Thursday, April 17, 2008

Shifting Positions



Liberal or Conservative?


If you are like me, you are old. I turned 51 this year. Geezzz, AARP and Social Security are just around the corner. The years have taught me a lot. What they have taught me more than anything else is exactly how much I don't know. Life is a learning process and some of us learn pretty slowly.

When I was a child (which means under the age of 25) I thought I knew everything. Bravado and the self assurance of youth makes us think we are omnipotent and indestructible. Now at the age of 51, I 'think' I know about 80% of things, but I could be wrong.

Along the way I have made the transition from Liberal to Conservative and at present I am probably somewhere between the two. I suppose that puts me squarely in the middle of the bell curve of the American statistical landscape.

When I was young, carefree and wandering the halls of higher education I thought that individual rights were obvious. We should all be able to do what ever we want. Drugs, money and sexual freedom were our birthright. We wanted it all and there shouldn't be any laws to impede us.

There shouldn't be a war on drugs, there should be taxation and legalization. Substance abuse was a victim-less crime. What ever folks do in the privacy of their own home shouldn't be any of the government's business. Government should be small, and opportunity should be endless.

Then I left college and reality set in.

My first job was as an insurance claims adjuster. This job meant I had to go to people's houses and interact with them. I looked at their damaged cars, their burned out sheds and the locations where their neighbors had slipped and hit their head.

Many of these people were dysfunctional alcoholics. They were living in a drunken stupor, spending their days in curtained rooms, with a cheap bottle of vodka waiting for their next welfare check. They are basically consumed by past demons and waiting to die. They are victims of their own guilt and frailty.

After five years I got sick of the claims business and got a job in government. This career path was as an insurance investigator with the State of Arizona. This job opened up a whole new set of wonders regarding the public mindset. Most importantly, it showed me the legion of the mentally ill.

It seems that government attracts people with mental illness. They tend to see government as a maternal figure and expect it to do things for them. Much of my time as an insurance investigator was taken up with hour long phone calls from consumers trying to convince me that Allstate Insurance was spying on them from a van parked across the street (no joke, this was an actual phone call). After one such nut-case left a jar of gasoline at the front desk for me (as evidence in an insurance claim) I decided that it was time to move on.

My current job deals with the auditing of children who are in Foster Care. I have worn many hats in my current position, one of which was actually participating in the hands-on audits of the cases. During these reviews I got to interact with the parents of many of the children who are wards of the state.

After the interviews, it is no wonder that the state took away their children. Most of these parents are drug addicts. It isn't rocket science that if you are doing meth and have a 2 year old daughter, getting more meth is more important than getting food for your child. Most of these parents feign a desire to have their children returned to them, but in the end they choose the drugs over their offspring.

Seems that after all this 'learning', I am not quite as liberal as I once thought. There are no victim-less crimes. The victims are ourselves, our neighbors and our children. If government does not step in once in a while, too many drunken people wander into oncoming traffic, the mentally ill fall asleep on railroad tracks or Meth-Mom accidentally drowns her children.

I can't make up my mind if I want to live in a Right-Wing Dictatorship or a Liberal Welfare State these days. Based on the current election trends, it appears that most Americans can't make up their minds either.