What Memorial Day Means to a Born-Again Republican
By Liz Matory
Memorial Day inspires us to reflect on those who have passed away, specifically those who served in our armed forces with bravery and honor. We take a special moment to remember them. My family is currently on its fifth generation of service members.
My great-grandfather served in the Philippine Army. My maternal grandfather, who served in both the U.S. and Filipino armies, was captured in WWII and forced to participate in the Bataan Death March. Our relatives were beheaded by the Japanese. My father served in the Air Force Medical Corps after Korea.
My uncles are retired Navy guys, Desert Storm. We just lost our Tita Marie to cancer last year, but she had a long career in the Army and counterintelligence. I have second cousins now joining. And of course, there is my brother who is one of the few, the proud, a United States Marine.
When you grow up in a family of service like ours, love of country is a given. As the child of a black American and an immigrant, I was always encouraged to create the next chapter of our family’s story. So, when the opportunity came to try and do my part, I decided to step up to the plate, knowing full well that my family has faced odds that were far worse.
I consider myself a Born-Again Republican.
As some of you may know, I only became a Republican in January 2016, right in the middle of my congressional race. But considering the fact that black Americans were some of the first Republicans, my conversion to the GOP seemed more like a homecoming.
My journey from Democrat to unaffiliated to Republican was by no means easy. Not only did my transformation happen abruptly – within 6 months during an election year – I lost a lot of friends and political backers by becoming a Republican (heck even by leaving the Democrat Party).
Because of this decision, I have felt lost, anxious, abandoned, afraid, depressed and angry, and I think I will continue to flee false friendships for years to come. A handful of GOP gatekeepers have confronted me and questioned my sincerity and conservativism – perhaps they actively campaigned against me – who knows and/or cares? Despite this wild 180-degree battle, oddly enough by becoming a Republican, I feel more American. I feel more like myself.
Growing up in Washington, and living here in Montgomery County, I never thought that being a Republican was an option for me. I grew up thinking that the GOP was just for O.W.M. (Old White Men).
Not only is this county dominated by the Democrat Party, but I attended Sidwell Friends from the age of 9 and went to Columbia University. I interned with the ACLU in law school. So, I was fully indoctrinated in liberalism and completely enveloped by the liberal bubble. All the more reason, I believe with every part of my body, mind, and spirit, that my switch was God led.
Over the years, I have had sparks or flashes of consciousness and curiosity surrounding this Republican thing. There was my professor at Howard Law who had always been a Republican because Republicans freed the slaves, and that awkward moment sitting at NARAL, thinking that I do not agree, and feeling that that thought was not allowed.
Perhaps my greatest moment of enlightenment was identifying as pro-life. Also, I remember the moment when I finally met Connie Morella, thinking that we need her style of awesome center-right-woman-power leadership back in Congress (she’s my secret Spirit Animal). And of course, I got my final push from 3rd Vice Chair Eugene Craig to cross the aisle and compete in this year’s primary.
It’s amazing to be awake and aware, to use your own eyes, ears and mind to make sense of the world. I believe that being a Republican and a conservative means being responsible for conserving our republic and what it stands for. This country was created to be different, and every generation of citizens has a duty to fight for her survival. Therefore, in addition to honoring those we have lost on this Memorial Day (and every day), we must remember our duty to our country and to one another.
Liz Matory, is a former 2016 Republican candidate for Maryland’s 8th Congressional District. She owns a management and IT consulting firm, and resides in Silver Spring, MD. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org