BY JEREMIAH GOULKA, TOMDISPATCH.COM
I grew up in a rich, Republican household, but after Katrina and Iraq, I realized my priorities were out of order
I used to be a serious Republican, moderate and business-oriented, who planned for a public-service career in Republican politics. But I am a Republican no longer.
There's an old joke we Republicans used to tell that goes something like this: "If you're young and not a Democrat, you're heartless. If you grow up and you’re not a Republican, you're stupid." These days, my old friends and associates no doubt consider me the butt of that joke. But I look on my "stupidity" somewhat differently. After all, my real education only began when I was 30 years old.
This is the story of how in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and later in Iraq, I discovered that what I believed to be the full spectrum of reality was just a small slice of it and how that discovery knocked down my Republican worldview.
I always imagined that I was full of heart, but it turned out that I was oblivious. Like so many Republicans, I had assumed that society's "losers" had somehow earned their deserts. As I came to recognize that poverty is not earned or chosen or deserved, and that our use of force is far less precise than I had believed, I realized with a shock that I had effectively viewed whole swaths of the country and the world as second-class people.
No longer oblivious, I couldn't remain in today's Republican Party, not unless I embraced an individualism that was even more heartless than the one I had previously accepted. The more I learned about reality, the more I started to care about people as people, and my values shifted. Had I always known what I know today, it would have been clear that there hasn't been a place for me in the Republican Party since the Free Soil days of Abe Lincoln.