Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. What Am I Doing Here?

 

Confession time: I’ve been a liberal since 1962, the year I was born to a pair of Kennedy Democrats. When I was in high school in Washington, DC, I would cut class and spend whole days down on the mall, marching and protesting for the ERA, the legalization of marijuana, the Nuclear Freeze and the Sandinistas. I protested against South African Apartheid and both for and against the Shah of Iran (Okay, I was a little confused on that one…)

More recently, I was ordained as a minister in the most theologically and — statistically at least — politically liberal denomination in the country. And as it drifts further and further to the left, have found myself doubting whether I belong there.

As a law enforcement chaplain, I’ve spent the past 14 years or so assuring the mostly-conservative officers I work with that I’m their token, Birkenstock-and-Socks Liberal. They love me anyway; I love them anyway. We have great conversations, and agree about a lot of things, which I have always taken to mean that these guys are a lot more liberal than they think.

Never occurred to me that I might be more conservative…

Help me out here, people! What am I, and why do I like Ricochet?

Fact: I’m not a vegan.

More facts: I’m not interested in alternative medicine, I vaccinated my children, I eat meat, have killed my own and approve of hunting and fishing. Having seen what welfare dependency looks like up close, I have serious reservations about the efficacy of government welfare programs as they are currently structured and administered. I am only reluctantly and ambivalently pro-choice. I support single-sex marriage and think religious organizations should be able to do what they like. I think the answer to bad speech is more speech so I oppose speech codes and PC on college campuses. I’m big on the separation of church and state, even though as a state-agency chaplain I literally combine the two in my person. Perhaps for obvious reasons, I do not believe that the primary cause of officer-involved shootings is racism. I joyfully went to Obama’s first inauguration… and am deeply disappointed in the way the president and his administration responded to “Ferguson” among other issues. I would not vote for Hillary Clinton (even before the e-mail thing) and my preferred alternative is Jim Webb. The Star Spangled Banner is my favorite song. I admire courage, and I love men. My first husband was a police officer and my father and son both served in the U.S. Marines, and I am very proud of these men. I think the valor of American troops should not be squandered. I think waterboarding is torture, and torture is both morally wrong, damages the torturer as well as the tortured, and is ultimately ineffective. I’m not a pacifist. I care a lot about duty and honor and I love my country. I get tears in my eyes when I see the flag.

What does all of that add up to? Am I a mole at Ricochet, or am I a mole in the rest of my life?

One evening, a couple of years ago, while hanging out at a bar with a bunch of cops, I fell into conversation with a Boston police officer who cheerfully described himself as “the only conservative working for the city of Boston.”

“Terrific!” I said. “I’m a Birkenstock-and-socks liberal! Let’s talk about gun control!”

The conversation did not go as you might expect. We didn’t yell at each other or come to blows (which is just as well since he was packin’ heat and I was not). In fact we came up with a solution to the question of what to do about guns in America in less than an hour. (I can tell you what our solution was in another post, if you like).

If the distance between a conservative position and a liberal position on an issue really isn’t that great, then the Birkenstock-and-Socks liberal and the Only Conservative Cop in Boston simply accomplished what any conservative and liberal could if they just sat down and yakked over a beer for an hour.

Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Disagree About Religion and Politics, would probably point out that the Boston cop and I had an advantage: we belong to the same tribe. Politics tends to be tribal. We get born into our political tribe, and most of us probably stay there. Political parties develop a patois and use clothing and other signaling devices to identify one another and affirm membership. Hence the Birkenstocks and socks.

But law enforcement is a powerful alternative tribe, and — because its members depend on one another in life-and-death situations — we will resist the potential for disagreement to damage the bond between us. This is how I explained our accord before I joined Ricochet. Now I wonder: does the fact that I can discuss a volatile subject and reach agreement with a conservative cop just mean that I am a conservative too?

It seems to me, after two months of hanging out on Ricochet, y’all have developed a tribe here that accommodates a very wide range of beliefs under a pretty big and carefully-tended tent. I’ve had long arguments with some of you and come away feeling challenged, stimulated, provoked to new and expanded thought… And I’ve also had to admit, at times, that some long and mindlessly-held opinion of mine wasn’t just different, it was wrong. Wrong facts, wrong conclusion, wrong opinion.

That’s unsettling.

There are people on Ricochet who are passionate about one subject, and people who are interested in everything. There are some who express themselves beautifully, with patience and restraint. And there are those who just like to kick the hornet’s nest and see what comes flying out.

