My Epic Quest to Find a Republican
By Kate, age 15, PennsylvaniaThe neighborhood I come from is extremely hippieish.
Most of my neighbors are lesbian Reconstructionist Jews with adopted children from developing countries. They attend weekly yoga classes, listen to NPR constantly, and adorn their cars with bumper stickers that say things like "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." My parents' friends refuse to consume anything but fair-trade coffee, organic soy milk, and vegan cheese, as well as a wide variety of tofu. Although the rare few occasionally indulge in self-deprecating humor, most take themselves and the wide variety of causes they are championing very seriously.
When I was little, I was sent to a supposedly "diverse" Quaker school in a neighborhood close to mine. About half the kids were white and half were African-American, which I suppose seemed diverse. However, although the class was racially pretty divided, there were literally no Republicans in the entire school. The most right-wing of the bunch were the Super-Christians, who called stupid things "gay". Those children were also Democrats; they could not have been happier when Obama was elected.
I didn't actually meet a Republican until I was ten or eleven. My parents sent me to a day camp at a snobby private school in a rich suburb. Since I'm physically incapable of participating in any athletic activity, I didn't fit in there. I had exactly two friends. One of them, Hannah, was almost as liberal as me. The other one, Johnny, was a chubby, theater-loving, gay nerd. (I thought he was gay even then, even though he hadn't come out yet.) He was also a Republican, which I thought was ironic. Back then I didn't know of any gay Republicans, because I thought they were homophobic.
Johnny's parents belonged to a country club, which I found fascinating. I often quizzed him about what went on at the country club, because I thought country clubs were illicit right-wing organizations. Sadly, I was forced to confront the truth: Johnny's country club was a fancy version of the YMCA (where I took swimming lessons). Still, I interrogated Johnny about every aspect of his political views, even though, being eight years old, he didn't actually have any.
My quest to have an intelligent political discussion with an actual, fact-knowing Republican was not completed until I went to nerd camp after eighth grade. It was one of those insanely nerdy camps where you have to take the SATs to attend, and everyone had a pretty thorough knowledge of politics (at least, most of them knew who George Bush was). It was at this camp that I finally found some Republicans, who luckily did not judge me within two seconds of our meeting for asking them about their political views.
I was surprised to find that I actually agreed with them on some points, despite the fact that they were Republicans. I'm less liberal than I was before going to this camp, because I had never been exposed to different views. For example, I had always been very pro-choice. My mom sends checks to Planned Parenthood every year. Now, however, I'm more pro-life, although I still think everyone should have the right to an abortion, I recognize now that it is a very serious decision, and think that women should undergo a psychiatric evaluation before undergoing the procedure. Still, I find the practice of protesting outside abortion clinics and harassing women entering Planned Parenthood barbaric. Any pro-life protests should be directed toward a government official, not innocent women.
I'm still a teenager, and all of my views may change in the future. No matter what, I resolve to keep an open mind about the political views and lifestyles of everyone I meet. I know that all of my original liberal leanings are due to my background; if I had grown up in a right-wing household, I would have a conservative bias. Therefore, I try not to judge people's characters based on their views. They might have a justified reason for believing what they believe, and it is not up to me to enlighten them or change their minds.