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March 28, 2013 7:55 am

All joking (aside): Powell liberals need to speak up

Written by Dante Geoffrey

Before I lived in Park County I was unfamiliar with the acronym RiNO (Republican in Name Only), which I’ve since gathered is used by some as a synonym for the acronym POS.

My 10 months of writing columns for the Tribune (minus the creative freeze winter has locked me in) has introduced me to another interesting political sub-group: SLiPs.

Secret Liberals in Powell.

For the past year, and normally in response to my columns, I’ve enjoyed a pretty steady stream of quiet-yet-sincere Powellites who have told me in one form or another to keep up the good work. The good work being my contribution of a “liberal voice” in Powell.

I appreciate the kind words, though it’s funny to me that people find my voice to be liberal since I haven’t written about any of the typical hot-button political topics. I have yet to devote any column inches to our president, the two-to-eight wars America is currently engaged in, gay marriage, taxes or religion. When the new pope chose the name Francis, I giggled (was Pope Eugene Poindexter unavailable?), but chose not to write about it (in a column most likely called Pope and Circumstance).

All in all, I’d say I’ve been fairly conservative with my liberalism. I mean, there was that time I went off the deep end and said hitting students was wrong, but other than that, I wonder what the telltale signs have been.

Is it that you haven’t seen me in church? Makes sense. It’s not like conservatives would ever idolize someone who would speak openly against God.

At last, I shrug.

I guess it doesn’t matter what gave it away. Why a Powell liberal feels comfortable approaching me and sharing their thoughts is secondary to the fact that they do feel comfortable approaching me and sharing their thoughts.

Any support I receive from the public is not to be dismissed, and I want to return the favor.

Because forced to choose, yes, I would identify as a liberal. But I promise you you don’t know my beliefs. To put it in general terms, I’m liberal when it comes to social and environmental issues, moderate when it comes to financial and political issues and conservative when it comes to exercise and sleep.

There may be more of these closet liberals — blue freckles on Wyoming’s sunburnt skin — than you’d expect, which is both good news and something we can all agree is unfortunate.

While I’m sure conservatives are upset there’s a bigger-than-expected contingent of SLiPs in their Republican stronghold, I’m upset these SLiPs openly share their beliefs with me, but are afraid to do so in less-friendly settings.

“I go to the business meetings and just keep my mouth shut,” said one SLiP I recently ran into.

The idea that left-leaning Wyomingites are better off keeping their thoughts to themselves is an affront to the greatest right Americans have — freedom of speech.

Our country’s democracy works best when opinions are shared and views are debated. It’s a shame that Powell liberals concede to the notion that they have already lost the debate, and choose to avoid confrontation instead of making their voices heard.

I don’t say that unaware of that sentence’s inherent hypocrisy. There’s been a handful of times I’ve refrained from interjecting my contrarian viewpoint, due to fear, exhaustion or some misdirected attempt to be “polite.”

(I most shamefully bit my tongue when an acquaintance openly and offensively used the n-word, without even the slightest hint of sarcasm, irony or regret. That’s not a conservative v. liberal issue, of course, but it really flew in the face of my personal belief that YOU SHOULDN’T USE THAT WORD, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU THINKING?!)

But there’s also been times when my opinions and the way I chose to express them have inspired some to call me irrational, immature and intolerant. There’s no “I” in free speech, but one at the beginning of each word used to insult me.

So I have a few minor battle scars from the wars of words I’ve engaged in, but I’m certainly not making my thoughts public in an effort to be some sort of liberal-revolution leader, here to lead Powell’s silent minority.

I say/write what I believe because any consequences in doing so pale in comparison to the shame felt when suppressing your true self.

It never really crossed my mind that I should be too worried about being in the minority. I knew that would likely be the case when I moved here, but I like to think that I didn’t let it affect my self-censorship too much.

So if I can live in Powell, work in Powell and play in Powell, all while being an outed liberal, why can’t you?

You don’t need a newspaper column or an obnoxious Twitter feed (@dantegeoffrey, by the way) to have a voice. And you don’t have to be bombastic and brash. You just have to say what you feel and believe that the people worth your respect will respect you for doing so.

Honestly, what’s the downside?

Are you afraid of what those Republicans, in name only or the real thing, might say?

At least they’re willing to say it.

3 comments

  • Comment Link March 28, 2013 9:41 am posted by Kara

    I am a former SLiP, I guess. Keep on keeping on Dante. Wait ... am I now a SLiS? That doesn't have the same ring.

    I think regardless of the way we sway we should be able to speak freely without fear of our neighbors, even though mine was a weedy field. Sadly, I don't live that message. I call my closest RiNOs Mom and Dad.

    So, my solution? I just don't talk to them about things that matter. How I feel is none of their business. I'd rather talk to the mayor about how I feel.

    Good work and good luck.

  • Comment Link March 28, 2013 2:45 pm posted by Mark J. Lehman

    Great argument, and one you could probably make in many parts of the country.

    Also, Pope and Circumstance sounds like an awesome cult buddy cop movie that I would totally watch.

  • Comment Link March 29, 2013 8:56 am posted by Andrea Griffin

    I am a female liberal living in Wyoming. I understand being a minority in my beloved state. However, I am not one to stay quiet on issues for which I have true passion. I realize I am not going to change the minds of my conservative friends any more than they will change mine. Being a closeted liberal in Wyoming may make one feel safe but in the end you are destroying your soul. And who knows, maybe the people your are hiding from are more like you than you realize. We in Goshen County have found quite a few like-thinking folks.

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