And I’ve watched “threads” that go deeply into very difficult terrain—“like running through a field of mesquite” as one of you wrote — and resolve themselves not in agreement but in what the same writer described as “kindness and the honest attempt to understand views we may never personally hold…” It’s impressive. It is, frankly, what my liberal church claims to be and wants to be but, increasingly, isn’t.

n the most recent Ricochet poll, I scored as a libertarian. I don’t know if that’s quite true…there’s a lot I don’t know, actually. But yesterday, I told my Tea Party boss (and dear friend) that I think I’m going to have to stop calling myself a Birkenstock-and-Socks Liberal… my preferred alternative pro tem? I’m a bleeding heart, tax-and-spend conservative.

There are 109 comments.

  1. The Dowager Jojo Member

    I take it back! I really am ashamed the “mole” thing ever crossed my mind! It is great to have you here. The Birkenstock niche was unfilled and you raise the level of nice and articulate quite a bit.

    • #1
    • March 15, 2015, at 11:03 AM PDT
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  2. Max Ledoux Admin

    Interesting, Kate!

    • #2
    • March 15, 2015, at 11:04 AM PDT
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  3. raycon and lindacon Inactive

    You are what most of us came to Ricochet to be or to become. You are an honest person who holds a mixture of political views and has questions about many of those beliefs.

    The people to watch out for are those with a doctrinaire position, liberal, conservative or libertarian. Never trust an unexamined life, it ain’t worth living.

    My guess is that you are in the process of becoming a libertarian/conservative. In fact, I believe that many of us are, as were the founders. The difference being whether you desire an active relationship with your Creator or not. Since you are of a religious bent, I recommend, as a Pentecostal Evangelical, that you look more closely at God’s Word and less at denominational theology. Many of your conservative vs. liberal quandaries will be more understandable as world view conflicts.

    • #3
    • March 15, 2015, at 11:06 AM PDT
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  4. The Dowager Jojo Member

    The Sandinistas: not good guys. They rained destruction on my sister-in-law’s people, the Miskito Indians.

    • #4
    • March 15, 2015, at 11:06 AM PDT
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  5. GrannyDude Member
    GrannyDude

    Jojo:I take it back! I really am ashamed the “mole” thing ever crossed my mind! It is great to have you here. The Birkenstock niche was unfilled and you raise the level of nice and articulate quite a bit.

    No, Jojo—it was a good question, and one I really thought a lot about. That is, once I realized that we weren’t talking about the sort of “mole” my dermatologist is always fussing about…you and I were talking about healthcare, and my brain sometimes gets stuck in one track and can’t jump!

    • #5
    • March 15, 2015, at 11:06 AM PDT
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  6. Mike H Coolidge

    This is probably one of the best Ricochet outreach posts I’ve ever read, and it wasn’t even intentional!

    Rob! Peter! This should make it to as many eyes as possible! Send it out to the Daily Shot mailing list. (At least brightly link to it.)

    That being said Kate, you sound like a Scott Alexander libertarian, otherwise known as Bleeding Heart Libertarians. That’s not me, but there are much worse things! ;)

    • #6
    • March 15, 2015, at 11:10 AM PDT
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  7. GrannyDude Member
    GrannyDude

    Jojo:The Sandinistas: not good guys. They rained destruction on my sister-in-law’s people, the Miskito Indians.

    No, not good guys. Among other cringe-worthy moments from my days as an ineffectual, adolescent activist is the time I was babysitting and, for some reason, tried to explain away the Sandinista’s disinclination to hold elections to my client’s Nicaraguan housekeeper… fourteen years old, and already a pompous, condescending and almost wholly ignorant snot.

    • #7
    • March 15, 2015, at 11:14 AM PDT
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  8. The Dowager Jojo Member

    Kate Braestrup:

    Jojo:The Sandinistas: not good guys. They rained destruction on my sister-in-law’s people, the Miskito Indians.

    No, not good guys. Among other cringe-worthy moments from my days as an ineffectual, adolescent activist is the time I was babysitting and, for some reason, tried to explain away the Sandinista’s disinclination to hold elections to my client’s Nicaraguan housekeeper… fourteen years old, and already a pompous, condescending and almost wholly ignorant snot.

    She’d probably been through worse.

    • #8
    • March 15, 2015, at 11:27 AM PDT
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  9. GrannyDude Member
    GrannyDude

    raycon and lindacon:You are what most of us came to Ricochet to be or to become. You are an honest person who holds a mixture of political views and has questions about many of those beliefs.

    The people to watch out for are those with a doctrinaire position, liberal, conservative or libertarian. Never trust an unexamined life, it ain’t worth living.

    My guess is that you are in the process of becoming a libertarian/conservative. In fact, I believe that many of us are, as were the founders. The difference being whether you desire an active relationship with your Creator or not. Since you are of a religious bent, I recommend, as a Pentecostal Evangelical, that you look more closely at God’s Word and less at denominational theology. Many of your conservative vs. liberal quandaries will be more understandable as world view conflicts.

