I remember going to a political rally with my grandfather and uncles when I was a child in Mexico. They marched for a really long distance and then rallied at the town square against the politicians in power. I didn’t get the grasp of it all then. In time, I came to understand that they were part of the PAN (National Action Party) in Mexico, a political party that stood in direct opposition to the PRI (Revolutionary Institutional Party). The PRI had dominated Mexican politics for decades. The PRI grip on power did not break until the late 1990’s, culminating with Vicente Fox winning the Mexican Presidential Election of 2000. By that time, my grandfather had passed away.
At my grandfather’s funeral, several top-ranking members of the PAN came to pay their respects to him. They draped the party flag over his coffin and stood in an honor guard for several minutes. They thanked my grandmother for his service to the party. A few days later, I asked my dad what that was all about. Dad said that my grandfather, his father, was very active in politics. He was often seen policing the polling stations, taking people to and from rallies, and meeting at the state headquarters of PAN to plan their electoral strategies. I was a bit surprised at all of this since grandpa was a very quiet and reserved man. I don’t remember ever seeing him angry in the 16+ years that I got to know him.
Then again, you don’t need to be angry to be dissatisfied with the politics of your day. I’m kind of glad for that, actually. It’s the very vociferous, angry people in Mexico that got killed or disappeared during the darkest days of the PRI’s rule. I’m sure grandpa was angry, but I’m sure he was smart about it. (Dad once told me that my grandfather had almost cried in frustration when one of the few PAN senators had proposed something and the PRI senators just laughed.) I’m also sure that he was fair about it.
My father, on the other hand, is nothing but disillusioned with politics. He wants nothing to do with them, won’t give his opinion about them in public, and will complain about politicians in private. (He says that this is a good strategy for someone who owns their own business like he does, and I agree.) He used to go with my grandfather to police the polls, but that all ended when grandpa passed away. Since then, dad has been very reserved in his activism. He stands in contrast to my mother. Mom is pro-everything and anti-almost everything. That woman has an opinion and backs it up by force, if necessary, and with plenty of words. I shudder at the thought of ever debating her on anything.
So that’s my family history of political views and activism. Once we came to the States, my political views have been diverse and very much guided by my stage of maturity and position in life. You’ll probably be shocked to read that I listened to Rush Limbaugh almost every day when I was in college and well after that. You might also be shocked to read that I used to agree with him on many things. One time, he read from an essay by Michael Crichton on why global climate change was not a real thing… And I agreed!
Well, I agreed for a couple of hours. When I got home that afternoon, after listening to Rush on the drive there, I looked up information on climate change. I read the literature and “did my own research.” It was then that I came to the conclusion that, as a scientist, I could not deny the evidence that the climate is changing and that we are affecting it with our pollution of the environment. As a human being, however, I didn’t want climate change to be true. I wanted to continue to burn fossil fuels forever and life as if the things I did in life did not affect others. I was being selfish.
Then I went to school to be an epidemiologist and realized even more that all the evidence points to the fact that what I do here and now affects people on the other side of the world, whether I like it or not. I also came to the realization that people who made, say, 30 million dollars a year could afford to pay a little more in taxes… Much to the horror of some very conservative people I used to work with. In their opinion, I was being turned into a “Liberal” by going to school and getting my master’s degree in public health.
But it’s not about being a Liberal or a Conservative. (I’ve always been in-between, if you believe my political compass results.) It’s about seeing what is right and what is wrong, and doing the things that have been shown to work or have the best opportunity for working. In some cases, these “things that must be done” are unpalatable to one group or another, or both… But they need to be done, and there are those among us who are willing to do them. (Long live the troublemakers.) So, when I propose that this or that be done, some will see me as a Liberal, while others will see me as a conservative. I’m neither:
Okay, I’m a little like Gandhi:
Even with that graph up there you can see that people really do differ in their political views, even when they’re labeled as “leftist” or “fascist” or whatever. Can we get along? Well, maybe, but I find it hard to get along with someone like Adolf up there, or Joseph Stalin… Thatcher? Well…
This leads me to the final section of this post and to explain the title of it. There are people in this world who are completely against the “establishment,” regardless of what that establishment is. I’d almost classify my father into that group, but he pays taxes and votes. I’m talking about the people who see someone like President Obama and have a severe reaction to him. Kind of like this:
These are the people you see on message boards and in commenting sections, complaining about whatever the story is about and blaming the government (and, because it’s 2013, they blame Obama). In fact, nothing, absolutely nothing, can happen (in their view) without the government being involved and being guilty of doing it. The terrorist attacks on 9/11/01? It was the government… Either the government ordered the attacks or didn’t do anything to prevent them. Hurricane Katrina? Same thing: The government failed to act. The recent mass shootings? The government.
What’s funny about most of those people is that they are quick to point to the US Constitution when they demand justice or freedom, all the while ignoring that it is that document and subsequent social pact which created “the government.” Without the restrictions that have come about from having a government, we wouldn’t have any of the freedoms that we enjoy. We’d be a banana republic… Talk about a government that can’t get anything right. And I sometimes try to point this out to people by explaining my point of view, where I used to live in a very much authoritarian, one-party country. I also saw that country change into a democracy with a lot of troubles. But it changed. And it did so for the better.
But, many times, I end up tired and frustrated because these people hold firm to their beliefs that the government is evil, and that it doesn’t matter who is in power, nothing is getting done right. I should have learned by now.
Silly hope in humanity.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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