This makes me sad to even write
My name is Kelly, and I’m a conservative. The previous sentence reads as a combative way to start a post, and I genuinely don’t mean it that way. It makes my soul sad that such a simple declaration would make so many either inclined or disinclined to read further.
When I started this blog, I viewed it as an opportunity for a fresh start. You may or may not know that I have spent the vast balance of my professional life in politics. In fact, I hope that if you’re a semi-regular reader of my sporadic postings here, you have no idea what I do for a living. I created this space because I love food; I’m passionate about our small farm, goats, and making cheese. As Barbara Cooney said in her book, Miss Rumphius, “You must do something to make the world more beautiful.”
Those words inspire and haunt me often. I started RealBestLife to try to express the deep need gnawing at me to be 3-dimensional in a world where I feel relegated to acting as just a political paper doll. Yes, I have a political philosophy, but it’s just a facet of the many things I am. I do my best to show you the beauty of my world in the words, pictures, and videos I post.
Like so many others, I started in politics for all the right reasons. I’m a conservative because I believe innovation and the free market are some of the most stunningly beautiful expressions of our humanity that exist in the world. An unchecked government will stifle us, or worse, in my view. I also believe that the phrase “endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights” is one of the most powerful ideas ever conceived. For me, my conservatism is a loving expression of those core beliefs.
Unfortunately, professionalized politics is far from what I idealized when I started. In the 1998 movie Hope Floats, the character Justin Matisse, played by Harry Conick Jr., describes his challenge with the American Dream: “You find something that you love, and then you twist it, and you torture it, try and find a way to make money at it. You spend a lifetime doing that. At the end, you can’t find a trace of what you started out lovin’.” His monologue perfectly encapsulates how I feel about politics.
I sometimes look back over the last decades and wonder exactly what, if anything, I have accomplished. Have I done anything to make the world more beautiful? Often, I tell friends that if this blog or crazy project ever takes off, I can finally “check out of the Hotel California of politics.” But, like the Hotel California, you can never leave.
I have to stop running from myself
So, I started this RealBestLife project as an escape from my political identity. When working in an environment so toxic and polarizing, it’s natural to want a reprieve. On RealBestLife, I planned never to share anything about what I do for a living. Not that I can hide it, a brief google of my name makes it pretty obvious what I do.
In the current environment, it all feels like such a liability. I didn’t (and still don’t) want to alienate those who have differing views, and, like so many others, I am afraid. The speed and brutality with which you can ruin yourself and a brand you’re working to build is staggering.
I want this site to be about my love for tiny sustainable farming, goats, Mom advice, the occasional inspiration and support for others, a few DIY projects, and a journey through a bizarre challenge.
But, yesterday, yet another example of a coordinated online attack on a woman whose business is entirely unrelated to politics emerged that compelled me to write. A famous baby sleep trainer on Instagram, Cara Dumaplin, was revealed to have, gasp, given personal donations to the Trump reelection campaign.
The backlash was swift and merciless. Baby Instagram influencers went bananas. Many apologized for ever associating with her and talked about their need to “process” their feelings of betrayal. As if Ms. Dumaplin’s sin of having personal political beliefs that differed from theirs made all of the VERY NEEDED (I say this as someone with a baby currently in sleep regression) skills and advice she brings to the table invalid. They posted her premium content, those videos for which she charges, for free, to undermine her business, ability to make money, and keep her employees paid.
They treated her as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and as a fraud. She is neither.
Cara Dumaplin is living my nightmare (and girl, I hope today you have google searches for your name turned off, but if you don’t – I support you). I am so afraid that my political life will invalidate everything else I love, believe in, and want to share. Recently, I’ve caught myself preemptively pulling content, wondering if THIS is the thing that will turn the mob on me. I want to make this site and project successful, but I also know it’s a target as soon as that happens.
It’s sad to hide who I am because of worries that if a book publisher would ever consider letting me write a book about this project, my life so far will be too big a liability for them. If I have this other secret part of me, maybe someone who would partner with me will decline, as I’m too high a risk. I self-censor in the hopes of being marginally more socially acceptable.
Texting with a friend who is a legit food blogger as a profession (#goals) yesterday about the Dumaplin canceling fiasco, she made the critical point that the mob justice was brutal, but few stood with Dumaplin. We don’t support or protect ourselves out of fear. We allow ourselves and others to be publicly shamed, and every conservative feels more isolated when this happens. No one stands up and says, “ME TOO. I’m conservative, too.”
One of my best friends just sent me a message I desperately needed to hear. She reminded me of the quote from St. Katherine Drexel, “Press forward and fear nothing.” I promptly bought a super-basic wall-hanging from Etsy to remind myself of this, every day.
I have spent the better part of the last several years apologizing for myself, for what I believe, and for my profession. I don’t want to be ashamed, and I don’t want to be in fear of cancel culture anymore. My voice is small, and it’s just one person, but I’m a regenerative farmer, a Mom, a wife, a goat herder, a gardener, a cheesemaker, a friend, a person who tries to take joy in the small things and make the world more beautiful. And, I’m a conservative. And I’m not sorry.