Wichita, Kansas – During the election and since, much discussion has taken place about the “extremes” on either side of the political divide. The more people discuss extremism, the more convinced I am that I’m an extremist—an unapologetic extremist.
I have never understood being middle of the road on issues, especially the issues I care about. For example, I knew by the time I was 17 that I opposed war. That was the year I read John Hershey’s Hiroshima, the account of the U.S. bombing of that city. What happened in that city and in Nagasaki was enough to turn me against war forever. During that time, people were marching against nuclear weapons, and I agreed that having enough firepower to destroy the earth several times was insane. I still think that to this day.
I marched against the Vietnam War in the late ‘60s and I am still against war. A friend asked me once if I thought we should have gone to war against Hitler. By the time we entered World War II, it was too late to do anything else. However, I believe that our government was too sympathetic to him when he first took power—after all, Germany needed a strong man to pull it out of its economic depression. He was considered a hero by men such as Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh.
When feminists started agitating for legal abortion in the ‘60s and ‘70s, I joined the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. I have never backed away from my stance that women should be the decision-makers when it comes to reproduction. Abortion was not criminalized in America until the 19th century, when doctors decided that midwifes had too much power. Up until that time, midwives handled everything related to pregnancy and childbirth, including abortion. Doctors pushed for criminalization of the procedure, thus leaving midwives out of the loop and leaving women to break the law if they wanted to control their own bodies. It’s ironic that doctors were in forefront of those who pushed for legalization in the ‘60s and ‘70s, probably because they were having the repair the results of back alley abortions.
I have always thought women should have equal rights with men. I was fortunate enough to have parents who thought I was capable of doing anything I wanted, and I grew up with that attitude. My dad even wanted me to follow in his footsteps and become a truck driver. I think he might have been joking, and I had no interest in driving a truck anyway, but I do know women who made a career out of driving a truck.
As a teen growing up in southeast Kansas, I had little knowledge of what it meant to be “gay” or “queer,” or whatever homosexuals and lesbians were called at the time. For some reason, I knew I didn’t want to be “queer,” but I wasn’t sure why. For years, I had little contact with gays and lesbians—that I knew about anyway. Then came the ‘70s with the Stonewall Riots. It was during that decade that I met my friend Thomas Ludwig when he came to teach at the high school where I taught. I think about his sexual orientation. I just thought he was a nice, funny guy. Then when I saw him a few years later, it took me about three seconds to realize he was gay. He and I resumed our friendship and he shared with me what it meant to be gay in a country that didn’t recognize his right to marry the person he loved. He died a few years ago, and when his lover gave the eulogy for Thomas, I knew then that I would never turn my back on gay people or their rights again. I’m a member of Kansas Equality Coalition, a group that fights for gay rights in Kansas. It is wrong to deny people rights that should belong to all citizens of this country, rights that straight people take for granted.
I also believe in the welfare state, social security, and Medicare. If that makes me a radical, then so be it. America is the richest country in the world and we should be able to take care of the most vulnerable among us. After all, we spend trillions on the military, a good deal of which is in a black budget that we never know about. Surely we can afford to help the poverty-stricken, make sure our senior citizens are able to support themselves and take care of their medical needs, and take care of the disabled. I realize that plan is not in the playbook of many so-called moderates, but as an extremist, I believe the basic duty of government is to take care of its citizens.
I also support the Affordable Health Care Act. Actually, what I support is Medicare for All, a plan for all citizens that is as simple as the plan that senior citizens have. When the Republicans accused President Barack Obama of creating “death panels,” I had to laugh. Republicans who oppose making sure all Americans get health care are the personification of death panels. If people have health insurance provided by their workplace, they’re fortunate. Otherwise, they either pay for health care out of pocket, which most people cannot afford. That means they get to face the death panel. This will probably happen after they wear out your welcome at the local emergency room.
While I’m not a Socialist, mainly because I do like owning my own property, I believe government entities, rather than private companies, are better at managing certain public services. These include schools, prisons, city services, county services, and anything else that requires service to numbers of citizens. At one time in America, utilities were public. Now many of them have been privatized, with the result being that rates have to be raised to make sure stockholders get their money.
I also believe we must clean up our environment and do something to ease global warming. I don’t care if what we do causes businesses to lose some profit. Business owners can adapt and make a whole lot more money by developing clean energy. The problem is, too many people, including our current 4th District representative, Mike Pompeo, make too much money from oil. Why should people like him adapt if they don’t have to? He won’t be around when the earth turns into a dust bowl. Oh, wait. Maybe he will, if what’s going on in Kansas right now is any indication of things to come. Let’s not even mention the devastation caused by Sandy just before the Nov. 6 election.
No, I am not a moderate. When a Wichita Eagle editorial editor writes that, “We should all come to the middle on abortion,” I ask myself how that can be. Do we tell half the women seeking abortions that they are free to have the procedure and tell the other half they lost out this time? Do we go back to a time when a woman seeking an abortion had to explain to a panel of citizens why she wanted an abortion? Do we let women die, as the woman did recently in Ireland, rather than perform a late-term abortion? If you read the Roe v. Wade decision, you will see that the moderate position is already part of Roe v. Wade.
In some things, there are no halfway measures. For me, moderation is no way to face the world. We tried moderation when the slaves were freed. However, it took years of radical action to give minorities the civil rights they deserved as full citizens of this country. Those rights were not gained by moderate people. They were gained by people who bled and died.
Moderation seldom gains anything for anybody.