>There used to be a time in my life when I would give anything in the world to hear my family discuss politics. I looked forward to the day when a topic would arise and I wouldn’t be the only one speaking and being told to stay quiet. Lately though, my family has, in fact, become a bit more aware of politics and conversations at the dinner table have become more interesting. The question though is, when did they become right-wing nut jobs?

This is the question I have been asking myself for the last three to four hours. Normally, listening to the other side spew disgusting diatribes is something I find entertaining. Keeps me on my toes and I can actually feel my personal sense of passion for my progressive philosophy grow inside of me. Today, however, those negative views were not from your typical right-wing talk radio hosts, but from my own family.

There are two issues that have really been killing me at the local level since the legislative session began here in New Mexico two weeks ago. The first is Governor Susana Martinez’ commitment to repealing a law that allows undocumented driver’s access to driver’s licenses and the second, is a bill introduced by my former boss, which states that all those applying for unemployment benefits will be drug tested. *gasp*

Honestly, I used to think of New Mexico politics as somewhat progressive. I mean, c’mon! We are one of only a few states that allows undocumented people to get driver’s licenses. This is no longer the case. Tonight was no exception.

My family got together this afternoon for a mini family reunion (If you know my family though, these reunions are constant and quite exhausting) Not sure why I thought this, but I knew something political was going to come up tonight during this little family get-together. I mean, as a political junkie and policy wonk, it’s encouraging to see so much discussion over politics. The difference however, is that my family is not on my side when it comes to my political philosophy, and as far from the Left as I would have liked.

For example, the conversation came up when “someone” we know, who happens to be on welfare, was being discussed (gossip in small towns) First off, (and let me get this off my chest) I hate when someone is attempting to vocalize their beliefs on a certain issue based on “someone” they know, with the certainty that everyone falls into this category. In this case, this “someone,” like all other welfare recipients, takes advantage of the system AND…should all be drug tested! Mind you, I had a mouthful of Coca-Cola in my mouth the instant this issue sprung up. Drug testing welfare recipients? Well why not? They’re all driving around in Cadillac’s, so they must be involved in drugs and should be tested. Better yet, they should be forced to tie their tubes so no further children are conceived. All this coming from die-hard Catholics, who are of course…pro-life. Ah, irony.

First and foremost, all American students should be forced to read the United States Constitution because their is this little thing called our 4th amendment right, which specifically “guards against unreasonable searches and seizures when the searched party has a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” I’m no constitutional lawyer or anything, but this sounds pretty important. No you can’t force anyone to take a drug test for unemployment benefits or welfare checks! Why? Because it’s against your civil rights!!! When did we get to this place? When did we, as a collective, decide that the constitution no longer mattered? Sure, let’s tie up all women’s reproductive organs to stop procreation! It’ll solve all of our problems. What’s worse, one family member sarcastically implied that we couldn’t do it because…boo hoo…”civil rights”

Sarcasm aside, this is utterly ridiculous. There was a reason for our constitution and I like knowing that it is there to protect me. Yes, there are those few (not all) few…who yes, do take advantage of the system but you do not punish an entire group of people for the few who have lived in this cycle for far too long and have no way out. How about we find solutions to the drug problem and/or increase opportunities for those who struggle with drugs? Why criminalize them when this is a public health issue? The conversations held this afternoon was devastating to me because I couldn’t understand how a family, who has had its struggles but survived, can look down on someone and condemn them the way millions of other conservative American’s do? When did this country become so judgmental? F***!! When did my family become so self-righteous?

Not much time later, another family member was discussing his support for repealing the law allowing undocumented people to get driver’s license. This coming from someone who’s own spouse migrated to this country illegally and now has the benefits of a United States citizen. Then again, these are the same folks that claim that they became legal the “right” way…if there is such a thing under our current immigration system.

I’m encouraged by the degree of political discussion taking place within my family, yet disheartened by the fact that they fall for the same misinformation millions of others do every day listening to Rush Limbaugh and/or Glenn Beck. People defend their beliefs on bogus claims everyday. This morning, after breakfast, a truck parked outside of the restaurant we were eating at had a display of the confederate flag. Jokingly, my nephew pointed out that it was about tradition, not racism. But is it? When you look at poverty and drug use, those affected are people of color. When will people finally realize that it isn’t just coincidence that people fall into these cycles? This has been going on for generations upon generations. When only a small percentage of the country’s population is salivating in wealth and the other 98% are fighting for what remains, there is a problem.

When legislation is introduced, much like drug testing unemployment benefactors or welfare recipients, you know we’ve reached a point in our domestic policy that is not at all reasonable. When the likes of Orin Hatch from Utah are legitimized and taken into account, it goes to show how far behind we are moving as a country.

When President Obama asked us last week to be “great,” his idealism was encouraging, but the idea made me the pessimist that I hate. Why do I feel like the America JFK spoke to in 1960 is still not that America in 2011? Could it be that we’re just falling further behind? I’d like to think that we’re not, but after the conversations I witnessed this afternoon, I’m not so sure. Will we ever have that “Sputnik” moment?

I hate to be such a debbie downer…(that’s my middle sister’s job) but,I can’t be wrong on this, can I? That’s the million dollar question.

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  1. February 4, 2011 at 9:23 PM

    >I hear ya regarding the family discussions. I'm from a staunchly Democratic family, working-class background. But as I have seen my folks age, I see them falling prey to the crazy email and TV broadcasts that cater to fear. Trying to shake those opinions, once formed, is turning out to be challenging at best. I'm telling ya, Gel, it's making me a bit crazy. I share your concerns about whether we have, as a nation, reached our potential, our promise. i think it's a cyclical thing – we get close, and before you know it, we lapse back. Seems it's to the advantage of the rich to keep us divided…God forbid the people should have a united front and accomplish something for the middle class! Great post, as always. Keep fighting the good fight, Girlfriend.

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