Tonight I spoke to the Utah County Democratic Women.
It was an interesting subject because I pulled out various bits of hate mail (including one special little treat that ran in the paper this very day) and relived some interesting exchanges while doing so. I reread a few columns. I asked other like-minded people about their experiences. I wondered why I am still in Utah when it has the effects on me that it does.
But anyway, it was an enlightening enough experience that I'm sharing.
* Because people are so often questioning me, I get the chance just about every day to question myself and why I believe what I do. I've changed my mind, realized I was wrong and found that even though I still disagreed, I understood more the other side's point. (And sometimes just mocked mercilessly.) It's a good way to avoid complacency.
* In Utah, the divide is less Republicans and Democrats and more Republicans and non-Republicans. That second group includes Democrats, libertarians, unaffiliateds and disillusioneds. As such, the non-Republican group is wide open when it comes to credos, beliefs and political leanings — and the focus is more on beliefs than on a party. This means I can be anti-war, anti-death penalty, pro-choice, virulently anti-abortion, pro-keeping government where it belongs, pro-small business and more, and still fit in. I'm not a "bad (stereotype)" because, well, there isn't one.
* It is almost impossible to offend me. Between my years at The UD (pretty sure I will never forget that week), my investigative reporting at the Herald and now my liberal spinfest, I've heard a lot of rants and "she should be fireds" and "you're so stupids." I have (metaphorically) reptilian thick skin.
* I know what kind of person I want to be — and what kind of person I don't.
* Democrats in Utah stood up for open records, asked for greater oversight during the UDOT scandal and didn't make a mockery of reason during the redistricting debacle.
* Being a liberal in Utah is a lesson in isolationism.
* I don't feel safe here. There are people in the community who would love to make me cry, who see nothing wrong with calling me names, who would be pleased if they knew I was fired. I know this because they've contacted me. It's hard to feel secure knowing that.
* I've been accused of being spoon-fed my opinions from the "liberal" media; there's no way I could have come up with that opinion. True story. I've got the emails to prove it.
* Political discourse in church. 'Nuff said. (I will say that I have been fortunate in this regard, for which I am very grateful. Other friends of mine have gotten the granddaddy of church-politics mixing.)
* People think I'm stupid. How often I've heard, "Well, if you just understood the facts ..." No amount of pointing out that understanding the facts and agreeing with the speaker's interpretation of the facts are not synonymous helps.
* People think the Daily Herald is liberal. And they blame me for its destruction.
* The assumption is that because I disagree, I am wrong. And frequently considered immoral.
* Democrats have to prove themselves. I wrote a column once about Ben McAdams, a fairly conservative Democrat who's running for Salt Lake County mayor. I have a huge political crush on this guy. He's witty, he's bright, he stands up for open records, he has good ideas and he makes reasoned arguments. If he changed nothing but his party, he'd be a statewide hit. But because he's a Democrat, he has a deficit to overcome to beat a mediocre Republican.
* Non-Repubs know they're not going to win, especially in Utah County. So the good ones generally stay home.
* People see my opinions not as different, but as dangerous and subversive. That hurts. And then they threaten to cancel their subscriptions unless I am forcibly removed from my position of influence.
* People try to fix me. Question: when in the history of the world has fixing another human being (short of a lobotomy) ever worked? It hasn't worked in marriage, in friendship, among significant others, brothers and sisters or parents. It just doesn't work. But, besides the futility of it, I am not broken.
* The prevailing sentiment is that good Mormons vote Republican, especially now with a Mormon candidate running for Mormon. Ergo, I am a bad Mormon. That's hard to swallow considering how much I have given and will gladly continue to give for a church that I love. And what's funny about all of is it that I think my LDS beliefs played a huge role in my political leanings. I don't believe in the death penalty largely because I think it is wrong to kill. I want to see health care reform because I hate that people suffer needlessly, which happens when you can't afford to see a doctor. I agree with school lunches, housing help, after-school programs and Medicare because we are all a community and should help each other. It is not my job to judge that one person's poverty is more acceptable and thus worthy of my resources than another's — and yes, that is straight out of the Book of Mormon.
Fortunately, at the end of the day my family still likes me, my roommates haven't done an exorcism to get the devil out of our house and I sleep just fine at night. So I'm not too bent out of shape.