Sunday, November 20, 2011

No Longer The Only Conservative In The Room

I'm pretty conservative. To those who really know me, that statement is not all that surprising. Not only am I politically conservative, but this trait has leaked into other facets of my life. For example, I don't believe people should wear jeans to church. If we have a girl, she will not sport a bikini at 6 years old (or 8, 10, 12...) Whenever Rob and I go to casinos in Atlantic City, we never bring more than $50. I tend to shy away from risky or dangerous situations and I don't indulge or splurge very often. My mom claims I have been this way since I was a toddler. Funny how the more things (or people) change, the more they stay the same.

As a public school teacher in New Jersey, I frequently found myself in the minority when it came to beliefs and viewpoints, namely those political in nature. When asked, I would not lie, but I would also never voluntarily bring up my thoughts on controversial issues. I was not tenured and didn't want to rock the boat. Looking back, I probably should have spoken up more. Although I felt completely alone in my thinking, I could not have been the only conservative teacher at my school. Perhaps the others were also intimidated or afraid to stir the pot...but we could've leaned on each other for support and maybe our collective voice would've been better received. Oh well, live and learn.

Fast forward to the present day and here I am living in Kentucky. On the political scale, New Jersey and Kentucky are at opposite ends and I have witnessed these differences numerous times since moving here over the summer. On Friday, I spent a few hours with a new friend who admitted that she's never met a person who's gay. Never. I was shocked...never at school, work, among family or friends, on the street...NEVER??!! Wow. I guess people were more comfortable coming out of the closet in New Jersey? Whatever the case, I had always just assumed that everybody knew someone who was gay.

The truth is, I don't really have an "anything goes" attitude about life. I don't do something simply because it "feels right." I'm sure this has confused and even pissed off some people along the way but like it or not, this is Chanel down to the core. When it comes to education, there are a few topics that don't sit well with me. Exposing my kids to books that undermine the sanctity of marriage doesn't float my boat. What is so wrong with teaching kids that marriage is sacred and should not be taken lightly? I feel like books with strong husband and wife roles are few and far between anymore. Yes, I realize the divorce rate is high and that the media is chalk-full of couples who marry on a whim and split days later. Does that mean we just throw in the towel and stop teaching our children about the value of marriage? No!

What about sex education in elementary school? I've been involved in a variety of discussions on this topic and the opposing viewpoint is usually something like, "Well, it's good to arm them with knowledge because they're going to do it anyway and might as well know how to protect themselves." Why must we assume that every kid is "going to do it anyway"? I know plenty who did not and have not. What about them? I believe we rob children of their childhood and overall innocence when we fill their heads with information about condoms, pills, pregnancy tests, sexually transmitted diseases, and free clinics who don't require parental permission. It is my sincere hope that when my kids are eight years old, their worries will consist of who they'll sit next to on the bus, what dessert they'll choose after dinner, and which friends they'll play kickball with after school. There is plenty of time to worry about the other stuff but you only experience childhood once.

I understand that the world has changed and we are no longer raising children in the 1940's but does that mean I have to stand by and watch my childrens' blankets of innocence be ripped out from underneath them? Why must they be forced to grow up so quickly?

The good news is that I look around at my new surroundings, I realize I am among people of a similar mindset when it comes to education, politics, child-rearing, and host of other subjects. In fact, I probably come across as somewhat liberal because of my background and experiences in the Northeast. It feels freeing, in a sense to be understood and have my opinions not only tolerated but accepted. Will I refuse to be in the company of someone who does not share my viewpoints? Absolutely not. That has neven been, nor will ever be, the case. After all, how could anyone grow if never exposed to differences or change? He couldn't. She couldn't.

I have to wonder, though, how long it will take for me to process the fact that, for the first time, I am not the only Conservative in the room.