I've been writing for a few years now about my move from Minneapolis, Minnesota to a farm in rural Western Wisconsin. My Facebook page tagline reads, "A Two World Cultural Conundrum of City Meets Country." Mostly I like to tell you stories about the farm and farming to highlight the differences between rural and urban attitudes, I prefer to keep it light and non-threatening, but lately there is a more serious side to my cultural conundrum.
When I moved out here, I knew full well that I had left the comfort of my sense of place and belonging behind, and that I would need to embrace and accept many things that I would have not in my Minneapolis, Minnesota community. I've entered a new culture where not just idioms, food and cultural practices are different. I now live in a place where Republicans outnumber Democrats and I find myself lost in a world where I do not understand how my neighbors think. Not only that, but I am quiet about my political views because in this climate, I don't feel safe to express myself.
Coming from a staunch DFL background where Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale were common names in household chatter, I learned from an early age that I belonged to Minnesota's, DFL Democratic Farmer Labor Party. Growing up, everywhere I went I was in the company of other Democrats because in Minnesota, Democrats lived in both rural and urban areas. Democrats in Minnesota, until recently, were the VAST majority. There are so many conversations we can take for granted when in the company of the like-minded. In my new life, I keep quiet.
Growing up, my grandmother was very politically active, a staunch Catholic, and friends with Dorothy Day. She was never worried to explain her belief that the way to a great society was to live the gospel (live frugally with humility, know what it is to be poor, do unto others, etc.) and to use government to support human freedoms and rights. Having experienced the work of FDR who helped move this country out of the Great Depression, she believed that good people in leadership can help create a society where all may live in peace, happiness and prosperity. My grandmother believed we must exist for the good of all, not just for our individual desires.
Even as she believed this, she was cautious to tell me what she learned when some of her friends went to Spain in the 30s to fight against Franco's dictatorship. They came to understand when side by side with Spain's Communists, Socialists and Nationalistic Republicans, that the ideologies of Socialism and Communism often result in authoritarian leadership.
In the last couple of years, I have been shocked and frightened to hear Republicans refer to Democrats as leftist, radicals or socialists! Hearing those terms conjures images of the many journalists, women, priests and professors disappeared to be found in masse graves tortured and murdered under dictatorships. For those of you not up on history or international news these events happen daily in other parts of the world. In the 1970s and 80's in Chile and Argentina, more recently in Myanmar and now in Iran to name a few. It's a little scary living in a world where you believe your ideas are good and beneficial for others only to be accused of being radical or socialist.
Based on my cultural and political upbringing as a Democrat, I believe in doing good. I believe in protecting rights, building a strong economy, helping those who may need a hand, protecting our earth, and that our government leaders and programs are meant to create a more egalitarian society.
In the United States, we have some very strong words that guide our principals. The Declaration of Independence, a strong influencer to our government decisions and ideology states, "we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal... endowed...with certain unalienable RIGHTS, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." In essence, our Declaration of Independence negates authoritarian rule and reminds us that we have the right to be free and happy. Our government has been trusted (through our right to vote) to create programs and laws that help us all live freely in order to pursue the ultimate egalitarian human experience to be free from life's occasional and extreme burdens. A person needing care in old age, someone facing a medical crisis or a job loss should be able to find help in a strong and free society. I don't understand how challenging our Social Security benefits program is "fighting for freedom" as one of our Republican candidates argues.
When I lived in Minnesota, particularly in Minneapolis an almost entirely Democrat voting city, I never shied away from politics because my beliefs were never challenged. I lived in a place where EVERYONE believed the same thing. Now, living in an area of the great RED WAVE where Democrats do not hold sway over the most popular ideology, I find myself quite voiceless and frankly, afraid. Politicians who perpetuate the idea that Biden is an illegitimate president, who are accused of scheming to position alternative back-door electorates to win an election, politicians who do not value democracy or kindness, politicians who are accused of sexual assault and rape win where I now live, and I find this to be utterly and completely terrifying. I absolutely cannot understand this mindset.
Ironically, yesterday while in my polling station, I overheard a conversation that caused reflection and drew a picture of how my mindset is so very different from my Western Wisconsin Republican neighbors. This is a discussion between the election poll worker who signed me in and a woman waiting in line to vote:
She asked, "Where do you stay when you go to Texas in the winters?"
He replied, "We go to Alamo where them illegals are coming in."
The woman asks, "What's that like?"
He responds, "We ain't never had any trouble with them."
What starts out as an innocuous question reveals so much about this man and how he thinks. Outside of bad grammar, I was shocked to hear him refer to the people at the border as "illegals!" He's obviously not lived outside of the United States, because if he had, he would know that people who risk their lives to get to our borders need some of that old-fashioned Democratic Farmer Labor empathy. He also assumes that he could potentially have trouble with them. Why would anyone seeking a better life, a chance for freedom, be at all inclined to cause trouble, I wonder.
Having lived in Honduras I completely understand why Hondurans make up a huge portion of those "illegals" at our border. These are humans who are in dire straights because of the snowball effects caused mainly by American control and intervention. In the last one hundred plus years, the United States has controlled most facets of economic viability in Honduras. Our companies control their natural resources and agriculture completely. On top of that, missionaries groups from most of the world's proselytizing religions have bribed Hondurans to join their "team" as a way to divide and take power. They bring seeds, silos, and other handouts, but little do they know these religious groups only cause community infighting and cultural destruction. Of course, those of us in our middle years remember the Contra affairs. In our country, propaganda is also a problem as we have a way of twisting the truth about our international involvements, and in the case of Honduras, this war on drugs fed by rich American appetite brought nothing but economic instability and weapons. The actions of a wealthy nation left behind a country in shambles. I understand people at our borders to be refugees, asylum seekers or immigrants - definitely not illegals.
Ironically, we have "Hiring" signs on every single store window in the US, but won't let people in who would be happy to fill the positions entitled Americans no longer want. From my Democrat Farm Labor position, I do not see people at our border as "illegals" or assume that they are going to be "trouble" at all. These are human beings who need help and they are begging for support. We have EVERYTHING they need except the decency to know our history, empathy for their situation and the humility and goodness to be better.
I wonder if we are so entitled that we have lost all ability to empathize, is our education system that bad, or is the Internet to blame? Why are we increasingly so small minded despite the fact that the "world is getting smaller?" I do know that my high rigor education taught me to be analytical, observant and reflective. I do know that my privilege allowed me to live outside the United States and return with humility as it taught me to look at myself from another's perspective. And you know what, living without running water or electricity for many years in my life has given me great respect for the small luxuries we take for granted in this country.
Despite the fact that I now reside in Wisconsin, I will forever consider myself a member of the Democratic Farmer Laborer Party of Minnesota. I am tired of feeling nervous in my new place, tired of worrying that I might upset my neighbors or that they might not like me when they know my beliefs, and I am tired of being quiet about political ideas that are not only ridiculous but dangerous. I do not want to live in fear that people like me will one day be disappeared in this place that is supposed to be a great country. This, my friends, seems to be a very real and very present danger considering the majority mindset.
Clearly, by evidence of this page, I am rethinking my shushed political stance. It seems time for Democrats to get loud, make it clear what we believe and fight like hell to make sure this country doesn't fall to shambles in the next one hundred years.
Ok enough of that rant. I'm sending all my love your way!