Election 2016: Keith Ellison: ‘I would love to see Elizabeth Warren’ run
Some of you have either posted or emailed to me requests for me to write about what caused me to change my views of certain issues back in the early 90s and as a result go from being a Democrat to a Republican. This post is related to that. I remembered a couple of posts about two years ago that I had written at a message board I frequent re: my feelings on abortion. I wrote them the day after I had served jury duty, the significance of which you’ll read once I repost those messages here. Keep in mind this was written two years ago, so some of the words you’ll see in there like "yesterday" etc means the day of my jury duty. I’ve edited it just a touch from the original wording so it will make more sense to people who don’t live in this area.
How far I’ve come – written 7/15/2003 by ST
There is a beautiful park right across the street from the courthouse where I served my jury duty the last two days. It’s a park I haven’t visited since 1992. Probably the biggest reason why is that I almost never have a reason to go uptown, where the park is located. And even when I *am* uptown, rarely do I pass by that park. But occasionally, I do. The reason I remember the date of the last time I went to that park is because of what I did there back in November of 1992. At that time, I was a hardcore Democrat, having joined up with the local Democratic party a few months earlier. Bill Clinton excited me (no, not that way!) and I was eager to do what I could to help get him elected that year. That day (can’t remember the exact day) in November, a lot of us arrived early at this park in order to help set up a rally for him. It was cold, but we could have cared less. We toiled until early in the evening and after finishing the set up, we (the rally minions) were allowed to stay in front of the crowd that had already amassed, meaning Bill Clinton would walk right past me on the way to the podium and on his way out, and I might get to shake his hand. Boy, I can’t tell you how honored I felt at that time.
A virtual who’s who of local Democratic politicians were present, including (former Charlotte mayor) Harvey Gantt. Suddenly, the future president arrived, days before he’d get elected – and the crowd erupted into a thunder of applause and screams of appreciation, waving their Clinton/Gore banners. You know, I don’t even remember what he said once he started talking – I just remember getting caught up in the moment. There probably wasn’t a person in that crowd who believed Bill Clinton was going to lose the election. Most of us knew we were looking at the next President of the US (which, of course, was how he was announced). And that thought in and of itself was a huge thrill. My friend who was with me took many pictures that evening – I still have those pix somewhere (can’t find ‘em now! –ST). She has one of him just seconds before he shook my hand on the way out. I used to look at that picture and get goose bumps.
One of the issues I felt most passionately about as a Democrat was the issue of abortion. I was staunchly pro. But my reasons weren’t for the "women’s rights" arguments you’d hear most Democrats argue. My reasons were what I considered, at that time, practical. I told myself, and others, on many occasions that abortion was necessary to ensure that we wouldn’t have any babies in the world born to mothers who didn’t really want them. Why bring a baby into the world when there was a likelihood that the parent wouldn’t love them? I mean, they didn’t want them in the first place, right? Now before your red flags go off, let me make this clear: I consider my self pro-life, but am not a proponent of making abortion illegal. Never have been. I am not a part of any pro-life movement, because the pro-life groups around here scare me. But I *am* pro-life.
That being said, fast forward to Monday July 14th, 2003. We were allowed to leave the courthouse early for lunch that day – it was about noon. I was waiting on the sidewalk for a friend to pick me up as I had two hours on lunch to kill. I told her I’d be waiting on the side of the street closest to the courthouse, but changed my mind soon after when I heard music coming from the park. Thinking one of the local radio stations might be doing one of their lunchtime concerts in the park, I crossed the street to get a closer look. Well, it wasn’t a local station, but a "Rally for the Unborn." I thought to myself "oh dear – what is going on here?" So I just stood there at the top of the hill from afar, and checked out the goings-on. I’d never get involved with that stuff. The rally seemed peaceful enough, but when I looked a little closer, that’s when I saw the pictures of the babies. I won’t tell you the condition the babies were in, but it was shocking – and that’s really an understatement. That’s what these types of groups really play on – shock value to pull at your emotions. And boy, did it ever pull at mine.
I had to turn away as tears welled up in my eyes. I struggled like hell not to cry at what I’d just seen. It was a very surreal (and again, I don’t think that’s quite the right word for it) moment. There I was, a pro-life Republican, standing in the same park where nearly 12 years earlier, as a staunch Democrat, I joined a crowd to show enthusiastic support for a man who was solidly pro-choice. I think part of the reason I started to cry was that I realized how far along I’d come in my views. I’m sure some of you may have moments like what I experienced yesterday – I know I’m not explaining it very well, but I felt a mixture of sadness and joy. Joy over the changes in political beliefs I made about a year or so after I voted for Bill Clinton. Sadness because I was very sad to see those pictures, and seeing them made me equally sad that the reason I used back in 1991 in support of abortion was because a baby, maybe one of the babies in the pictures I glanced at, would come into the world unloved and unwanted. Anyone reading this who is pro-choice, please don’t get offended. This is not meant to criticize anyone who is pro-choice. Most of you have valid reasons why you support it – I don’t feel mine was a valid one – like I said, mine was not so much about women’s rights as it was practicality.
No one forced me into becoming pro-life. No rabid extremists, no rally of any kind, or anything like that. It just happened over time. I did have a friend in college who helped me to change my views on it but he did it in a way that was non-intrusive and non-judgmental. And he left politics completely out of it when discussing it. It’d be nice if we could do that in our discussions sometimes: discuss issues and take the politics out of it but I realize our political affiliations are part of what shapes who we are. My friend in college also helped me to realize that the best way to convince someone they are wrong on something, or perhaps make them see a different way, was not through force feeding their opinion to you, but by explaining the pros and cons of the opinion thereby causing the person with the differing opinion to re-examine it. I have attempted to do that in the past on this issue, but didn’t have any success. Guess I don’t have his magic touch, eh? He also had the patience of a saint, something I wish I could lay claim to as well LOL
In any event, I guess you could say I was struck with a profound sense of who I am yesterday while standing in that park silently crying – realizing how far along I’d come in my life since that cold day in the park in November of 1991 – and also at the same time, knowing my journey is far from over. And this is by far not just about abortion, but about my beliefs in general. Anyone who’s experienced such a change, whether it be from Democrat to Republican or vice versa, might know what I’m talking about here. My political beliefs don’t define me totally, but they do help shape me into the kind of person I am. Perhaps in another ten years I’ll be standing in that same park and once again get the chance to reflect on who I was, where I am, and where I’m going.
We never stop growing.