Being young, I was a liberal with dreams of graduating with a degree in political science and saving the world. After high school, I worked a year and partied, saved some dollars, and then went to college. I met and considered what I thought was a good human being and a Democrat, a would-be-mentor, a friend. He was a “returning student” and thirty-something, involved with the Democrat Party. He held a political science study group when I was a freshman in college. As freshman class president and would-be radical, I looked forward to my destiny! Okay, maybe not that dramatic, but you get the point.
Specifically, my would-be-mentor, who was charismatic, indoctrinated minorities into liberal ideology and its implications for them. When I mentioned my Spanish heritage, he said Republicans also held Latinos back because we weren’t white. I glanced around and looked at my skin.
Since I am a white Latino, that meant separating me from my cousins, who are black and brown. Even my older sisters had different features, as one was slightly darker and the other had what I would now describe as Indian and Asian features. In looks, she is her mother’s daughter.
People rarely ever knew, looking at us, that my mother was my mother. They always assumed she was the mother of the Asian kid. There wasn’t always an easy way to recognize my siblings as my sisters outside of my younger sister. Even then, our Panamanian relatives and friends would look stunned, realizing one of us had blue eyes, and the other had green.
In a Democrat’s world, mi Abuelita, who had been called the “N” word about a decade prior, should not acknowledge me as her grandson. Aunts and uncles too! Simply because of skin.
It was shocking because our skin wasn’t tying us together, but this man told me that’s precisely what bound us together. It felt like he wanted and didn’t care about separating me from my family with words from an ideology purposely meant to divide us. Words of hate! I immediately loathed him for it.
As soon as I heard him say whites caused all minority problems, especially black Americans, I thought, “Whoa, I have lazy Panamanian and Puerto Ricans relatives and friends. Blacks and whites, too.” At that moment, I realized my view of my fellow countrymen was not the same as the Democrat Party. I see us as equals and not as part of a group to label and denounce one group’s actions over another.
My youth taught me we are all individuals and that teamwork breeds success. I learned this from sports and then the military. I have played sports all my life and served alongside blacks, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, and yes, even whites and others with different cultural backgrounds.
- I eventually saw the Democrat Party teaching a victim mentality, which goes against every American belief to achieve success and freedom.
“OMG! I’m a Republican!”
For me, blaming one group for all of society’s ills is not logical. It made no sense and is an excuse for not looking in the mirror. I knew that even at a young age.
- At that meeting, I also realized, “OH, MY, GOD! I’m a Republican! How can I be a Republican?”
How can I be a Republican? They only believe in the “almighty dollar.” Only later did I understand the truth. I’m conservative, but I’d never heard the term. Eventually, I would, but I later realized I also had libertarian beliefs that put me at odds with some Republicans. Regardless, I knew I wasn’t a Democrat.
Reagan or “I Yam What I Yam” ~ Popeye the Sailor Man
It wasn’t necessarily ideology initially, but the want of helping my fellow man I saw as a responsibility of all of us. To be of help to anyone, you must be strong. It was the actions of a president that helped me formulate my beliefs.
My first vote was for Ronald Reagan. Reagan’s conservatism escaped me, and I didn’t care if he was a Republican. I understood he had taken the country from the brink and saved us from policies destroying us. He brought respect to America across the world, thus ensuring keeping bad actors in check.
He had brought us out of a horrific era. Gas shortages and high prices, long lines, manufacturing dying, millions of jobs lost, inflation, taxes that were destroying us, and more. Even as a kid, this was obvious.
Then came the hostage crisis in Iran. An embarrassment. America humiliated. Lack of respect for the country internationally. Panamanians viewed America at the time as its protector, so I always viewed America as the good guys. Especially knowing America allowed my mother to help “mi tia y tio y primos” get out of poverty into middle-class.
Reagan helped me understand America’s good and realized the bad with large government bureaucracies. He made me know bad actors wake up every morning without thinking about the consequences of anything they do without a strong America.
If our enemies view America as weak and impotent, they act out. With the Iranian Crisis, Crimea, and Ukraine, among others, these actions prove this true. When is America weak? Look at Joe Biden, Barrack Hussein Obama, and Jimmy Carter.
With the Iranian hostage crisis, even as a kid, I felt Jimmy Carter was an embarrassment. Carter’s weakness and impotence appalled me. But I just knew Reagan would change that.
In my youth, we had four channels – ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS – and most families only owned one television. Our family watched the news daily and Walter Cronkite every night. We lived President Jimmy Carter’s failing economy every evening, and I never forgot that. In 1984, I chose Reagan over Carter’s former vice-president, Walter Mondale, to continue his run and keep us great.
- Ronald Reagan taught me the value of a strong America for both the individual and the world.
Still, I hadn’t thought about what a Democrat or Republican truly stood for. Years later, I realized the fundamental difference between Republicans and Democrats and Republicans and conservatives and libertarians.
Reagan opened the door for me to recognize and understand my values. Flawed as they may be, they are the best avenue for us to live the American dream.
- Renowned economist Milton Friedman said it best about capitalism on “The Phil Donahue show,” to Donahue, a utopian believing leftist.
Growing up in Panama, as an American, with relatives and friends living under the dictatorships of Omar Torrijos and Manuel Noriega, I appreciate what America has. Freedom and opportunities that have strengthened my work ethic. I live the American dream and believe it is my responsibility to give back.
- They’re the values of individualism as an American. Uniting when we must and helping each other to thrive and succeed.