People who know me or who read this blog regularly will read the title above and think that they are being set up. Here comes the irony, the sucker punch, the trick. Not this time. I'm shooting straight, still working on getting this election out of my system. A lot of people I know seem to be behaving the same way--too many months of time, energy, emotion (and money) to let it all go without processing it. I've tried to keep my processing positive, without too much gloating or baiting.
So here goes.
I really do love conservatives. And I'm a liberal to the left of Obama. How do I know that I love them? Because I teach them, have been teaching them for 30 years.
I live in one of the "Reddest" states. Both senators and the governor are Republican. Even that candidate who ran against the senator up for re-election was another right-wing conservative in disguise. Despite the national victories for Democrats, in my state, Republicans solidified their numbers and their power in the state legislature more than ever. My state even voted in the sleazy guy who made national news for being a Pro-Life candidate but who convinced his mistress to get an abortion, prescribed drugs for another of his women while on a date. So, yeah, I'm among conservatives.
And those conservatives have children. And they pay good money, plenty of money, to send them to the school where I work and teach. And teaching conservative students has been one of the great blessings of my life. I mean that.
I'd guess that in any given year, approximately 80% of the students here are conservative Republicans, though a Libertarian candidate like Ron Paul can capture their imagination. It is too easy, I think, to claim that they are conservative simply because their parents are. That would ignore the influence that the South, this city, their churches, their friendships, their relationships have on them. For these are well-connected students, socially, and the impact of their youth group, their neighbors, their jobs and their volunteer work all factor in. As does their school, which despite its many liberal teachers, retains its conservative foundation.
But these children are not exclusive. Quite the contrary. Sure, many of them have plenty of money that they'd like to hold onto, but they help their school, their teachers, each other, the larger community, other countries. They pitch in, donate, show up, can usually be counted on. They don't mind being servants to lead. They brush off racial problems older people can't get past; they are not as intolerant of gays as you might think. They may not yet have come to terms with America's growing Hispanic population, but what they have come to terms with that they didn't 30 years ago is pretty amazing.
They don't draw lines based on beliefs. They cross the aisle, if they are even aware that there is an aisle. They naturally accept the idea that the best way to solve a specific problem is to build an ad hoc team of the best people to solve it, regardless of what beliefs they might hold that are irrelevant to the situation.
In class, they willing grapple with new ideas. They do not shut down. They do not retreat to parental beliefs. They do not limit their reading. They give me great hope. Not all of them, of course. But most.
Any of my fellow Liberal teachers will tell you the same thing. They love these kids, not in spite of their conservatism, but because it is one of the things that make them who they are. The Southern, conservative aspect is deeply woven into their personal fabric. And it's usually a good thing. So, while I might disparage the old white men who wield too much influence over the national Republican party, I have nothing but respect for these children who can take the conversation in a better direction.
So while I might engage in non-stop Facebook battle with my age-appropriate Republican counterparts, when I encounter most of my former students in a social media setting, I am encouraging of most any direction that they are headed. Not only do we as a country need them without the baggage that they don't carry and the potential and the possibility that they do, but I enjoy and love them simply as friends. I guess that's because I knew them as people first, as students, and I saw all of the amazing things that they could accomplish. So I hope that they will, even conservatively, step up.
It is one of the things that keeps me going.