The Democrat, Part I: BYU

I do not assume my experiences are universal, nor do I speak for all feminists, Democrats, or Mormons. As my editor-in-chief taught me, “Ima do me; you do you.”

I’m not quite sure how to explain that my military father and stay-at-home mother managed to spawn a Democrat, other than to reference my previous post about how they spawned a feminist–they taught me correct principles and let me govern myself. No, the bigger question that most of my friends have is this: “How can you be Democrat AND Mormon?”

People tend to assume my political ideologies once they learn I’m a Democrat. I must be an anti-gun, pro-abortion, anti-abstinence, pro-gay marriage, pro-handing-out-needles-to-heroin-addict crazy person. But just like many Republicans are not pro-gun, anti-abortion, pro-abstinence, anti-gay marriage, pro-letting-the-poor-die-in-the-nearest-ditch, I am not the sum of any assumptions.

So let me try to explain why and how I became a Democrat…

The first time I started to feel the liberal stirrings of my heart was in my white Reliant K car, on River Road in Great Falls, Montana on January 17, 1991. U.S. SCUD missiles started to rain in Iraq earlier that day, and as I drove home from my boyfriend’s house and listened to NPR’s coverage of the invasion, I was angry.

Angry at what was bound to happen to our tiny Air Force base, since at the time it housed a refueling wing. Angry that President Bush felt this was his only option. When is war ever a good idea? How on earth was Iraq a threat to national security (questions I asked 12 years later, by the way)? But the next day, I was also angry at the kids who were outspoken and somewhat insensitive to those of us with military parents who would soon be gone. It was the first (and not the last) time I felt conflicted in my politics. 

Eight months later, I was at BYU and for the first time in my life, was able to really talk about politics in a relatively safe space–especially once I declared Political Science as my minor–and figure out exactly what I believed was important to me. And though BYU is typically a hotbed of conservatism, two professors indirectly influenced me to be more secure with my liberal leanings.

My Comp Theory professor encouraged me to research The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I read literary criticism about the danger of the silent majority and how women can start revolutions. My French professor, a Georgetown alum, was not LDS and once mentioned how important our evaluations of him were. He was a great teacher, but he was legitimately concerned that his faith would somehow render him incompetent. That just felt wrong to me. Good teaching is good teaching, regardless of faith. 

And for good or ill, I saw conservatism at BYU as exclusionary, not inclusive. I sought out opportunities to explore those initial liberal stirrings: International Cinema films (where I saw Jules et Jim, Cinema Paradiso, Delicatessen, and Au Revoir Les Enfants), political lectures with a variety of faculty members–not all of whom were conservative.

That’s how it started. At BYU, of all places, I started to break away from the conservative politics of my parents. 

Part II tomorrow. Or Thursday, depending on how much work I get done…

2 thoughts on “The Democrat, Part I: BYU

  1. Oh how I WISH I still lived in Great Falls! I loved it there, but my family moved to Nebraska in 1995, and we've called it home ever since (though I tend to bounce around…I always end up back here…)

    River Road was my little sanctuary. All those places to park along the Missouri River…I filled notebooks with teenage ramblings sitting near that river. 🙂

    Thanks for stopping by my blog!


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