I should have saw this coming.
Back in school, when I first took a government class – on the first day we took a political spectrum test. If I remember correctly, it was about 30 questions varying from scenario questions and True and False questions. After taking the test, we were divided into groups visually around the room.
I sat by myself.
Apparently, my father always tinkering in the garage listening to the early days of Rush Limbaugh had indoctrinated me so far right that my teacher “jokingly” called me “another Hitler.”
I took it in stride, mostly because I was confused why he would call me Hitler, and second because I felt so alienated sitting by myself that I really was waiting for the bell to ring so I could just get the hell out of there.
You see, that was the first time anyone had labeled me anything other than just a nerd. In one 30 question test, I would be provided a label as “right-wing-conservative” and would carry that label through my young adult life. It impacted me that deeply. I had picked a side. I had marching orders. I was defined! (I dropped the Hitler part, though.)
Prior to that test, I had not really thought of this spectrum at all. Likely because I grew up legitimately an outsider in a foreign land that was not anything like your typical American childhood street to grow up on. “Where do you fit on the political spectrum,” is not something you ask about at that age – or really, in general when your 10s of thousands of miles away from your home country soil.
You see, my early to mid-childhood was spent overseas in the Middle East. My parents initially served in the military and then transitioned almost directly after giving birth to their best child (me, dear reader, that is me) to working longer term in Aviation in Saudi Arabia and other neighboring countries. These are the countries today I mourn and grieve that I only have fading, breaking down memories of. I will not likely be unable to visit with my children, or even alone given the world we are in today. That’s tough, because that part of my life drastically shaped who I am today and my worldview of the Muslim people and Islam as a faith.
When I came back to the states to start a life here, I was closing in on the teenage side of my life. Overseas, and even the time I had spent back in the States up until that class, my parents never really put an emphasis on labels. They never sat me down and told me, “now Grant – in this home we are conservatives – here’s handbook – go learn!”
Instead, I think a combination of church attendance in some of the way more grassroots area of our state, coupled with my father’s radio show choices cemented what I thought to myself – well, made sense. But it was likely deeper than that. I thought I knew what mattered. I had been labeled, after all!
Did the contents of my right-wing label make sense? And at the risk of losing all my blog readers 3 posts in, I feel comfortable enough to say – well, a good portion of it does, but then a lot of it does not.
Confused yet? Me too.
See, if you were to create a pie chart outlining the importance of that spectrum – probably the biggest wedge of the pie chart – sandwiched somewhere between “critical, and important” would be the largest part of the pie chart , labeled simply: “it does not matter.”
And that is not intentional by the way, it is just me being honest. I am starting to realize that so much of what we focus on anymore is just noise and useless to what we are here to really pursue. The more I grow, the more I build relationships and get in that part of the friendship where you become brutally honest about yourself and each other – where the lines of your relationships blur from “come over for a beer, why don’t you” to “I’m struggling in life right now, and I need a friend.”
This is that special, crazy pace that’s so freeing – it’s the moment where you realize that so much of what you have been told you had to make your mind up on, take a stand on, pick a side on, apply a label on, protest on, believe in, or otherwise pledge your allegiance to isn’t worth the breathe it was told in or the paper it was printed on.
Let me break it down for you a bit more:
I am sitting here, during a global pandemic, watching people argue and bicker over the stupid stuff.
I’m sitting here, during one of the most trying times in our country, watching our political leaders completely neglect the human side of community to make a good blurb, tweet, or Social Media presence to boost their Primary and Election, all while lives and livelihoods are destroyed in the wake of a pandemic.
I’m sitting here, during what may be the largest economic crisis we may ever see in our lifetimes, hearing babble constantly on whose fault this should be, and what it means for people that call themselves important “analysts” on the TV, while many families in even the bubble of my community around me wonder where the rent check is coming from.
I’m sitting here, completely alienated from all sense of community in the name of social distancing and I’m unable to reach out and bear hug the people I care deeply for that are hurting – but I’m told by countless prim and proper mega church pastors, celebrities, and political and business leaders from multi-million dollar homes that we are “in this together.” Give me a break.
And through it all – through all the political pundits, press conferences, speeches, tweets, viral Facebook posts, infighting, and posturizing, I have become disgusted with the label given to me in school. I have been become disgusted with ALL labels.
So that is it – I’m done. I give up. I quit. I cannot do it anymore. If they find this post because I’ve gone absolutely insane and decided that running for any public office is a good idea, this is for you – my running mate – the political career murder material you need. You are welcome.
I cannot continue to care about the stuff that doesn’t matter. I cannot continue to define myself in words that others will then use to label me or accept me later. I cannot base my friendships on a Social Media post or frustrating thread of arguments about stupid clickbait articles written by people who are so obsessed with getting you to try and care about something that:
So, what does matter? That’s a small list for me, and maybe different for you, and as I grow older, I’ve found it grows even smaller. It may change, but I doubt it.
Meaningful, honest relationships, up to and including my marriage and my family.
Protection for my family and those that cannot protect themselves.
And finally, that if I see a need from someone hurting, in need – that my eyes will be open to see it and I will react.
So, do not ask me to take another damn political spectrum test. I should not have done it then, and I certainly will not do it now. If I had a time machine, I would go back in time and I would rip up that test before the teenage me could take it. I would look at myself, and I’d whisper, before dashing off again in my DeLorean back to this insane year of 2020 — I’d whisper one thing to myself as I ripped up that test in front of my face:
“Thank me later, kid. This doesn’t matter.”
Noblesville, Indiana – May 2020