I remember when I was a freshman in high school, and those copy-paste surveys on myspace were popular. I did one and posted it in a bulletin, and then got a message from one of my friends I went to church with and opened it, and she was asking me if I really believed that gay people should be married. I didn’t know what sparked it, but rather than looking stupid, I said something along the lines of “duh lol”, because I genuinely did, and still believe that. I went over my answers and realized I had missed one of the questions and had left the previous person’s yes for gay marriage in the survey. The next message that I got was this person saying I wasn’t a good member of the church because I believed that gay people should get married. I remember ignoring the message and trying to be a good Christian girl.
Fast forward to when I was 17 years old, and mirroring the political beliefs of the people around me – my family, my friends, and the people I went to church with. I remember falling in love with politics, which is something that I wasn’t expecting. I remember the summer before senior year, complaining about how I wasn’t interested in a full year of learning how the government worked and wished that we had another year of world history because, in my opinion, one year wasn’t enough to learn about the history of the world.
One of the first things that we did in class was take an ideology test, seeing where we stood politically at the beginning of the class. If you scored anywhere between 1 and 19, you were liberal, 20 was neutral, and 21 to 40 was conservative. I remember scoring a 21, which was too close to being a Democrat. It was weird to me. But little did I know, it was the beginning of me thinking for me. I was genuinely interested in how my political beliefs would change when we took the test at the end of the year.
This teacher wasn’t just my U.S. Government teacher, but I was his student aide the following period, so I got to sit through two U.S. Government classes for advanced students two periods in a row, and it was extremely interesting how it diverse the two classes were. The first class, the one I was enrolled in for Government, was primarily conservative, and the class I graded papers and assisted the teacher in, was primarily liberal. It was interesting and really good for me, to see both sides of an argument. I was seeing so many different points of view, which I believe prepared me for thinking for myself politically.
Growing up in a home that followed Christianity, went to church every Sunday, and had been going to the same church for generations, it seemed like being conservative was who I was meant to be. Being a cute, Republican, church-going girl who believed in being pro-life, who would always vote red. But things never really added up in my head. How could people who believed that saving babies was so important, but was for the death penalty? But of course, I also thought how could people who were pro-choice and okay with getting rid of pregnancies okay with not killing criminals?
During this class, I did struggle with my political beliefs. I eventually came to embrace that I wasn’t a typical Republican. I would call myself a liberal Republican, thinking I was super edgy and cool. I remember going up to my Government teacher and telling him I was missing both classes that day and telling him I was going to a Sarah Palin rally. I remember going with my mom because I was only 17 and my mom bought me McCain/Palin buttons to put on my school bag. I remember talking to the people around us and having them call me Mini Sarah Palin, saying that they had faith in my generation if there were kids like me. I remember the ridiculous things the people around me were saying about President Obama and Joe Biden were outright lies, but I would laugh and agree with them. I was caught in their echo chamber. I was caught in the far right’s lies and repeated them. I went along with how he obviously wasn’t an American citizen. I remember posting that the end was near because he was the Anti-Christ. I deeply regret these things that I did as a silly teenage girl.
At the end of the year, I ended up testing the same. I still had the same score. But I learned about how government worked. I fell in love with politics. I wanted to major in Political Science. I wanted to be a politician because I wanted to help change the world. But I still had so much to learn.
I registered as a Republican when I could register to vote, and I voted Republican because I was a good Christian girl and those were my values. I knew that I had these liberal views, but I felt like I had to be a certain way. Until I got a job working on a campaign for a Democrat, Mormon State Senator. I immediately felt comfortable and like my views finally made sense. I was talking to other people about things I agreed with, and why I agreed with them. I no longer felt the weird feeling of having to go along with something, and if I didn’t agree with something, I could discuss how I felt in an environment where it was encouraged and there weren’t arguments and nobody was claiming the other was wrong. It wasn’t a toxic environment.
I knew that I wasn’t republican. I knew I was a Democrat, and I had so much regret for the previous voting decisions I made, for the things I said about our president, and how I genuinely lied to myself, thinking that if I went along with it, it would be fine.
I’m glad that I now align myself with a party where we stand by people in need, the environment, and the future. I don’t understand how people don’t agree with progression and things like helping refugees, making things like immigration more obtainable, letting gay people get married, universal health care, and sometimes, helping people is exactly what taxes should be going to.
If there’s something you don’t like going on, I strongly encourage you to reach out to your local representatives. We vote them into office to be our voice. If you feel like they aren’t doing a good job representing your voice, or are doing something or supporting something that you can’t support, look into and research other candidates! If you’re not sure which party you align with, if any at all, there’s non-partisan funded websites that have quizzes for you to find out. My favorite is isidewith.com, and I do retake it about twice a year to gauge where I’m at because issues are always changing.
To whoever is reading this: I hope you find your voice. I hope you don’t feel like you have to believe something because your family does or your church does, or because all your friends are doing it. If you find your voice, you can make a difference, and not just your voice counts. Your opinions do, too. Because you do.