As I See It: Charlie, my dear, when I was just a lad…Let me explain the headline. I need to practice. Earlier this summer I became a proud grandpa. Now I figure I ought to at least sound like one.
By: Phil Pfuehler, River Falls Journal
Let me explain the headline. I need to practice. Earlier this summer I became a proud grandpa. Now I figure I ought to at least sound like one.
Charlie is the rugged, gender-bending first name of my delicate, adorable granddaughter. My wife, Kim, is one of her grandmas. Charlie’s other grandparents are Mark and Mary Johnson of River Falls.
The Johnsons are already a grandpa and a grandma, so they may have a head start spinning yarns about what is was like long ago.
I got to thinking about my youth and reliving those days to Charlie during an interview last week with U.S. Senate candidate Mark Neumann.
Neumann branded himself a “conservative.” You could tell he savored the word while enunciating it.
Then he added that he believed he was the “most conservative” of the four Republican candidates for senator.
Being conservative in 2012 is a political badge of honor. You need it to identify as a Republican. If you are to the right of conservatism, the welcome mat for Tea Party unrolls for you.
But Charlie, in my day, being conservative wasn’t something lots of people, especially the younger generation, were proud of.
If fact, being called conservative was like being sworn at. It meant you definitely weren’t a cool person, that you were square, uptight, an old fogey, old fashioned, button down, stick-in-the-mud and boring.
You took offense if called that word. It was name calling, bullying. You denied it was true, ran from it if you had to.
It was more of a social stigma, but even conservative in politics didn’t do much to alleviate your untouchable status.
Today, Charlie, being called liberal, at least in politics, has become a stigma. The word really doesn’t hurt you socially, though the political stigma could carry over.
I’ve always tried to avoid either label for myself, though there is a form of the word liberal that I find appealing: liberal-minded.
It means you are open to new ideas and ways, that you are tolerant, reasonable, unbiased and impartial. That could apply to music, art, culture, spirituality, opinions and, yes, even politics.
I like to think, Charlie, that the word liberal has spinoff applications — you can become liberated with a more liberal philosophy, in other words free, as from confinement, prejudice or oppression.
That’s what people mean when they use the word liberation. And that would also make you a libertarian, Charlie.
On the other hand, if you call yourself a libertarian, there’s a political tag that brings you full circle.
The most self-professed conservative politicians, like presidential candidate Ron Paul of Texas, espouse libertarian views of bare-bones government.
Paul — ironically, much like liberal antiwar candidates Gene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy of my day, the late 1960s, during Vietnam — has campaigned against military involvements in Iraq and Afghanistan because they have nothing to do with America’s national security interests.
Back to being liberal-minded, Charlie. It was that open attitude, back in the 1960s and ’70s, that ultimately gave women more options and independence.
Women ended up with more educational and career opportunities, if they wished, and weren’t automatically relegated to being a homemaker.
Those opportunities extended into what was male-dominated politics.
Four years before you were born, Charlie, Hillary Clinton was a leading candidate to become the first female American president.
The candidate who won, Barack Obama, is black. Liberal-mindedness in the form of civil rights also opened the door for people of color, like Obama, to succeed in politics.
Locally, Sheila Harsdorf, from River Falls is one of the most popular and longest serving of our state lawmakers.
Harsdorf is a Republican and calls herself conservative. Fifty or 60 years ago, she probably wasn’t electable, but it was liberal-minded views that opened up politics to women and minorities.
I’ve gone on long enough, Charlie. By now you’re wondering where all this will end?
Heck, beats me. Maybe it’s that nothing ever stays the same.
Things were simply different when I was a kid. And they will be different years from now when you look back on your growing-up days.
And, Charlie, you know what that means? You’ll have many grand stories to spin for your children, and your grandchildren, about the way it was.