Tell Me Where I Fit

Once you would have called me an old-fashioned Connecticut Republican. It’s a simple formula — fiscal prudence, personal freedom, respectful discourse, political compromise and steady-as-she-goes. But now that formula doesn’t work any more. I’m getting older by the minute and suddenly I don’t know what the hell I am. Politics has become a bullshit game of getting everything you want while the other guy gets nothing. I just don’t fit.

  • I was raised a Catholic, came to reject it and all formal religion but maintain a quiet spiritual life nevertheless. I’m not strong enough to get through life without it. You’re free to follow your own course too, but don’t try to cram your pieties down on me. I cannot imagine that any god, yours or mine, would condemn love between any two people, same-sex or otherwise. Where do I fit?
  • I built my own business and made a lot of money. I am a capitalist, a passionate believer in free markets. I believe in the values of hard work, persistence and personal initiative. I believe that 95% of U.S. companies are honest, law-abiding, admirable corporate citizens. The government should balance its checkbook like I have to and they have to. But nobody in the USA should go to bed homeless or hungry. Where do I fit?
  • Having lived all over the world I chose the USA because it offered the chance to be my unbridled self. It is exceptional because it is the only country in history founded upon an idea. To call it exceptional for any other reason is ignorant and arrogant. Like anywhere else, it has its good points and its bad points. It is a work in progress and there is much to do. Where do I fit?
  • I believe that political discourse has been hijacked by a select group of billionaires in the name of free speech, and that the political process is corrupted not just by corporations and their lobbyists but by the sheer cost of political campaigning and by cynical gerrymandering that preserves power but rewards ideological inflexibility. Where do I fit?
  • An expensive criminal justice system that incarcerates or kills more people per capita than almost any other country has failed. So has an expensive education system that produces an unemployable underclass historically, culturally, mathematically, scientifically and linguistically illiterate. And so has a health system that even after chaotic change has left 29 million Americans without health insurance. Where do I fit?
  • Shocked by 9/11, I sat and watched mutely as the Neocons initiated the invasion of Iraq and violated the constitutional stricture of “no first strike” as they did so. I now see that I should have spoken up, for it was poorly-planned, strategically dumb, ineptly conducted and irrelevant to the stated mission. I believe in our version of democracy as a practical system of government but do not believe it should be shoved down the throats of non-receptive people. Where do I fit?
  • I know from first-hand experience that our military is the finest public institution we have, but it is weighed down by a bureaucracy full of conferred status, and military spending is both wasteful and ill-directed. As a result the troops put in harm’s way are not equipped or supported as they should be. Where do I fit?
  • I don’t trust Iran, North Korea, Russia or China but believe we should do what it takes to maintain an open and active dialogue with each of them. I believe Saudi Arabia and Israel are feckless allies and we should demand a fair quid pro quo from them for our ongoing loyalty and support. Where do I fit?
  • I believe that our federal government is staffed in the main by well-intentioned people. But there are too many of them and they are poorly trained and poorly led. Many see no connection between their compensation and the taxpayer customer who pays their way. Where do I fit?
  • I believe our tax code is fundamentally a haphazard platform of layered obligations piled one on top of the other over the course of more than a century in an attempt to block imagined evasion. It therefore creates incentives for sub-optimal personal and corporate behavior and should be radically overhauled. Where do I fit?
  • I think there should be equal pay for equal work. And extra pay for extra work. And that part-time allocation should not be used to duck a company’s benefit obligations. Where do I fit?
  • I believe it idiotic to call the global consensus of environment scientists a conspiracy against anything by anyone and that as a species we have played a central role in accelerating the rate of global warming. We must wean ourselves — quickly — off fossilized fuels. Where do I fit?
  • I refuse to accept that we cannot control our borders but believe we will not do so until we remove the financial incentives that drive illegal immigration in the first place. If we don’t want to pick our own oranges or dig our own ditches then we must find a humane way of dealing with those already here illegally. Where do I fit?
  • I believe that the family — broadly defined — is the most important force for good we have. Its disintegration is the root cause of many of today’s societal ills, including the rise of indecency and disrespect in everyday life and civic debate. How to fix that is the question of our time. Where do I fit?
  • I am personally opposed to abortion but the ethical decisions another person makes are none of my business unless they lead to illegal behavior or infringe my personal liberty, even if they corrode the values I believe we should advocate as a society. Where do I fit?
  • It is increasingly common to blame our fate on other people or events outside our control — parents, schools, the vicissitudes of life. This is unacceptable. Personal responsibility is the anchor of a free society. Where do I fit?

I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to vote. Neither of the two parties offers me a home. Aided and abetted by a shamefully dishonest media class, their candidates talk right past me, with rote answers bent to fit a rigid ideological frame. Most of the time I know how they’re going to respond to a question before they even open their mouth. They’re not listening to me, they’re presumptuously trying to school me, taking me for a fool. Me! They’re putting me in a box, trying to label me. Worst of all, their hunger for power, for a seat at the table, trumps honesty and principle and straightforwardness. It fuels their extraordinary hypocrisy, such that they can loudly condemn their rivals for sins they themselves commit. Their easy certitude suggests a life of narrow experience and aggrandized accomplishment, without struggle or loss or risk or honest self-reflection.

I sense there are many out there who feel the same as I do - and I suspect that the disenchantment we feel is exactly what fuels the campaigns of Trump and Sanders. But neither is for me. Trump? He’s Berlusconi. And no matter what Bernie says, government is not the only panacea for what ails us.

So please, tell me where I fit.

Peter Winter writes from his home on the coast of Maine. He tells stories and writes occasional political commentary here on Medium, and he blogs about media and management over at blastofwinter.com.

Feel free to drop him a line at peter@pwinter.com

Peter is represented by The Garamond Agency, Washington D.C.

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