poverty in America.

As time went on, year after year, the more I researched and studied a different view on how to really help the poor, and the more time I spent with the poor and underprivileged, I began to see the Republi-Christian approach didn't work. They seemed to be more focused on being known for what they were against, rather than for what they were for, and that approach was not how I believed anymore.

I started to see that trickle down didn't trickle down and tax cuts for the wealthy only makes the grand canyon between rich and poor even bigger. And I saw the majority of the most vocal Republi-Christians had little to no contact with the poor. They drafted and voted on policy from an elite position. I saw condescension, disconnect, greed and arrogance in the way the Republi-Christian powers-that-be fought against immorality yet they were rarely as loud and vocal for the cause of the poor.

I saw their only remedy seemed to be giving free stuff to poor people, bribing them to come to church with drawings for $100 Walmart cards and free clothing, having huge groups of wealthy kids come to the hood once or twice a year to get their pictures taken with a black baby and then go back to their mega church with video's and tales of wonder from their missions trip to the American inner cities.

Seeing, reading, hearing and being a part of all of this chipped away at what I was once so sure of politically and also spiritually.

I had a Volte Face.

I think ultimately I just became Anti-Republican more then I became Pro-Democrat. I stopped believing in the way the Republi-Christian machine did things. I became anti Republican based on everything I knew from a life time of being one and then seeing life from the other side. It's not as if I fell in love with the Democratic party. No, I found a lot of their extreme ideas too much to swallow as well. That's why I am now a registered Independent, but in the world of Republi-Christians, you're either for them or against them and everything becomes categorized in those extremes so I get cast as a socialist liberal now more then not.

And that's probably fair because I like Obama and he is one of the most liberal presidents in history.

But in 2008 I actually voted for McCain. It wasn't an easy decision for me, I liked most of his policy ideas and I liked that he was not far right and was more of a centrist. I also loved that he refused to be a hater during the campaign. His downfall wasn't Obama it was Sara Palin and the fact he wouldn't play dirty. Which says a lot about the state of our country.

So that's how it happened, my political Volte Face all really started on August 29th, 2005 with watching first hand Bush's inability to get his head around the mass destruction and plight of those devastated by Katrina. And worse, to get anything done promptly.

He flew OVER New Orleans two days after. Flew over it and still waited several more days before really doing anything. That says it all.

Here's a few blog post from those dark days..

What Took So Long?

Life Goes On

Pictures From Dean's Trip to St. Bernard.Parish

Comments

Vince Giordano said…
I was the same as you. A die-hard Conservative Republican. My change came well before Hurricane Katrina.

It came when I began to engage deeply in the cause of the poor. After listening to Tony Campolo speak at a conference, I began volunteering at a homeless shelter that focused on people with substance abuse issues. I saw first-hand the challenges of extreme poverty and how it limits people. Then I went deeper.

I began to go into the areas of inner city New Orleans that I had never been to. I began to meet families that were entrenched deeply in poverty. Then I went deeper.
I went to Honduras on a medical relief team when Hurricane Mitch devastated Honduras. I saw the unspeakable tragedy of the poor with limited resources and how difficult it was for them to fend for themselves. Then I went deeper.

I moved my family into the city in New Orleans and we lived for 8 years in a transitional community and we met gay people, poor people, lonely people, "dangerous" people and we created a life with them where we lived until 2 years after Katrina. The aftermath of Katrina forced us out of New Orleans. But, shortly after that, I went deeper.

I went to work for a global orphan care and anti-trafficking organization that focused on children in 9 countries that have been orphaned mostly due to HIV. I have held dying children. I have gone undercover to disclose the trafficking of minors. I have been face to face with evil.

I have long since given up on politics as a means to any end. I have little time for it. I am not under any illusions. I know that if there is going to be any change, help, hope, impact on any group of people, that change has to come from what I am willing to do.

I USED to feel that things were black and white - that poor people were lazy and that they should pull themselves up and make a difference - I used to be blind to my own ignorance. I am sure that I am still very ignorant on many things. Politics, like religion, are an opiate of the masses. We use them to feel like we have done something. That is myth. Voting, for many people, is an excuse to do NOTHING else.

I am an independent...and I am looking to go deeper.

Thanks for posting.

Vince
Carole Turner said…
Thanks Vince for the comment. I agree 100%.