Musings on political (un)affiliation

October 11 was National Coming Out Day, and while I didn’t have anything to share on that day other than support for friends and family in the LGBTQ community, I do have something to confess today, something that does, in a manner of speaking, redefine my identity.

I’m coming out of the political closet.

When I first registered to vote, way back in high school, I chose a political party based on….well, I can’t really give you any other reason than I’m fairly certain my father recommended I register with that party and I said okay. And, for the most part, I was quite content with that decision for many years. My political affiliation was a reflection of who I was and what I believed.

But then time passed, and the party changed, and I changed, and I went out searching for more. I stepped across party lines to get to know the other side and found that they weren’t the evil fiends they’d been made out to be.

It was eye opening, and educational, and I grew as a person as I explored these people and views that had been touted as “wrong”. But over time, I was dismayed to find that the other side held the same “us or them” mentality as the party I’d grown up with. Their views really weren’t really that different and the way they shared them wasn’t either.

Both sides exhibited generosity, compassion, and service to their fellow man.

Both sides exhibited bigotry, hatred, and hypocrisy.

Both sides were unwilling to budge, always insisting that they were right and the other side wrong, even when both sides were a little bit right and a little bit wrong, and everyone might be better served if they just met in the middle.

And so I’ve spent several years sitting on a fence, watching from the sidelines.

I’ve voted across party lines in almost every election. I’ve explored third party options. I’ve even considered not voting at all, but I have strong beliefs about my responsibility as an American to participate in the political system, even when it’s distasteful, confusing, and causes me no small amount of anxiety.

And it’s finally time to admit that I don’t want to be in any political party.

To be honest, I suspect that a lot of my friends on both sides of the aisle don’t even know where I stand on most political issues. Some would be aghast to learn that I’m occasionally opposed to their views. I think a few might be surprised to know that as they made broad sweeping generalizations about their political enemies they were including me in their mocking and name calling. One or two might even feel badly about it. But I don’t say anything, because I prefer to interact with people, not their politics. I believe we find more in common that way. And more good gets done in the world when we’re working together.

I’ve been living this way for many years, and today I’ve decided to make it official. Today, I changed my political party affiliation to “No Party.”

It’s a small thing, I know, not at all on par with coming out about sexual identity. But it’s something I know will make some people unhappy, and they’ll want to discuss it, and I won’t want to, and it’ll be weird, and I’ll be criticized regardless of what I say. Even so, I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I’m not unpolitical. I’m simply politically unaffiliated. I’m still a neighbor, friend, and American. And those are labels I’m happy to hold on to.

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