A Crisis of Conscience

broken-world-500When I seven or eight, I saw a television commercial. The ad was meant to shock: emaciated bodies, starving children, a pleading Sally Struthers. I was inconsolable for days, sobbing into my mother’s lap. She likes to remind me I offered to forgo birthday presents to save the children. While I don’t remember that particular young girl nobility, what I do remember is being unable to understand. How could anyone watch such obvious suffering and not do anything? The very idea that there were children starving in the world, that people knew and weren’t doing anything –it blew my young mind. And it totally changed the way I saw the world around me.

It’s exactly the same way I feel now.

I’ve just returned from an extended stay in the United States during which I found myself in a crisis of conscience. Much like I felt about the world as a little girl, I felt about my homeland on this trip. The country I thought I knew is not the country I saw while I was there. My adamant liberalism, my dogged insistence of allowing all a voice, even when that voice is shouting the opposite of mine, was sorely tested on this trip. More than that however, was the realization that among my fellow Americans it is likely people I know are knowingly turning their backs on whole segments of the country in the guise of something else.

The realization didn’t just break my heart, it went a long way toward breaking me completely.

Not too long ago, when the party opposite mine took the form of differing views of finances and corporations, it was enough to agree to disagree. I could argue with plans to cut welfare. I could disagree with the idea of broader state’s rights. We could be on different sides of the fence yet I could still look them in the eye. I didn’t walk away from a conversation about social security reform feeling sick to my stomach.

The current incarnation of the Republican party is no longer simply the party of smaller government and tax breaks. It has made no bones about who it wishes to include in its idea of a ‘Great America’. In case the hateful rhetoric being splashed across television screens and front pages hasn’t made it clear, just look at what their stated, public goals are: teaching the Bible as American history, passing an amendment making sure marriage is defined as between a man and a woman, defunding Planned Parenthood, revoking a woman’s right to choice, and building a wall to keep out immigrants.


How much are you willing to pay in an attempt to make some people safe or some better off? Are you willing to vote for a party which is fighting to make so many lives negligible, which is ready and eager to strip away long-fought for rights?

If you are voting for the GOP ticket because you believe in the party’s current platform, we have nothing in common. But if you are turning a blind eye to the violent, hateful flotsam and jetsam which will be the lasting aftermath for decades? I can no longer pretend it doesn’t matter. I can no longer attribute it to  ‘differences of opinion’ when it involves stepping on the already broken backs of others for the sake of economic reform or change or because of anger at the status quo. It’s gone beyond unpalatable for me, beyond even stomach curdling.

I simply can’t, on any level, justify supporting that. Whether one is doing it as a protest vote, a vote for change, a vote for economy, or safety or any other reason. My conscience can’t and won’t respect anyone who casts a vote for that much publicly declared hatred.

To those of you who identified with the Republican party and find yourself cast adrift, I will say this: I feel for you. To the Republicans I know who no longer recognize their own party, I am truly sorry. If the party I dedicated myself to long ago was as unrecognizable as the current GOP, I would be bereft.

But I have nothing left to say to those who are pushing aside any discomfort they feel to vote for the GOP ticket this year. I have nothing to say to those willing to throw their hat into a ring of hate simply to toe the party line.

In my bubble of safe, well-fed childhood, I eventually forgot those starving, emaciated bodies. Before long I went back to longing for Christmas presents, for Barbie dolls and roller skates. I forgot, but my mother didn’t. Years later she and my father sponsored a child; all because of that little eight year old girl who cried at how broken the world was.

american-flag-glassIn my bubble of safe, educated privilege, I could turn my back and forget once again. I could forget about my fellow Americans voting for a party which is building a platform of racism, of sexism and discrimination, of rage and exclusion.

But I’m grown now. I don’t have my mother to pick up the slack. I need to do it myself. And I refuse to live with myself by pretending it is ok, by pushing it aside simply because I can.

The world may still be broken. But that doesn’t mean I have to accept those who are working to break it even more.




24 thoughts on “A Crisis of Conscience

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  1. One of the many tragedies of the modern GOP power structure is their dogged insistence on NOT doing the things many folks who identify as Republicans want. It seems as if those on the extreme fringe are the ones listened to. Common sense tells us it should be the other way, but common sense has been jettisoned.


