I suppose you could say I'm fairly political.
I grew up as a staunch liberal in an extremely conservative small town. (Also, it was full of Browns fans -- it's a miracle I ever made any friends!) Hudson looked like a Norman Rockwell painting and contained more than a hint of Stepford. I loved the town -- its little village green, its sense of history, its clock tower, the charming colonial houses, the sense of security -- but I struggled with the mindset. And boy, was it a shocker to enter the real world out of high school.
The first time I took Kyle to visit Hudson, as we drove around Western Reserve Academy's campus, he laughed and said, "I get it now. This is how you managed to grow up so sheltered."
As a high school student, much like trying to "defend my honor" as a Steelers fan, I used to get incredibly worked up over politics. It sounds ridiculous now to say that a bunch of teenagers were having heated political debates in study hall and at lunch, but it's true. Heated, possibly uninformed ones. People were rude about my opinions, and I was probably rude right back. (Eye for an eye, am I right?)
I didn't mind other people having different ideas. Maybe I thought they were the wrong ideas, but hey, they were entitled to their own beliefs. It was when friends/enemies tried to change/bash my own political persuasions that things got, shall we say, messy. (And weepy).
I never thought of myself as a confrontational person, and I still don't -- I do not go looking for a fight, ever. But, you know, if a fight comes to find me... I learned from those high school arguments that I have a bit of a steel spine, and some deeply held convictions. It was a valuable realization.
Many years have passed since those teenage trials and tribulations, and in spite of the upcoming election, things feel different now. I have friends and family of all political stripes, a good balance between left and right, and I like it (though of course I still think that certain stripes are the wrong ones!) I married myself a very moderate guy, a staunchly independent thinker, and I like that too. It's possibly mellowed me out a little bit.
But I'm also realizing it is so much easier to be mellow when your team wins the Super Bowl or when your guy (or gal) is in office. I love my Stillers and always will, but when I had to brave the Browns fans every Monday morning, I was much more devastated by a loss. I was a lot more determined to know exactly how many sacks our defense tallied and how many yards our running backs gained each week. I was deeply -- dare I say irrationally -- emotionally invested in the outcome of games.
Similarly, when President Bush was in office, I was tuning into political news every night (maybe as a result of living with my parents). I was reading Drudge Report just to get myself worked up. I was ready to "go to the mattresses" over foreign policy, defense spending, the separation of church and state, and No Child Left Behind. I was better informed because I had to be, because I was not going down without a fight.
And that would probably prove true again if things go my version of badly this November.
The funny thing is, if you consider my life at face value, I'm living a stereotypically conservative dream. I'm a cradle Catholic who still identifies as such. I married young. We're financially responsible homeowners (the state of our flower beds is another story). We have college degrees and white collar, stable jobs. I like dresses and pearls. We eat meat and drive a gas-guzzling SUV (please try surviving the icy winter hills of Mt. Washington without one). We're having ourselves a baby! Rush Limbaugh should, by all accounts, love me.
Except the world I want my baby to grow up in depends on things that I know very little about, but enough to believe in. Things like environmental regulations, and equal pay for equal work, and smart, restrained defense spending. And much less glamorous/noble ideas than that, like better tax policies and improved agricultural standards.
I don't think one person or even one party has all the right answers, and I'm much more open-minded to respectful debates than I was in the past. But the stakes also feel a lot higher once you're faced with adding a brand new human to the world (let's get a jump on those agricultural standards, because I hear overpopulation is slightly problematic). If nothing else, it's fun during election years to think you have some ideas about how to make that world a better place.