Destiny Herndon-DeLaRosa

A Call For Independents

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2018 at 11:16 pm
     The other day I had a very strange realization: Growing up conservative is making me one heck of a liberal.
     Born in Texas, it’s no surprise that I was raised in a Republican household. I was brought up by people who clung to family values, sanctity of life issues, and retaining a moral fabric they felt was pulled out from under them.
     I remember my grandparents telling me that there would come a time in my life when I would be persecuted for my beliefs because they would become increasingly unpopular if our culture continued devolving in this way. They said standing up for what was right might be hard, but it would be necessary. Never in a million years would they have imagined those words coming back to bite the Republican Party though.
     I was instilled with a very strong sense of right and wrong. My moral compass demanded that my beliefs not feign with changing cultural trends. This meant I had to determine a sort of baseline for myself early on. Like many, I looked to the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I became an advocate for non-violence and human dignity. Over the years though, my party began to change, while I stood firm. I started seeing pastors and faith leaders compromise the very foundation of their religious beliefs to accommodate Republican candidates with questionable ethics. I witnessed good people making excuses for very bad behavior, all because the candidates with R’s behind their names suddenly had a shot at power. Where they would once cling to bible verses as the moral authority, now nationalism had replaced the good book and unjust policies their scriptures.
     My baseline stayed the same, however – human dignity for all, from the womb to the tomb. When I started viewing each issue through this lens, suddenly everything became very clear and at the same time much more complicated. The life of the unborn child, the most powerless member of our human family, warranted protection from violence. I knew this to be true. However, the more I unpacked why exactly I believed them worthy of human rights and protection, the more I saw how so many other living people lacked that same level of humanity – the child growing up in poverty, or those risking life and limb to escape violence in their own countries. Republicans might be standing up for the unborn person’s rights, but in many other areas, they are unwilling to humanize the already born. This is not a reason to ignore violence used against the fetus, it’s a call to protect all life as fiercely as we do that inside the womb.
     Herein came my realization that conservativism has led me in many ways to liberalism. And while I might agree with aspects of both parties, I will never be fully welcomed into either without major compromises to my baseline. That’s why I, like a growing number of my peers, have decided that being true to my convictions is more important than loyalty to a party that seems to have lost there’s.
     I don’t fit into any of the boxes neatly, so I had no choice but to become an Independent. When I first made this transition I was afraid I would feel lost without a party to cling to. But instead, I found a refreshing sense of liberation. No longer holding any political ties, this meant that gone were the days of having to excuse behavior that contradicted with my consistent life ethic. I was able to challenge both politicians and their supporters to speak and act with compassion and a respect for life across the board; to truly follow the Golden rule and authentically care about others.
     I watched as people kept regurgitated conservative and liberal news talking points that attempted to justify the unjustifiable by spinning the truth or discrediting the other side. From that came my ability to take in information from a number of conflicting sources and truly put my critical thinking skills to the test. I love being an Independent now because it means I’m always searching for the truth and finding creative solutions without being locked into some partisan box.
     Could you imagine if every person in this country left their political party tomorrow? It would take all the power away from politicians and put it back in the hands of the people they claim to be serving. Parties were built on the idea that there is power in numbers, but perhaps it’s time for that power to shift back to us. We constantly hear about the gridlock this nation is facing because we are so divided, but in one bold move, we could eliminate a huge contributing factor. Sure, we’d still have the one or two issues that we truly feel passionate about, but we’d no longer have to support other policies and practices inconsistent with our beliefs just because they are our party’s platform.
     Whether we like it or not, we’re already compromising our baselines constantly. We do this every time we justify something “our party” has done that if the other side was the culprit we’d crucify them over. What if instead, we made compromises with those on the other side in order to facilitate actual change?
     I say this all as a pro-life feminist, two labels that almost never go together and often bring out very different audiences when I travel the country speaking. To this day I have never been heckled or protested, and neither has a fight broken out in the audience during one of my debates or Q&As. Do you want to know my secret?
     I learned long ago that it’s the labels people feel animosity towards, not me. So I often start by taking them off and explaining what they actually mean to me. I tell the audience how I’m pro-life because I am the product of a teen pregnancy. I could’ve very easily been aborted myself, but my mother had the support and resources she needed to choose life. 16 years later I went on to experience my own teen pregnancy. Single, and scared, this is when I found a strength deep down inside of myself that made me a feminist. It’s also when a passion was born within me to help other women going through what my mother and I experienced. I have yet to find one person who’s become enraged by that story, because it’s real, it’s me, it’s my humanity.
     My labels though, “pro-life” and “feminist” evoke rage from most audience, especially online. Labels hurt us. “Conservative,” “Progressive,” “Pro-Choice,” “Pro-Life,” these are what divide us; break us up into tribes unwilling to work together. But there is so much common ground when we are able to see past someone’s label and get to know the real person and motivations behind those beliefs. I don’t just see the human dignity of the unborn person, I also work tirelessly to see the human dignity in the person I disagree with vehemently. I’ve yet to find an instance where that was not possible.
     This is what the land of Independents is all about. Rather than seeing one another’s party platforms, we see their baselines and seldom are they very far off from our own. We might disagree about the best way to help people, whether it should be through the government involvement or local charities, but the end goal is almost always the same whether coming from a Republican or Democrat … do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
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