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I'm a strait-laced progressive. Why do people think I'm a Republican?

By Cary Tennis
Published August 2, 2004 7:58PM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I am 23 years old.

I consider myself to be a very progressive-liberal person. I support gay marriage, universal healthcare, a strong social safety net to protect the poor, strong environmental laws, and Dennis Kucinich's idea for a Department of Peace. I was strongly opposed to the Iraq war and everything else the Bush administration has done.

I am also not a wild and crazy kind of guy. I have no piercings or tattoos. I keep my hair reasonably short most of the time (but not a crew cut). I never really liked staying up into the early hours of the morning. I prefer sunshine to moonlight. I have tried pot about seven times and it has never really done anything for me. I have no desire to try any other type of drug for recreational use (though I think some drugs should be legal and the rest decriminalized). I don't drink that much because it only takes three or four beers before I begin to get sleepy. I always feel nervous and uneasy around public displays of affection (maybe because I am never the recipient of said PDAs). I have no desire to experiment with polyamory, open relationships, or having sex with a man. I am not bi-curious. If someone offered to dress me in drag for fun, I would politely decline.

My problem is that I notice I tend to be judged more on the latter aspect of my formality than the former. My contemporaries, even those who consider me their friend, think I am "sweet, compassionate, funny and gentle" but also "uptight and stiff." I am considered conservative because of my non-hedonistic lifestyle and it drives me insane. I an not a conservative! It drives me mad when women describe me as more conservative than a Bush-loving Republican guy who has long hair, piercings, does way too many drugs, sleeps around way too casually, etc. He is still a Bush-loving Republican. He still supported the Iraq war.

I can't figure it out, Cary. Why am I considered The Conservative? Did the spirit of the counterculture revolution of the 1960s completely pass me over while it imbued itself in my peers? If I had been alive in the '60s I would have gone to Alabama for civil rights and protested the war in Vietnam.

Do you think there are other men and women out there with similar political predicaments? How do I find them?

The Young-Old Socialist

Dear Young-Old Socialist,

I remember you from the 1960s. You were the guy who was changing the world while the rest of us were trying to get some sleep in the mud while the acid wore off, waiting for Jethro Tull to get offstage so Creem could play. And, in a way, you're the kind of guy who was my hero. I wished I could have been like you but I was just too damned adolescent and fucked up. So my hat goes off to you. The future is in your hands.

Your friends are confusing cultural style with political beliefs. It shows a lack of historical perspective. Do they think that Lenin, for instance, was into beer bongs?

You don't really have a big problem. Your only problem -- which, I admit, is a problem when you're young -- is that you're way ahead of the pack. You know what you think and you know who you are. Your dissatisfaction at being misidentified by your peers will recede as you move into roles where your actual beliefs and actions determine your fate and your self-worth -- that is, as you move out of youth and school into the working world.

You should probably move to San Francisco because this is where all the people just like you come to live and find mates. They're down in the Mission District at Modern Times bookstore. They're at the Booksmith in the Haight, and at City Lights. They're all over this town, and in Berkeley too. They're also in New York and other places, I guess; I just happen to know my neighborhood best. So if you want to be where all the smart, earnest young men go, you could move. But being understood by your peers will become less important once you become immersed in your life's work.

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Cary Tennis

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