In the late 1960s, my oldest brother brought our entire family to the attention of the FBI. He ran an underground newspaper in Flint, Michigan, that questioned authority and advocated for legalizing Marijuana and ending the Vietnam War.
Unlike some radicals of the time, my brother was a veteran who loved America and shunned communism. But exercising free speech and questioning authority can bring trouble. As a little girl I was aware that my big brother was under scrutiny for criticism of government officials. My parents may not have agreed with all of his views, but they didn’t shield me from them.
In 1979, my parents received a letter from the FBI with notification that our family had been under surveillance during those tumultuous years. It offered a bureaucratic backhanded apology. I remember the moment my dad read the letter at our dining room table. I’m not sure what shocked him more—my brother’s political views or the FBI’s apology. My dad was a Navy Corpsman in WWII—a patriotic breed of union Democrat that is hard to find these days.
Many years later, a greasy haired goofball from my hometown told me that my brother was his role model as he started his own underground newspaper. That guy’s name was Michael Moore.
The making of a present-day radical can take a different course.
“This is my sister. She’s the white sheep of the family.” With that simple introduction by my brother back in 1987, the way I perceived myself was altered.
I had never really given much thought to the fact that I was different than anyone in my blue-collar family, despite the fact that I was the first to attend college. When I brought it up to my dad, his humorous take on it was, “We don’t know where we went wrong. We raised you to be a union Democrat and you turned out to be a management Republican.” My brother was even more helpful by elaborating on the fact that I since I didn’t drink, smoke, or swear, I was a complete disgrace to the family. Funny, but partly true. My dad used to joke that he was bilingual; he spoke English and Profane.
But as I got older, I noticed something surprising. I really wasn’t all that different. Like my parents, I’m “regular folk.” Most of my beliefs are grounded in the common-sense notions which were passed on in my family—the very same notions that are passed on by most “regular folks.”
I believe in personal responsibility, hard work, and charity. I don’t think you should ask others to do what you can do for yourself.
I love liberty, my country, the outdoors, and my family.
I have a healthy skepticism of government and its tendency to be overbearing. I think we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I don’t think that anyone is owed happiness, but that the government should mostly leave us alone so that we can pursue it ourselves.
I have a faith that inspires me to live honestly, help others and treat each life with dignity. In short, you could call me a conservative. I might seem different, but I learned everything that was important in Flint, Michigan. I may have left my parents’ Democrat Party, but I never left my Democrat parents’ values.
But I never thought that we would come to a point in this country when fighting for those values would make me the radical.
Lori Roman is President of the American Constitutional Rights Union and ACRU Action Fund.