Thursday, March 15, 2007

My Journey to Progressive Liberalism

I just read an article in The Huffington Post by Mike Lux, of American Family Voices. In it, he explained how and why he became a Progressive. There was, of course, a link for feedback, which led me to think about how and why I am a Progressive, and what I do about it.

I grew up in a family that was conservative and bigoted, though polite to people’s faces. I was about three the first time I saw a black man. I asked: "Mommy, is that a nigger?" My mother chastised me and said it was rude to call a person that and that the man was a Negro. But at home, black people were referred to the other way.

We did have one black neighbor. I was instructed to call all of the adults in my neighborhood Mr. or Mrs. Jones, but our black neighbor was Mr. Jim. To my parents’ credit, when his leg was amputated, we visited him in the hospital. Ironically, after Mr. Jim died, we discovered that he owned the lot next-door to his, on which a small plastics factory had built their annex. He had been smart enough to lease the land to them, rather than sell it outright, and he was the wealthiest man in the neighborhood!

I'm a child of the sixties. I argued with my parents about civil rights, and the right to protest the Viet Nam war. When I grew up, I worked for a social and political activist who designed and helped implement programs that addressed issues such as cultural diversity, single parenting, youth violence, and nutrition for the poor. I want to make the world a better place and I put principles before paychecks. I stayed with my activist boss longer than she could afford to pay me, until I was in danger of becoming homeless, and I turned down high-paying administrative jobs with both a law firm and a marketing company who had tobacco companies as clients.

Most of my life I’ve done volunteer work—candy-striping at a hospital as a teen, volunteering at the Chicago USO during the Viet Nam era, serving on the Boards of Trustees of more than one local 12-Step group, volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House, and singing at my local VA hospital. I also sign internet petitions and testify before city and county councils on issues such as non-smokers’ rights, and the closing of one of Chicago’s VA hospitals. If I could afford to travel more, I would lobby these issues at the state and national level, as well.

I recycle and try to conserve energy, although I have to admit that until I find fluorescent lights that produce a golden glow, I will probably continue to use incandescent light-bulbs. That bluish light makes everything look cold and stark. And as my arthritis progresses, I find it more and more difficult to tolerate the cold, so I don’t turn my furnace down as far as I used to. But I do keep it as low as I can manage. I should probably move to a warmer climate, but I don’t want to be that far from my grandkids. I can’t afford a hybrid car, but I have two neighbors who don’t own cars, so we try to combine our errands and car-pool. One neighbor is blind and I even drop him at his mother’s home in Chicago when I visit my daughter in Fox Lake.

I don’t know what the solutions are to all of our world problems, but I do work to better my corner of it. So, that’s my journey from a conservative WASP family to a bleeding liberal, social and political activist.

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