    I’m a community minister rather than a church and pulpit based minister, and I think you’re onto something, Raycon and Lindacon! I work in the field with people of all possible faiths (including none), usually under conditions of extreme stress and trauma. This does tend to knock the edges off one’s denominational identity because the chaplain is always working with people who don’t share the same “tribal” language, and it is my job to meet them where they are. Because of this, I have developed a much stronger and more trusting relationship with God than I think I would have, had I stayed in a church-and-pulpit based ministry.

    • #9
    • March 15, 2015, at 11:32 AM PDT
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  10. BastiatJunior Member

    Welcome to Ricochet, Kate!

    I printed out your post and showed it to my mother, who happens to be visiting right now.

    While your lives are very different (she was born in 1937 for starters) your political views are similar. She could identify with a lot of what you said.

    Will she join Ricochet, too? Don’t know yet.

    • #10
    • March 15, 2015, at 11:35 AM PDT
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  11. MarciN Member

    I am not pure anything ideologically.

    I’ve never belonged to a church–I was brought up in the Congregational Church, married a Catholic and love the Church and raised my kids in it but I’ve not made the leap myself. I consider myself an ecumenical admirer of all faiths. I enjoy learning about them all. It’s my favorite thing about Ricochet.

    I grew up in a relatively chaotic situation, and consequently I don’t trust or believe anyone or anything easily. And I’m a natural born skeptic of all things.

    I do believe in God–and it’s completely personal. He has answered all of my prayers. Every single time. Whether anyone else knows God the way I do, I have no idea.

    I admire what Kate is doing because after the terrorist attacks, I daydreamed a lot about building a place of prayer and community on a quiet lake somewhere where people could enjoy prayer and music and the solace of companionship with others. Organized religions scare a lot of people (me!–I don’t measure up), but prayer and the comfort of companionship is a human need that transcends everything. I think organized religion connects to something inside people that is already there, that God put there in case of emergency.

    My chapel or sanctuary would be a hospital emergency room for the soul. :)

    Anyway, I love your writing, Kate. I really enjoy it.

    • #11
    • March 15, 2015, at 11:46 AM PDT
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  12. The Dowager Jojo Member

    (http://www.uuworld.org/issues/300877.shtml)

    Gettin’ it said Kate! I sure don’t want to cross you.

    I don’t really follow people who say it’s Congress’s fault if Obama doesn’t enforce the immigration laws as passed- “If Congress doesn’t like it, they should pass a law” Uh, they did. Oh, they should keep passing laws till they get to what Obama’s going to do anyway? Got it.

    • #12
    • March 15, 2015, at 11:47 AM PDT
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  13. Blondie Thatcher

    Great post, Kate. I agree with Mike. Your post shows what I believe they guys had in mind when they started this thing.
    As far as your youth is concerned, Kate, you just happened to live close enough to the action to get invovled. That is an impressionable age. I can’t imagine being in the D.C. area during the late ’60’s and early ’70’s and not getting caught up in it. I’m sure all your friends were feeling the same way. Then you get out into the “real world” and see things in a different light. I think this is why you see most activists are on college campuses. The professors and students have seldom been in the “real world”. It is easy to protest such things when your world consists of downtown Chapel Hill types.

    • #13
    • March 15, 2015, at 11:51 AM PDT
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  14. Jason Rudert Member

    Whatever it is you’re doing here, keep doing it. I’m glad you’re here.

    • #14
    • March 15, 2015, at 11:53 AM PDT
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  15. Great Ghost of Gödel Inactive

    Kate Braestrup:fourteen years old, and already a pompous, condescending and almost wholly ignorant snot.

    Right on schedule, then!

    Anyway, as I was reading your wonderful post, I kept thinking “not liberal; libertarian… not liberal; libertarian… not liberal; libertarian…”

    So color me unsurprised that you got a “measurement” somewhere of “libertarian.”

    And welcome to the club! We have the best whacko-birds.

    • #15
    • March 15, 2015, at 11:57 AM PDT
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  16. Profile Photo Member

    Hey, Kate! Good to have a fellow chaplain and bleeding-heart-about-some-things around here! Godspeed and prayerful support for all the facets of your journey…

    • #16
    • March 15, 2015, at 11:59 AM PDT
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  17. WI Con Member
    WI Con Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I think you’re a Liberal in the best, classical, sense of the word.

    You sure aren’t boring or predictable. The post was a delight to read and think on.

    I’m heartened at your perceptions inside the Conservative Big-Top Tent. There is nothing homogeneous or monolithic about it. Herding cats.

    • #17
    • March 15, 2015, at 12:19 PM PDT
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  18. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Very nice piece, Kate. I’m glad you’re here and hope to see you at a Ricochet meetup some time.

