Growing up, politics never really played an important part of my life. I remember being captivated by an incident that I witnessed when I was fourteen and hanging out at the park-a family arguing loudly about the war in Iraq and how well or how terribly they thought George W. Bush was doing. I turned to my mother and said, “Why don’t you ever talk about politics?” She just laughed, but it was events like these that finally ignited my inner passion for government and everything about it.
At fifteen, I decided that I was very Republican. Of course, I did not realize that there were more than two major political parties. Still, I was admittedly conservative in my beliefs. It was mainly regarding the economy (I was adamant about social security needing reformed), but I also believed that welfare and social services were crooked and definitely needed a brushing through with a flea comb.
Still being in high school and being terribly bored with my easy schoolwork, I threw myself into political activism. I joined every single organization that I possibly could; anything with a reference to Republicans or conservatives or Grand Old Party, I was in it. There was one group in particular that I was very active in, and I even almost met Dick Cheney! (Basically, we got there just as his party was leaving the rally. It was devastating!)
Once I graduated high school, I decided that I wanted to go all the way and actually be a politician. I started at a local university with a major in history and political science. All of my older Republican colleagues smiled down upon me, proclaiming that I had a bright future ahead of me. I lapped it all up like a kitten to tuna juice. Yes, life was good.
But then, things started to slowly change.
At first, it was small stuff that really had little effect on me. A few people asked if I might be Libertarian instead of Republican. This was because I had always been more fiscally conservative than socially conservative. I was on the fence about abortion, I did not believe that prayer should be allowed in schools (in fact, I am agnostic), and while I did not exactly support it, I was not vehemently against gay marriage.
My Libertarian friends argued that since I seemed to be mostly about small government and free people, I would probably identify more with them than with the Republican Party. I considered it, but I shook it off. I would forever be loyal to the GOP. I had started writing political columns for my university’s newspaper (I was billed as the “right wing fanatic”), and there was seemingly no turning back now.
I should probably mention a little bit more about my mother at this point. While she does not discuss politics often, she is a card-carrying member of the National Organization of Women. When she was younger, she was what I would define a “hardcore feminist.” She is going to vote for Hillary Clinton during the next election.
She never really fought against my beliefs; she would simply shake her head and tut a little bit. Unnerving, really. The only thing that she would fight about was abortion. If I ever said anything that might sound pro-life, she would attack it like an alley cat. I never understood. Like I said before, I was on the fence about abortion, so I did not really have a strong opinion either way.
That all changed one day when I suggested to a friend online that I might be leaning towards being pro-choice. He was hardcore in his beliefs, very typically naïve like so many young men are these days in politics. I explained to him that I thought that I understood the pro-choice argument, and that I was starting to believe it, when he verbally attacked me.
I am used to debating, but he would not debate me. He would not even listen to my side. He simply stated the same things over and over; the same baseless propaganda that I hear when I listen to the religious fundamentalists that embarrass me at political rallies. I finally said, “So if a twelve-year old girl gets raped and becomes pregnant, she should be forced to have the child?” He simply said, “Yes.” That is when I decided that I was pro-choice.
My foundation had been shaken, but I did not crumble. There were lots of Republicans who were pro-choice. I continued happily on, until I turned nineteen. That is when my insurance ran out.
I was under my father’s insurance because I was a student, but once I turned nineteen, I was no longer covered. Being a full-time student, as well as being so active with other things, I did not have time for a job; and all the jobs that I did look at did not come with health benefits. This was bad. There were prescription medications that I needed to take (such as the never-going-to-go-generic Topamax for my migraines), and I had just found out from the dentist that I needed dental work done (and possibly braces).
Why the dentist waited until now to tell me this, I had no idea, but that was beside the point-where was I going to get the money for this? I started to panic. I lost ten pounds in two weeks and got an average of five hours of sleep per night. I was a wreck. Nobody was hiring, and I needed insurance. Finally, my aunt suggested something to me.
“Why don’t you apply for medical assistance? I’m on it, and the health benefits are fine. You would qualify, too, because you live at home and have no income.” I was torn. On one hand, I had a solution-I could get insurance and life could be good again. On the other hand, I would be going against the things I believed in. I decided to ask some friends for advice.
They all agreed that I should apply. My friend in England was puzzled. “I don’t understand why you don’t have national healthcare in the first place. Why wouldn’t you have some sort of plan?” I tried to explain that the quality of healthcare would decrease for everybody and taxes would probably go up for everyone, but then I realized that this is a flawed theory. If everybody had healthcare (whether it was state-sponsored or private), then the private healthcare recipients would still get better health benefits. Much like today, except everybody would have coverage. Reassuring myself that it was the right thing to do, I took the plunge and applied for medical assistance.
As of today, I am still waiting for my card, but I have qualified. I will be able to afford my medication, get my dental work done, and go to the hospital if I ever need to. I have realized that while our welfare system probably does need reformed somewhere along the line, it is a necessity for our country. Somehow, when I look at issues now, I am able to form my own opinions without immediately forming to party lines. And thus, my metamorphosis to slightly-right-wing Independent is complete. My life as a Republican is over.