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Oct 18, 2018

When did our work become partisan?

It’s arguable about how old I was when I entered the field of human services but I was doing state and national conference lectures and meeting with high powered politicians since I was 16. Life was much different then, in so many ways. Sure we had political divide and a real disagreement at times about what caused certain issues and how best to fix the problems but for the most part no matter the political affiliation there was an agreement that certain issues needed to be addressed.  I met with prominent Democrats, Republicans and Independents; often in the same room and the same time. They shook hands, discussed issues and at times disagreed. Wanting to help others was not partisan and I found that the doors of those politicians were often open to me even if they eventually voted down an initiative I was in support of. I was considered nonpartisan. I was simply an advocate for change, a voice for the voiceless and an ear for those that otherwise felt unheard. I have remained so throughout my career.  I have not changed but so much else has.

Don’t get me wrong, when I was 16 we were far from a utopian society but at least we could agree on certain things:

  • Equality was not truly here but we agreed that we needed to get closer to it. What exactly “it” was left room for debate.
  • Supporting sexual abuse survivors as well as survivors of physical, emotional and domestic abuse was all but universally recognized. Those that didn’t support this were seen as out of touch (there were a few high powered politicians that actually stated “if you can’t rape your wife who can you rape?” but they did not speak for their entire party and were chastised for such comments.
  • Reforming “entitlements” so that they provide hand ups and not handouts, that is to say, build within them a mechanism that helped those that need help to become less dependent on help via improved education, improved work training and related skill building was not very controversial and widely embraced.
  • The need to take personal responsibility for your actions, words and behaviors instead of placing blame on others or gas lighting.
  • Access to health care, clean air, water and food were considered important but not really being pushed strongly.

I also spoke about the need for every individual to do what they could do every day to leave the world a bit better than they had found it.  I, and most of my professional colleagues, have been social change agents our entire careers. We have dedicated our lives and our personal fortunes to be the change that we seek. Most of us have done so without partisan or overt political intent. For years we seemed to be under the radar but in the past few decades I have noticed what at first was a slow change become a rapid shift. More and more the words that had been spoken for decades are now being accused of being partisan or in having a “liberal bias.”  Some of the very terms that I used were once coined by leaders of both major US parties but now they are somehow considered partisan. It boggles a logical mind. How did we get here?

In my career I have been spit on, hit, had my life threatened and on occasion full on attacked. I have been hit hard enough that the world seemed to be both completely dark and super bright silver within a fraction of a second. I have been called a communist, a socialist, and a fascist as well as other terms, often at the same time by the same group. I fought the urge to strike back; I also fought the urge to hand out dictionaries so the loudest folks could try to educate themselves on the meanings of the terms they screamed.  I simply wanted to help.

 It’s hard to wrap my head around the idea of basic human rights being a partisan issue. To me, no party worth being a part of would turn itself away from these core human values. Should you ever find yourself in one that does, I would humbly suggest that you leave it as quickly as you can and find one that still embraces it.

If decency has a "liberal bias" as some suggest (erroneously in my view) then lets help promote these views in a positive manner to conservatives and others  to  help remind them of the issues and hopefully see them get back to their roots when they could honestly say that they were a party for the people. Look to the Eisenhower republicans for guidance.

As for me, ALL are welcome in my home, in my program and in my life, regardless of party affiliation, religion, sexual orientation, race etc. If this world is to survive forever we will all need to work together.

 “In vast stretches of the earth, men awoke today in hunger. They will spend the day in unceasing toil. And as the sun goes down they will still know hunger. They will see suffering in the eyes of their children. Many despair that their labor will ever decently shelter their families or protect them against disease. So long as this is so, peace and freedom will be in danger throughout our world. For wherever free men lose hope of progress, liberty will be weakened and the seeds of conflict will be sown."

President Eisenhower (Republican) Remarks of Welcome to the Delegates to the Tenth Colombo Plan Meeting, Seattle, Washington, 11/10/58

 “Because for all our differences, we are one people, stronger together than we could ever be alone. That’s always been our story. We are big and vast and diverse; a nation of people with different backgrounds and beliefs, different experiences and stories, but bound by our shared ideal that no matter who you are or what you look like, how you started off, or how and who you love, America is a place where you can write your own destiny.” President Obama (Democrat) (Remarks on Supreme Court Marriage Equality, 2015)
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”Doc Warren” Corson III is a counselor, educator, writer and the founder, developer, clinical & executive director of Community Counseling of Central CT Inc. (www.docwarren.org) and Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm (www.pillwillop.org). He is internationally certified as a Counsellor and Counsellor Supervisor in the USA and Canada (C.C.C., C.C.C.-S, NCC, ACS). He can be contacted at docwarren@docwarren.org

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