Ben’s Political / Philosophical Foundation – Part 1

Wow, what an election year, am I right? I don’t know that, in my 40 years of life (22 as a voting American citizen), that I have seen quite the spectacle that 2016 is providing us. Truth be told, it’s unlike anything I’ve seen, and I suspect even my own parents have seen. And one of the more striking things I’ve seen about this election is just how many people are quick to suggest that both presidential nominees are equal, in some ways, in their awfulness.

That, I have to say, is complete and utter bullshit.

I have to lay a foundation, however, before I make this case. See, I am not only voting against Trump (which I most certainly am), but I am voting for Clinton. As a supporter of Bernie Sanders (to the point where I donated a decent amount of money to his campaign), I still am also a supporter of Clinton. I believe that she will, at worst, be a status quo Democratic politician. And this is okay. Is it the liberal utopia where health care, welfare, living wage, etc., is provided for all? No. But it’s damn near closer to that than Trump (or really, any of the potential Republican candidates) would provide. In fact, a Republican-led executive branch, regardless of who leads it, is terrible for the good of the nation as a whole.

I’m getting ahead of myself: I have to establish that foundation first, like I said.

So let’s start at the beginning.

I was initially raised on food stamps.

As a child, while my father was getting his PhD, our family had very little money. It seems that even in the late 1970s, an advanced education made it very difficult to raise a family. Yet while my dad was working toward getting his PhD and my mother was working on a Masters Degree in – I believe – early childhood development, bills were still due. Rent had to be paid. Food had to be provided for three. My sister would eventually have the luxury of growing up in a house with stable income, but I got to be raised in part on the teat of government welfare. I believe that I am fortunate that this beginning both made me realize the value of working hard for one’s American dream, while also making me aware that one can’t always do that without a little help. My parents got help: from the government in terms of food stamps and from friends and family in terms of inexpensive places to live. (And bear in mind, I am also quite aware of how my father and mother – both straight, white Americans – were beneficiaries of privilege in that they could work toward this better future that I was able to thrive in, while many of my fellow Americans of color, LGBT leanings, etc., could not.)

This dual-pronged approach of rugged individualism and relying on a strong social safety net colored my view on society. On one hand, lifting one’s self out of poverty was a great endeavor, worthy of praise. On the other, it was often not something one did on one’s own. Therein, at an early age, did I learn that there is no real divide between going it alone and getting a leg  up from others. It takes a village to raise a child, as they say.

My parents taught me to walk that line in life. That while one should be willing to work hard for what one desires, it’s also okay to ask for help. In return, when possible, you would then help others as they needed it. This is not some Christian parable: my father is an atheist – as I am – and my mother is something between an agnostic and a spiritualist. While specific religions were never pushed in our house, the golden rule very much was the de facto mode of behavior. In essence, show others compassion, based on the very human trait of empathy, in a way that you would want others to show compassion towards you when you are struggling.

So bear in mind that, as I go forward, this basis for treating my fellow human beings very much informs my political and philosophical beliefs today. Behave in such a way as you would want others to behave toward you. Easy as pie, right?

Yeah, well, not so much, as life has shown me…

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