A recent NBC poll placed the majority of Americans in the political center. Only a few were at the fringes. The online article offered a link to its quiz, so I clicked on over to see where I fit. Interestingly, while I think of myself as a left-leaning moderate, the quiz labeled me a fringy “bleeding heart.” That sent me searching my political heart.
Our roots anchor us. They bind us to one another and to our past. Roots also find ways around obstacles and help us grow. My politics, like yours, are rooted in my family and life experiences.
The branches of my family tree are filled with immigrants to this country in every century since its founding. Around 1900, my Protestant Irish great-grandparents and their eight children left Northern Ireland to escape the hostilities over Home Rule. About the same time, my American great-grandparents and their eight children left Missouri. They traveled by train to a cooperative farm established by the Brotherhood of the Cooperative Commonwealth near Puyallup, Wash. Both did what they thought best for their family’s future.
During the Depression, my Minnesota-born Swedish grandfather kept three sets of tools in his car as he drove around Los Angeles. That way he could accept a day’s work in any of the three trades he practiced throughout his life. My Irish grandmother took in boarders. They adapted to changing conditions and the needs of their family.
My resourceful and optimistic ancestors carved out farms, established towns, mined the earth, built homes and attended a variety of churches. They fought wars, repaired cars, led Boy and Girl Scout troops, joined the PTA and sent their children to college. They moved ever-westward and upward in doggedly hopeful pursuit of their dreams.
By the time I came of age during the turbulent sixties, we lived in ethnically diverse, yet famously conservative Orange County, Calif. I went to church, practiced the Golden Rule and pledged allegiance to the flag as talk of Civil Rights and the Vietnam War filled the TV news and the dinner table. I also protested the US bombing of Cambodia and the killing of four student protesters at Kent State.
Social justice — “liberty and justice for all” — became the foundation, the moral center of my political beliefs. Progress toward a fairer and “more perfect Union” became my guiding principle. Today, as my family tree has grown more diverse with each generation, I merely want for them what my forefathers and mothers wanted for me — “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
My politics are hopeful, not hateful. Inclusive, not exclusive. I guess what troubles me most is this: How is that not the center of American politics?
Lorie Schaefer is retired, mostly. You can take the NBC quiz and read the accompanying article at http://nbcpolitics.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/10/15/ 20977799-quiz-are-you-a-member-of-the-new-american-center.