Sunday, November 2, 2008

"Who the hell is Leo?"

[Originally posted at “Down with Absolutes” on November 2, 2008]

In response to a legitimate question from a commenter on my first blogpost (Breathtaking Double Standards 10/28/2008), I guess I should start by apologizing for bursting onto the scene without introducing myself. I should also thank Mike Matthews for agreeing to let me contribute to this site, knowing full well that I am his political polar opposite.

I am a 50 year old bureaucrat living in Prince George’s County, Maryland. My wife Susan and I grew up next door to most of you in Cecil County, Maryland. We have been blessed with three wonderful children, the oldest of which has in turn blessed us with a great son-in-law and a grandson. Life is good.

By now, all of you have figured out that I am a political conservative, though not consistently, as my views on some issues might surprise you. I have not always been a conservative. Back in 1976 when I turned 18, I proudly registered as a Democrat and cast my first ballot in the Maryland primary for Jerry Brown (remember him?) I did not vote in the general election, having neglected to cast an absentee ballot from the University of Maryland, College Park, but I was thrilled that Jimmy Carter won the presidency. I was the product of an era that viscerally reacted against the Vietnam War, the scandal ridden Nixon Administration, the military-industrial complex, or anything else that represented the “establishment”. Though I do not necessarily repudiate all the beliefs I held back then, I could not tell you why I held to them. I just believed them; I did not know anything else.

After graduating from UMCP in 1979 and getting married the same year, my values started changing. I am not sure how long the transition took, but I do remember the quandary I was in as I approached the 1980 election. I still wanted Jimmy Carter to win, believing he was a good and decent man (I still do). But I also saw what a mess we were in after four years in his administration: high unemployment, double digit inflation, double digit interest rates, and one foreign policy disaster after another. (Those of you old enough to remember and who are honest will acknowledge that those times were far worse than the turmoil we are going through now.) Anyway, as I compared the 1980 presidential candidates’ stands on the issues that were important to me, I was shocked to discover that I aligned more with Ronald Reagan than with Jimmy Carter. So believe it or not, I actually voted for Reagan, though in my heart I was still hoping Carter would win!

It’s also funny how growing older tends to temper the passionately held beliefs of youth. (I have heard it said, “Whoever is 20 and is not a liberal has no heart, and whoever is 40 and is not a conservative has no brains!”, but that is not universally true.) The birth of our three children in 1980, 1985 and 1995 probably had an additional mellowing effect on me in a variety of respects as well as politically. My two younger children have special needs. So despite my conservative tendencies that say we should be self reliant and not depend on the government, I am grateful beyond words for the help my children receive through Maryland’s Autism Waiver Program. This is probably something that people of all political stripes can agree on. (In one of my previous posts, I mentioned how the conservative Ehrlich Administration had done such a good job balancing Maryland’s budget; what I did not mention was that they actually increased funding and shortened the waiting list of families trying to get into the Autism Waiver Program.)

There is one other defining thing about me, hopefully the main defining thing: I am a Christian. Before you react, let me quickly explain that in saying I am a Christian, I am not claiming or implying any moral or religious superiority. On the contrary, I am painfully aware of all my sins and shortcomings (both past and present), and that awareness is part of being a Christian. But I am also joyfully aware that my sins are forgiven, because Someone died in my place. And ever grateful for what He has done for me, I will do my best to honor and obey Him, as imperfect as my efforts may be. I should also be quick to mention that, though I strive to have my faith inform my politics (and not vice-versa), there is not a necessary or direct correlation between Christianity and political conservatism. I can name many a person who is a better Christian than I am but who differs with me politically on a number of issues.

So hopefully, this answers the question that was posed. Maybe my answer was TMI. But in any event, I look forward to sparring with all of you. As I explained to Mike, “My perspective differs from that of the majority of your contributors, and I am grateful that you are allowing me to chime in. Personally, it gets boring after a while to engage in discourse with people who always agree with you, and I will benefit from the challenge of engaging with folks of a differing viewpoint. I hope the other bloggers benefit as well.

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