    1. Which is exactly why I feel for my friends who identify as Republicans. We should have political discourse, we should have compromise and give and take, it’s how things work best. But right now it seems within the party there’s no give–it’s take, take, take. And you are right, they are beholden to the extremist views that, at least, anecdotally, most mainstream GOP members don’t hold. Which begs the question–who will those moderate Republicans vote for? Can they, in good faith, vote for extremist views just to toe the party line? Interestingly I think that Trump, the man, as opposed to Trump, the nominee, is pretty far center politically. I don’t think he cares about abortion or marriage equality at all–I think he’s pandering to the far right, but again, why? To me, the rise of Trump, the candidate actually spoke more about how mainstream Americans felt about social issues–none of his early campaigning was done on social issues, all immigration and trade–and yet he was amassing followers by the thousands every day. What that told me is that most mainstream Americans are done with fighting over marriage equality and abortion, that they wanted change, sure, but economically. Interesting times. Terrifying, but interesting.


      1. You absolutely right about Trump. The GOP leadership tepidly say they disagree with some of his more outrageous statements about Muslims, Mexicans, and Putin. But what really terrifies them is that they have no idea where he stands on social issues. A “Republican” President who vetoes their regressive legislation would be a horror show.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. There’s a part in the novel Frankenstein where Victor sees his creation and is horrified by it. He tries to destroy it but it’s too late the monster is now more powerful. This monster the Rs have been building since the 1980s has finally gotten away from Fox News, the GOP leaders, and has unleashed the ugliest side of America I have seen in 50 years.


    1. It’s true, and even more astounding to me is the fact that so many Republicans seem committed to the party–regardless. I mean, Jeeez, when the Bush family says uh-uh, you can probably still wave your GOP flag high and vote for someone else. It’s like, well, we think he’s dangerous but Never Hillary. Even if every thing she’s been investigated were true, she would still be less dangerous than this ticket. I looked at my mother the other day, a true Baby Boomer born right at the end of the war and said, ‘that’s it. You guys have had the best of it. It’s all over.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No, it just seems to have been legislated by them for the past 2000 years ;-). It’s time to get some women into a room to see what they can do. We’ve seen what the men can do, let’s see if we can switch it up. Clinton, Merkel, May, Sturgeon–maybe even a female UN Sec. Gen….–who knows what could happen. It may not get any better, but it would be hard to get any worse.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. You put it well. It may be the reason some of our German friends were so positively freaked out by what’s happening here, this theme of fear and hate. Was talking with Dawn this morning about the Ted Cruz thing last night, and I’ll have to say I admire him despite his worminess for using what little power/influence he may have still to sabotage something/someone he doesn’t believe in. I expected him to get in line and he didn’t, and it just reflects bad back on Trump whether a) he knew it would happen and ‘played him,’ or b) he didn’t know, and can’t even get that most simple logistical detail right. Wow.
    Sorry you feel the way you did leaving the States. I had that film over me for a time that I was here, that feeling of disorientation with it, and disassociation I guess, but that’s been gone a while now, I’m glad to be here, and no jokes about moving to Canada either. Enjoy the remains of your summer (still a lot left) there….


    1. Thanks, Bill. It was a hard time for me emotionally. Obviously I’ve been feeling this way for a while and I think everything just played right into my brain. It will work itself out. It didn’t help that I happened to read back to back books which took place during WWII, both of which again played into my fears. But I think your German friends are correct–no one thinks it’s going to happen in their backyard, then it does and then no one thinks it’ll be them, until it is. The only saving grace is that all of this ugliness (and man, that GOP platform is the definition of ugly) out in the open may just lead to some real change down the road. Not right away, but we have a lot to answer for and a lot of soul-searching to do individually and as a country. As for Cruz, I said to someone else, I can respect the act without respecting the man. Ted Cruz is worse than Trump. Trump is bluster, he will say whatever he needs to say to get where he wants to go. Cruz is a politician who actually believes what he thinks. And he’s smart. So, while I respect the act of not falling into line immensely, I draw the line at respecting him. He helped create this. Not endorsing Trump isn’t going to fix it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well put, again. I guess if you’re a worm, I’ll respect you more for being the worm you are (more courage in that) rather than pretending to be something else. Ah, we’re splitting hairs: “they’re all scorpions in a bottle.”


