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Stephanie Rayburn Headshot

Growing Into Political Maturity

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I grew up Republican. My whole family is Republican. I grew up around my grandparents hearing slurs like "liberal idiots" and "lazy welfare recipients" even at the same time that they demonstrated how to give generously to those who need it. I listened to Rush Limbaugh -- admired him even because I was young and impressionable and I didn't yet know about
how adults twist the truth for their personal benefit (especially when it comes to being any kind of paid talk-show host -- fear sells).

In the 1992 election, I participated in Kids Voting USA. Studied the candidates. Made decisions. Expressed to a family member which candidate I wanted to vote for and was told "But Stephanie! He's a DEMOCRAT!" Scandal. I was clearly not good enough if I was going to betray my family by voting against their wishes. And it didn't even count because it was a KIDS VOTE.

As a kid I cared about people and animals and art and the environment. I didn't care what religion a person was or how much money they had. I was not disposed to thinking the worst of large groups of people.

When I went to CSU as a science major, my grandmother openly worried they would "brain-wash" me and turn me into a liberal. I told her science professors weren't interested in swaying political beliefs, which in my actual experience was almost completely accurate. I registered as a Republican when I was 18, as if it was my religious affiliation. That's just what we WERE. We were Republicans.

I studied anatomy and physiology and neurology and ecology and chemistry and physics and genetics. I was not brain washed. I paid attention. To the wars and the insane spending on more and more war with less and less taxpayer funding. To the things politicians who were making policy in our country said about science as if they were the ones with the Ph.D.s.

I finished school and lost my health insurance and paid out the nose for catastrophic-only insurance and then independent high-deductible insurance that the insurance company was willing to give me even though I had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia syndrome that I didn't need treatment for. I would have to pay a bunch extra because of the FMS even though they wouldn't cover anything related to it. I avoided going to the doctor for any reason. My male life-partner and I got married, but our female friend and her female partner only got "married" even though they loved each other the same.

I had the opportunity to notice the world through the lens of my own mind instead of the one my family had held up for me. I met a bunch of liberals. None of them were idiots, and most of them didn't need "damn" put in front of their names. I switched to Independent. I paid attention to the candidates and the issues. I voted almost entirely for Democrats, but I didn't tell anybody that the L-word might possibly apply to me. I tried to make myself think like a conservative so I would still belong to my family. I tried.

In 2008, there was one particular candidate running who I already knew something about because of his utter kindness and humanity. He talked in a way that honored the nuances of America. We are a blend of many views and many people. I was excited he was running. I registered as Democrat so I could vote for him in the primary. I voted for him in the election not because he was the candidate who was running, but because of the man he was. There was something honorable and kind in him that I hadn't yet seen in politics since I had been old enough to pay attention.

I'm still paying attention. I'm still voting for this man. He is good and kind and courageous, and even though he stepped into a terrible, awful situation in America, he has led us forward and through it while still honoring who we are as people. Whatever bad things have been said about him, he is not guilty of dehumanizing whole groups of Americans. He still cares about the PEOPLE of America, and I see a man who has done his best in an extraordinarily difficult economic time and in an extremely vitriolic political climate where his colleagues in both parties have fought without end and let it keep them from their work serving the country. Still we have moved forward in providing greater care for the people of our nation.

I am grateful to have moved beyond the blinders of my family's politics. I am grateful to know my own mind, one that is progressive and liberal, and that neither of those are dirty words (and neither is conservative, for the record). It is a way that I see works to move our country forward, to make PROGRESS instead of REGRESS. We as a country may make shifts in our direction from time to time that may be more liberal at times and more conservative at times, but it is always forward. There is no time to go backward (which would require a LOT of blinders to the way things really used to be and all the good things that have happened for our people since then -- Pleasantville is a myth). On and up. That is the way we are going, and I still think that kind-hearted, compassionate man is the best one to get us through the next leg of the journey. I will vote for Barack Obama again, and I hope you will too (but I won't call you names if you don't).

Also, I am not dirty, damned, or an idiot. I am liberal because I believe the success of our nation can be liberally applied to all our people instead of conserved for a select few and the corporations. I believe that holding up those among us who need the most help makes us all better humans and better Americans.

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