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  • Thomas Ward

where at least I know I'm free


I don’t remember politics. I don’t remember being aware of politics. I don’t remember being aware of my parents’ politics. I remember the Lee Greenwood song “I’m Proud to Be An American.” It was sung and played a lot when I was a kid. I remember lots of flags and all that noise. So I remember patriotism. I remember Reagan. Just say no. But my dad played Simon & Garfunkel and Peter Paul & Mary all the time so I was getting mixed messages in the home. Plus Jesus. Rigid, rigid Jesus. But this is about politics. But I can’t leave Jesus out if I’m going to talk about politics. I remember my brother being conservative. I remember him being a fan of Rush Limbaugh, though I think it was just a brief thing for him. But since he was my older brother I assumed that being right was right and I assumed I was too. But it started with Rush Limbaugh. And I wonder how many of me there are. Kids with older brothers or fathers who listened to Rush Limbaugh and then just figured they were Republicans and started listening too.

When I was in college one of my roommates dated a girl who called herself a democrat. It was a small conservative christian college and I believe she was in the small student democrat group on campus. I say “called herself” a Democrat because I didn’t know what that meant at the time. Clinton was president by then. I remember a conversation with my roommates one night that turned to politics and my friend Paul commented that he thought all of us were Democrats. Inwardly I panicked. Why? What about me made me a Democrat? What would my brother say? Does he still listen to Limbaugh? I didn’t know how my parents identified politically. I honestly didn’t know at that time who they’d voted for. We never talked about that, that I could remember because it was never an interest of mine. Was I a Democrat because I was a theater major? Shit. What would people say?

Then I just went on ahead and laughed at all the blowjob and semen on the blue dress and cigar up the pussy jokes. I had no idea who Ken Starr was. I was in college with a relative of his who was in the closet. Majoring in theater. I think they were in the closet. I mean, I don’t know. I sure as shit never talked to them about being gay.

But this is about politics.

The economy. Rule of law. Democracy. Capitalism. Socialism.

Rush Limbaugh taught me that you can’t be emotional when it comes to politics and that liberals are ruled by emotion. They want a utopia that doesn’t exist and can never exist. It’s been tried over and over again and it’s always failed. So I learned to be stoic on the outside. I learned to look for hypocrisy wherever I could find it.

I learned to lie.

It doesn’t matter what I believed.

I don’t know what I believed.

I don’t believe what I believed.

It was a lie.

But then there was Jesus. This is about politics. Not Jesus. But the confusion was percolating.

I wasn’t raised to compartmentalize.

A sin is a sin. You are what you are. Who you are. All or nothing. This made me think I was an addict later on. This made me think I had to believe everything I was told to believe. Even when I was told I didn’t have to. I tried very hard to commit to having doubts.

This is about politics.

I went to grad school. I was out of my bubble for the first time and I was surrounded by liberals. I was in grad school at a theater in Alabama working exclusively with liberals. Except for Davey. He was a pot smoking, acid dropping, theater making, Shakespeare quoting, peace loving, Radiohead listening, Rush Limbaugh quoting conservative. And he’s an awesome person. He was everyone’s friend and he could talk about his politics with anyone without making them his enemy. I was flabbergasted by that. I never joined in. I just watched him in awe. He became my big brother politically whether he knows it or not. Inside I was still a republican but I never admitted it to anyone except my wife. 9/11 happened and it was more important than ever that I be a republican. I can’t remember why except for fear, unity, the flag, Rush Limbaugh, and Davey.

And also all of the liberals around me. I hated listening to them talk. I hated how they sounded. I hated the way they would mock the community they were performing for. I hated the way they sounded like they knew everything. I just hated the way they SOUNDED. I hated how smart they thought they were. I hated their hypocrisy.

I can’t remember specifics but Davey was awesome at pointing out liberal hypocrisy. Especially when it came to economic things. But there were other things.

Al Gore’s airplane.

His wife Tipper’s attempts to censor music.

Lieberman sucked, right?

And this big beautiful theater we’re in was built in the 80s by a white republican with big pockets, right?

Fuckin hypocrites.

And I remember reading a book by an economist named Thomas Sowell. And he’s BLACK!! And the book was conservative and so pro-capitalism and one day I was going to be so rich. And he’s BLACK!

Fuckin hypocrites.

I read maybe fifteen pages of that book.

Point is I was figuring out the game that Limbaugh wanted me to play, I think. Find the hypocrisy in the liberals. Which I think we’ve found is super easy. And then look for ways to shame them.

Black republicans. Gay republicans. Etc.

So I started doing that inwardly and secretively and online while feeling uncomfortable at parties outwardly and never voting as a form of “protest.” Which I felt permission to from a George Carlin bit.

I also tried the “I’m a social liberal and fiscal conservative” line a few times.

I also tried the “I might be a libertarian?” with an upward inflection a few times.

But mostly I stayed intentionally ignorant except for how to play devil’s advocate against both sides. Which is shitty. Which is pointless. Which is what they want me to do. I think it’s the least that Limbaugh wanted from me. But it’s still a victory for him. He got me out of the game for a long time.

So what I picked up from conservatism, if I can try to codify it with some bullet points, because people love bullet points, was this:

  • Capitalism is the fairest economy because of supply and demand.

  • Someday I might get rich and when I am I won’t want the government taking my money.

  • Less government means more freedom.

  • Work hard and you can get what you want.

  • Dream.

  • Human benevolence will take care of the poor. Charities and churches and what not.

  • Democrats are just as or more racist and sexist as republicans.


That last bullet point is tricky for me today.

I did end up voting. I voted for Obama. My white colleagues at the small conservative christian college where I’d ended up teaching all voted for Obama. They were crying the next day. Literally. I was happy. I wasn’t crying.

I’d still been secretly checking Limbaugh’s website.

I was still seeking out that hypocrisy.

Those liberals.

Fuckin hypocrites.

Ken Starr was the president of that small christian college I was working at by the way. Fun, right? It’s a small small world.

I didn’t follow politics. Until now. Until Trump. It is what it is.

I don’t know what I mean by that. “I didn’t follow politics.” It appears that I have been following politics.

I don’t believe that this is a good country and I wish I could leave it.

I don’t know anything.

I hate Joe Biden. I’m not going to talk myself into liking him. I don’t have to. I’ll vote for him. I don’t have to talk anyone else into doing that, though.

I didn’t know anything real until we became poor.

Everything about this country is a lie.

And I feel that way about Obama.

If I’m being honest.

I’ve seen enough POC say that to feel okay saying it too.

Yesterday he said that at least George W. believed in the rule of law.

Which he didn’t.

He just believed in pretending that he did.

So.

If we’re not pretending anymore.

And this is about politics.


I’m voting for Biden.


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