Today is a day where sons and daughters throughout the world make up for the other 364 days where we either give our Moms sleepless nights of worry and indigestion for our recklessness and general ambivalence. It also gives us a chance to reflect on the impact our mothers have in our lives, our personalities and all that we are. On this Mothers Day I share the thoughts of an ultra-conservative son who is everything he is because of the love, care and wisdom provided him by his equally liberal Mom.
Growing up, we were about as close to the real-life unit depicted in the 1980’s television series Family Ties as it comes. My beautiful mother, a flower-child of the 60’s (who Meredith Baxter could not hold a candle to) and I in the “Alex P Keaton” role as the rebellious right-wing child of the Reagan revolution. I can recall many an evening that our living room transformed itself into a virtual town hall meeting where the tempers flared and the decibel levels got to the point where one could only imagine what our neighbors thought.
But these debates/arguments shaped me in more ways that I can express. Not only did they prepare me for a life of political battle, but with such a talented and brilliant opponent to spar with all those years, made me quite formidable the arena, as once you’ve gone toe-to-toe in political pugilism with my mother, all other foes seem amateur in comparison.
But she taught me so much more than just mere verbal combat, most of all she taught to me to think. She taught me to question my preconceived notions and taught me that there was more than one perspective that had validity. She also taught me the most important lesson I’ve carried with me throughout my life; that someone with whom I disagreed with politically nearly 100% of the time was also someone that I respected, admired, counted on and loved as much as anything in the world. When I get to the point of frustration and borderline hatred of our progressive opponents in the present day, I think back to this lesson, waking me up to the fact that before we are conservatives and liberals, we are countrymen.
She also shaped my particular form of conservatism. My mother was a true liberal. I say that because as I survey the modern political landscape, I seriously question if many such people still exist in America. My mother taught me the value of tolerance, compassion and that the purpose of political activism was to better the lives of our fellow countrymen, and the world we are so interdependent on. Ironically enough, it was these lesson taught by my Mom that reinforced my conviction that smaller government and one closer to the people was a far superior mechanism to achieve these goals.
In my early childhood, we bounced around for a while and had some very lean, but always happy, years but eventually settled in El Monte, CA. For the better part of my first 7 years, my mother held dual duty, raising me as a single mother. As she re-married, to an incredible man who is my father, the term “step” having no practical application in my heart, we found ourselves a whole family, this being sealed and consecrated in blood by virtue of the birth of my brother a couple years later.
El Monte is a lower and working class suburb of Los Angeles and hold for me so many dear memories. But it also provided me the opportunity to gauge the vast gulf between the words and heartfelt emotions of my mothers liberalism and its practical application by a Democratic political machine. While the city itself, at the time, had its share of Republican office holders (albeit in non-partisan elections), many of the neighborhoods bore the sad impact of the “Great Society” social welfare programs that held the hope and promise of liberals like my mother, but resulted in multi-generational misery by destroying self-determination and ambition, all to enrich the power and wealth of Democrat lawmakers and the bureaucracy responsible for this power.
I witnessed first-hand how the system trapped people in a lifestyle of settling for mere survival in that overtime this way of life became accepted and that the recipient of state benevolence began to believe this was the pinnacle of what they deserved out of life. I also saw it grow and spread, like a virus, from “that one lady and her kids” who the neighbors would whisper about to a larger and larger segment of the community, first to the point where there was no longer any shame to being on the “dole” to the point where it was in many ways considered something people were “entitled” to, as a weapon of social justice. I saw that this application of state charity destroyed initiative and ruined far more lives than it “saved.”
None of this was remotely close to the lessons given by my bleeding-heart liberal mother. The same liberal who forced my brother and myself (against our youthful will) to spend out Thanksgiving afternoons working the counters in downtown Los Angeles, dispensing plates of food to the homeless. This same liberal, and agnostic at times bordering atheistic, mother who nonetheless found it important to do what she had to do to stretch our budget to afford me the opportunity to attend parochial schools, both Lutheran and Catholic. The mother who spent hours clipping coupons and even taking on odd-jobs so that we could enjoy some of the extras in life that I took for granted in the selfishness of my youth.
As I ponder the things she did, and did without, for my brother and myself, I am not only humbled (and shamed) but found my conservatism shaped by these acts of love and selflessness. I learned that our fellow man needs our compassion and our assistance, but I also learned that personal (and family) salvation will only come through thrift and effort. And effort that I’m shamed to say I didn’t always appreciate in my youth.
While I’m sure there are times my mother rues that the talents she passed on to me virtue of her incredible DNA and skills she taught me in our numerous kitchen-table debates have been unleashed as an unapologetic warrior for the right-wing, on this Mothers Day of 2014 I give thanks and gratitude to you, Mom, for all you’ve done to shape my life and views. While you pressed and challenged me, you allowed me to be me. You allowed me to pursue my political vision without judging me or shaming me into adopting your ideology.
This is something I can appreciate all-too well now, as your granddaughter hits the age of eight, where she is herself beginning to look at the larger world around her and developing her views. Should she begin to veer down an ideological path opposite of my own (God forbid), I can hope that I display the same tolerance as you, to let her be her but to challenge her make those views mean something and not simply knee-jerk reaction. To my liberal mother, who shaped my thoughts and conservatism more than she may realize, I want to thank you and tell you how much I love and value you, on this Mothers Day.
By Paul M Winters