The recent events on this September 11th have been a hot topic of conversation at our home. My husband, myself, and even Punky have engaged in thoughtful discussion over the murder of the Libyan Ambassador and Consulate workers, as well as the attack, in general, on the American Consulate. Many questions and thoughts have been brought up. “Why were they not being guarded by Marines?” was one of our first questions. Punky’s first question was ‘Why did those men do such an evil thing?” - a harder question to answer, especially when it is a 10 year old asking. We don’t shield her from all the evils of the world – we want her to understand that ‘extremism’ is dangerous and when it leads to harming others it is totally unacceptable. Yet, we don’t want her lying awake in her bed worried over the evils of men – and she would. Our answer began with a discussion of the word conservative and then on to ‘ultra-conservative’. Mix in with that religious ideology, dogma if you will, and we did our best to explain it to her.
This really got me thinking, though, of the rights we have as U.S. citizens. From there I pondered my personal experiences since moving to the Deep South. My thoughts have a tendency to ramble and digress, much as they do in my writing. “We are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.”
Powerful stuff right there. Powerful. Of course, among these are the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. How often do we meditate on the meaning of those words from the US Declaration of Independence? If you aren’t a citizen of the United States of America, I can understand why you don’t spend any time mulling over the meaning of it (although maybe you might- it really should be a universal sentiment, in my opinion).
I am a Northerner by birth and a Southerner by misplacement! I joke. I’ve enjoyed many aspects of living in the South (especially warm, sunny Florida – which isn’t really ‘southern’, just geographically south). For the last 18 years though, I’ve moved three times and each time puts me farther and further into the ‘deep’ South. It’s not always a comfortable fit – for me or the Southerners! It took moving farther and farther into the ‘deep South’ to discover that I am a liberal. This idea still makes me chuckle. I had lived my entire life as a conservative! Granted, not many of my ideas or beliefs (or any, really) placed me in the ‘hard-core Conservative’ camp, but more or less, if I must be labeled (and we all must, I’m told) I was comfortable with ‘Moderate Conservative’. This isn’t necessarily a political label in my way of thinking. It’s just a ‘tell’, if you will, of where I landed on most issues, regardless of the nature of the issue. My husband and I, in our personal lives, are fiscally conservative. Ergo, I am fiscally conservative in my other views as well.
Having resided in the Deep South for the last 10 years, I became more and more consciously aware of my liberalism. True liberals might scoff at this, but that just lends further proof to how ‘perception’ works. Where I live, folks seem to concur with the idea that our Founding Fathers believed that conservative, Christianity should be the way of the entire country. The Bill of Rights grants all those lovely freedoms, but in the Deep South, those freedoms are really just speaking out on behalf of the down-trodden, persecuted fundamental Christian. All other beliefs or ideas need not apply; hence my difficulties living here in the Deep South. Be I Christian or not, I don’t align myself with many, if any, of the conservative, fundamental Christian’s doctrine.
My views on organized religion aren’t the only ones that earn me a liberal label. My social/political views earn me that label here as well. I support equal rights. I believe that means the same rights for everyone – regardless of race, creed, color, religion, or sexual orientation. I believe every American should be entitled to basic healthcare regardless of income – I just haven’t figured out how to pay for it and I don’t believe that the current reform will work for the betterment of the people. I earned my B.A. degree in Criminal Justice and worked in various capacities in the C.J. system for a number of years. I earned my Master’s in Public Administration and got a couple of years of work in that field before becoming a mother. My life experience, more than anything, formed my views. I am of the opinion that folks need to get out from where they are and live outside their own comfort zones for a while in order to gain greater perspectives. But, I’m digressing.
So, it has only been in the last 10 or so years that I’ve learned that I am a liberal, until I’m spending time with my liberal friends and then I’m a moderate. Har! I chuckle. And that’s allowed. It falls under my right to pursue happiness. I still reserve my right to believe what I believe and take whatever stance I take on any issue, be it labeled a liberal or conservative one. In the end, the words of the Declaration of Independence are true and I have been endowed by my Creator with the inalienable rights to my life, my liberty, and my pursuit of happiness. I am free to be me and you are free to be you.
While the Declaration of Independence gave me the rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, it did not grant me the right of acceptance. There is no document that can grant anyone that right. It’s too bad that there isn’t, for if there were then perhaps I would fit in better in the Deep South and perhaps, maybe, just maybe, those ‘ultra-conservatives’ in Libya would have shrugged off the words spoken against their Holy Man, that they found so offensive, and left the American consulate alone.