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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How to Know You’re a Crazy Liberal: Move to Florida

I’m a graduate student at the University of Florida, as some of you well know (studying science fiction and fantasy and postcolonialism and anything that fits into the cracks). The experience, thus far, has taught me a few things about what it’s like to be a graduate student and a teacher, and about myself. That last part is what this post is about.

I’ve always considered myself to be fairly moderate in my political beliefs. Yes, I am for universal healthcare (though I would be willing to settle for significant regulation if someone would bother to come up with something that makes sense) and I am also for gay rights (particularly marriage, which I could go into here, but won’t). But I don’t go so far as to think that we should tax the living hell out of the rich (although I think we should punish the rich accordingly whenever they screw up and not give them passes just because they have money). I could go on and on about my beliefs, but I think ultimately it will either paint the picture that I’m fairly liberal or at least somewhat moderate.

But all that changed when I moved to Gainesville. I was moderate in Santa Cruz, but here I am a crazy liberal. I don’t know what to make of that, except that I know I have to be very aware of my personal beliefs when it comes to teaching my classes. Contrary to popular opinion, not all liberals are out to brainwash your children and turn them into tree-hugging hippies. In fact, I don’t want to brainwash any kids (not really, anyway, though I may joke otherwise). I do, however, want to expose them to different beliefs and ideas, because if they’re going to be useful, productive members of society, they have to be capable of actually thinking about things, even if it goes against what they believe in. Living in a vacuum does these kids no good whatsoever (and if the conservative or liberal fascists who think otherwise, that’s their problem, not mine; I can’t be bothered to deal with people who think it acceptable behavior to intentionally provide their children with an exceedingly limited and biased viewpoint of the world, and then get upset when they grow up and actually want to know what the world is really like).

This is all part of the south, though, right? After all, the University of Florida was the first time I saw public praying on a university campus, and also the first time I have been accosted by born again Christians looking to save my immortal soul at school. Even my students have completely opposite views from me and I suspect that they think me remarkably crazy leftist as a result. Maybe, but I don’t know if I’m that deep in the south in the middle of a university. Such places tend to be a little more liberal than the rest of the world. So maybe I should be afraid of what actual red-ville looks like.

I suppose what this all amounts to is this: it’s a strange experience to find out you’re actually more insane than you thought you were.

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  1. Sometimes I am SO glad I live in California.

  2. Yes, well there are some things I miss about Cali...that is one of them. The conservatives are insane out here.

  3. As a present North Carolinian who grew up in California's central coast and did my undergrad at UCSC...California is not as liberal as you think, either. Santa Cruz is definitely a bastion of liberals in a state that is about 50-50 dem and repub. It's just that the dems have had the state house for a long time.

    But, yeah, as a fairly liberal independent, I know what you are experiencing. My family is gosh darn conservative pentacostals, so while I'm much less liberal than many of my friends, I'm still way too crazy for my family. But NC, surprisingly, is a lot more liberal than I thought it would be. It's all a crapshoot as to what political leanings you'll get wherever you end up. And being in a counter culture is really helpful for testing your own beliefs.

  4. Gourmez: Honestly, California is more liberal than you give it credit for. Even its republican body is split from ultra conservatives to fairly liberal conservatives.

    Honestly, the counter culture thing is making me more and more liberal, because I find myself suddenly face to face with people on the opposite end and realize how senseless their position good news is that Republicans are really great at recycling when it comes to arguments, if not anything else :P.

  5. Anonymous2:07 PM

    Speaking as a liberal Democrat, you've actually always struck me as being far more liberal than I am. I'm an atheist. I live in a blue state. I was raised by two liberal parents. But I live on the East Coast, so maybe that accounts for our differences in views...

    who is anti-death penalty, anti-abortion, pro-healthcare, anti-Iraq War, anti-Afghanistan War, anti-gun control (with some regulation), anti-religion in the science classroom (however, I think at least a rudimentary, secular understanding of the Bible and Greco-Roman Myth as literature are vital to having more than a superficial understanding of the canon of Western Literature, just as other religious texts are important to the literature of other cultures), pro-civil unions between same sex couples, and in favor of a large, tax and spend, powerlessly inefficient government.

  6. Croc: I think there's a difference between West Cost liberal and East Coast liberal. That said, I don't know if we're all that different, with the exception of certain things. But even liberals are not some magic unified party. Most different on various points.

    says the pro-death penalty, pro-abortion, pro-healthcare, anti-Iraq War, pro-Afghanistan War, pro-gun control (within reason), anti-religion in the science classroom and all public institutions outside of a broad, non-biased, non-theist method of instruction (which is impossible, but so be it), pro-marriage (anti-civil unions, because separate is not equal, sorry, you can all make that argument all you want, but I'm not a discriminatory asshole who makes distinctions between people, especially when the institution of marriage was appropriated by religion, not invented by it), and in favor of tax and spend within reason (I agree with Michael Berube that we should have a system of taxation that gives massive tax breaks to rich people who create jobs for Americans and improve American well-being, while taxing the hell out of corporations that outsource millions of American jobs and then make record profits...).

    But...that's me :P