      2. Funny you say that. If I were home, I’d be all about local politics. I wouldn’t even lie about inhaling ;-). Do you think we’re too nice? I’m passionate for sure, but I’m not sure I’m thick-skinned enough to be a woman in politics right now. I think I would have ROCKED the suffragette movement though. I mentioned to someone the other day that these posts are my way of handcuffing myself to the railing and throwing myself under the metaphorical cart horse. Ever seriously consider politics?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. No, not me. I hope/think Hillary will rock it. I’m too nice. Not even much of a project manager, getting people to do their jobs. Not sure what I’m going to do for money but need to come September. I like your spirit, with the politics. Makes you go white fast though!


  4. I hear and feel your pain. I feel betrayed by our neighbors – some of whom I actually know – who have sold out to this iteration of that used to be a reasonable party, even though I disagreed with its platform. Just this week I’ve stopped following two trump supporter “friends” on FB. I, too, was physically sickened. I’m with you on being involved in local politics – doing something about that this weekend, and plan to write about it.


    1. Believe it or not, this took me a long time to come to terms with. I don’t take voting lightly, and I understand the strong sense of allegiance to a political party, because I have one myself. And I hope to God that if I ever find myself in a situation like the Republican base are in now I will do the right thing. Every four years the two sides preach that the end of the world is nigh, and usually there are checks and balances and the pendulum swings and things happen incrementally. But I honestly believe if Trump is elected and there is a GOP Congress that every good thing that has happened in the last 20 years will be systematically dismantled. On its own, it would be bad enough. But in context with what is happening in Europe and now with Turkey, it is disastrous. Not that anyone doubted my political leanings, but I needed to get this out there to clear my own conscience.


  5. Good piece…I can’t help finding myself wishing that the Democrat nominee was just more popular. I mean, she just HAS to win – the alternative (to the rest of the world at least) is just not bearable to think about. She’s just got so much baggage, and really, I’m terrified to admit, she’s just not that likeable. And after the recent shock in the UK, I really don’t trust any electorate. Scary times alright.


    1. I’ve actually been a HRC fan since she was FLOTUS (a rare breed, like a Pokemon, I think). To me, as a young woman, she was all I thought women could be (including not changing her last name until she caved–people forget she was only Rodham when Bill was elected). I could go on and on and on about why people find her unlikable, but at the end of the day, when we vote, you have to ask yourself, does my leader need to be likable or do they need to do a good job? And for many voters in this case, it will be a question of lesser evils. But I strongly believe (and the mainstream media backs me up) that she is being held to an impossible double standard). It’s a witch hunt now. And frankly, it’s sickening.


  6. I am somewhat confused. When was the Republican party ever a respectable party in anyone under 60 years old today’s lifetime. I mean sure they might have been a bit more amenable and likely to compromise, but as far as the issues you mention in the current platform, when were they better? Whatever you think of Trump, it is obvious that he personally is far left of any Republican president or nominee in the past 40 or so years on abortion or gay rights.


    1. They were certainly more legitimate before Bush II (I swear, all of this far right stuff started with the whole ‘family values’ bullshit). I’ve never had anything in common with the GOP. I’ve always been a left-leaning feminist, my party affiliation was a no-brainer from the time I could vote. Don’t get me wrong, I believe the Republican party has been disastrous for this country, especially in the last twelve years, but even the most conservative GOP candidates of the past were nowhere near as far-right as the platform stands now. And when I would debate policy with Republican friends, it was always a policy issue as opposed to a social one. I think people could more easily justify the party’s stance on abortion or gay/rights as ‘secondary’ while their primary focus was on the fiscal stuff. I don’t see that now, but it could be my filtered is blurred.

      Your comment about Trump being left on social issues is important, and I’ve written about/commented on that before. I don’t believe that Trump actually believes anything he is saying, he’s just spitting out soundbites to get himself elected. To be honest, I don’t think he cares all that much about marriage equality, abortion, or other issue that many of us would call hot button issues. What I found interesting was that his ‘rise’ within the party was based mostly on trade and immigration ‘promises’ –and tapping into those fears–but not social ones. To me that indicated most Americans (on both sides) seemed to have have moved on from the marriage equality/abortion rights issue. When I was voting as a young girl, abortion rights was a main issue, and while I think it is once again, to have a GOP candidate do so well without speaking about it in concrete terms was, to me, rather telling.


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