    • #18
    • March 15, 2015, at 12:29 PM PDT
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  19. PsychLynne Inactive

    WI Con:I think you’re a Liberal in the best, classical, sense of the word.

    That is exactly what I was thinking! Kate, between your openness, smarts, citing one of my favorite books (The Righteous Mind), you are a great addition to Ricochet. Welcome and thanks for enriching us!

    • #19
    • March 15, 2015, at 12:32 PM PDT
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  20. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    What you have described is the accident of Ricochet Peter and Rob stumbled upon while trying to merely use market forces to keep the trolls at bay. It’s a beautiful and edifying thing to battle wits and wisdom without coming to blows.

    • #20
    • March 15, 2015, at 12:48 PM PDT
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  21. Southern Pessimist Member

    “I’m a bleeding heart, tax-and-spend conservative.”

    Most people would call that a Republican.

    Political ideology devides and defines us in many ways but if you let an ideology define you, you are making yourself smaller that you can be. You are more than your political or philosophical allegiances which is a very good thing.

    • #21
    • March 15, 2015, at 12:48 PM PDT
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  22. Susan in Seattle Member
    Susan in Seattle Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Welcome to Ricochet, Kate! This is a happy place to land. And you’re in good company. I was born to staunch Republicans but have been proudly wearing Birkenstocks with, and without, socks since 1983.

    • #22
    • March 15, 2015, at 12:49 PM PDT
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  23. Dave Sussman Contributor

    I would wager that MANY other ‘liberals’ would surprise themselves by agreeing with your political self-analysis.

    There have been polls over the years showing Americans lean center-right. These polls don’t focus on the bread and circus outrage of the day, but politics as it relates to peoples feelings regarding the issues you discussed.

    Great post! :)

    #hopeful

    • #23
    • March 15, 2015, at 12:50 PM PDT
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  24. doulalady Member
    doulalady Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    My evolution as a conservative pretty much followed your path. From BBC soft socialism to NPR snide superiority to, of all things, Rush Limbaugh clarity. I consider my time in the socialist realm as one of a useful idiot. I was there for the very best of motives. The motives of those responsible for my naive positions were ideological, evil and manipulative.

    It’s hard to step out of that emotional world of kind feelings and empty gestures and replace it with conservative pragmatism and quiet good deeds. One gets lots of popularity and strokes for the former and utter contempt and hatred for the latter.

    Both conservatives and liberals want the same thing; a better world. It’s how these ends are achieved that differentiates us. Unfortunately for the sake of petty party politics one side has chosen to engage in the political world by unrelenting demonization of the other rather than engaging the issues themselves.

    • #24
    • March 15, 2015, at 12:55 PM PDT
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  25. Z in MT Inactive

    It is good to hear that us ravening lunatics of the right haven’t driven you off from Ricochet.

    • #25
    • March 15, 2015, at 1:00 PM PDT
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  26. Z in MT Inactive

    doulalady:Both conservatives and liberals want the same thing; a better world. It’s how these ends are achieved that differentiates us.

    I don’t think it is just the ends. I also think our definitions of “a better world” also differ. In particular, I think that liberals hope for a world without consequences, whereas conservatives fear it.

    • #26
    • March 15, 2015, at 1:05 PM PDT
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  27. Merina Smith Inactive

    From the first comment by you that I read, I had you pegged for a smart and articulate person, Kate, though it took awhile to figure out your politics. In fact, I had wondered what your story is. I’m so glad you told it in this post. A hearty welcome! I have many friends on the left, and I have noticed that when we talk about any topic in the micro and personal, we tend to agree a lot. When we talk about the macro, we tend to disagree. Ah well–life is a process. We are all becoming all the time. That’s a good thing, but it can be confusing!

    • #27
    • March 15, 2015, at 1:12 PM PDT
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  28. PHCheese Member

    The old saying goes “that to understand someone you must walk in their shoes “. But please Birkenstock and Socks! I am a penny loafers kind of guy or wingtips. Welcome Kate.

    • #28
    • March 15, 2015, at 1:17 PM PDT
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  29. Songwriter Member
    Songwriter Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Welcome to Ricochet, Kate. Your situation reminds me of that of a friend, who is both a college professor and a Christian playwright/songwriter. She is considered conservative amongst her fellow college professors. She is considered a liberal by many of her conservative Christian writer buddies. At the core of it, she is is smart and principled and open to change.

    (Edited to fix a sentence fragment that I should’ve caught before posting. Grrrr…)

    • #29
    • March 15, 2015, at 1:22 PM PDT
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  30. BastiatJunior Member

    They should promote this post to the main page.

    • #30
    • March 15, 2015, at 1:42 PM PDT
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