August 2nd, 2008

Stop me before I change my mind!


Here’s another story of political change (second part here).

It’s of interest to me not only because writer/changer Lissa cites me as inspiration, but because of the description of her reaction when she first realized she was going in the direction of Left-to-Right political change:

At this point I was severely uncomfortable. As I’ve mentioned before and can’t emphasize enough, my family is very left-leaning. (As I’ve also mentioned before, they are also intelligent, loving and caring, so think twice if you’re planning on dissing them in the comments.) What if, God forbid, I became a conservative? That would be unconscionable. I’d gotten into enough passionate arguments over whether the United States had the *right* to invade Iraq; I could only imagine the difficulty it would create if I started advocating gun rights and the like.

I sent out a cry for help. I emailed my liberal, politics-following friends (good, intelligent people all) and asked for assistance. I explained that I was starting to lean toward the conservative side and asked for blogs, articles, arguments — anything that would help keep me firmly in the liberal camp. I received back a few variations of “Bush is an idiot” and “Bush is a horse’s ass.”

Lissa was asking for the equivalent of an intervention to “save” her. That’s how powerful political identity can be, and how threatening it can feel during the process of losing it.

And it’s telling that, despite her clear desire to be pulled back by the force of compelling reason into the liberal camp, no one was able to mount an argument anywhere near as convincing as the ones she was reading in the conservative media. Apparently, they barely even tried to persuade her on the force of the merits; they just repeated the ad hominem attacks on the Right. These are convincing only to the choir, not to minds struggling with issues, facts, and newly-perceived MSM bias.

My own story (read all about it here, if you haven’t already) has a slightly different trajectory. I was so naive and so convinced that liberals were—well, liberal, and tolerant of dissenting opinions—that I had no idea my change was going to cause any problems with friends or family. Perhaps this delusion was possible only because my change happened earlier in time than Lissa’s; although the process began with 9/11 it was probably complete only by 2003, and the bitterness of political polarization had not yet reached the heights it later achieved.

So it came as a true shock to me when I began to “come out”—which to the best of my recollection happened in the summer of 2004, around the time the Presidential campaign was heating up—-and discovered the magnitude of the anger in the reactions I got. But by that time my change process, unlike Lissa’s, was rather well-developed and firmly grounded.

Even if I’d found out sooner, though, I can’t really picture myself pleading to be offered arguments that would pull me back into the fold, although I can truly understand it. That feeling of being outside the magic circle of light, of being labeled by friends and family not only as a turncoat but as a deluded and perhaps even an evil person, is profoundly distressing. The wish to return to a former state of belonging is human, but there’s no turning back unless new and even more compelling evidence appears to counter the conclusions to which logic has led.

I’ll conclude with a passage from my favorite author Kundera, from a former post of mine:

First, I offer this quote from Milan Kundera’s Book of Laughter and Forgetting:

“Circle dancing is magic. It speaks to us through the millennia from the depths of human memory. Madame Raphael had cut the picture out of the magazine and would stare at it and dream. She too longed to dance in a ring. All her life she had looked for a group of people she could hold hands with and dance with in a ring. First she looked for them in the Methodist Church (her father was a religious fanatic), then in the Communist Party, then among the Trotskyites, then in the anti-abortion movement (A child has a right to life!), then in the pro-abortion movement (A woman has a right to her body!); she looked for them among the Marxists, the psychoanalysts, and the structuralists; she looked for them in Lenin, Zen Buddhism, Mao Tse-tung, yogis, the nouveau roman, Brechtian theater, the theater of panic; and finally she hoped she could at least become one with her students, which meant she always forced them to think and say exactly what she thought and said, and together they formed a single body and a single soul, a single ring and a single dance.”

We all want to dance in a ring, to a certain extent. It’s wonderful to be part of a coherent movement, a whole that makes sense, joined with others working for the same goal and sharing the same beliefs. But there’s a price to pay when something challenges the tenets of that movement. When that happens, there are two kinds of people: those who change their ideas to fit the new facts, even if it means leaving the fold, and those who distort and twist the facts and logic to maintain the circle dance.

[NOTE: For more of my posts on the topic of political apostasy, see this.]

36 Responses to “Stop me before I change my mind!”

  1. vanderleun Says:

    Liberals do not “save” their own. They devour them.

  2. vanderleun Says:

    And I must say that I feel a certain lingering sadness for those millions of Americans still “closeted” inside Liberal bastions, not daring to come out lest they be subject to shunning for expressing their natural affections.

  3. FredHjr Says:

    I left the Left in 1987, but did not truly come out until after 9/11. My parents haven’t shunned me. My wife was a Reagan supporter before I met her in ’87, so she approves of my transformation. Some people have shunned me, but overall life is good and I can deal with Leftists who used to know me as one of them. I just explain why I no longer believe in socialism and that my doubts were creeping in before I broke with the Left in ’87. They don’t know how to deal with that. You see, doubt about the Marxist worldview and Marxist analysis is inconceivable to them. Truly, they think I’ve gone off the deep end. And you know, it’s as if these people are in a time warp and life is passing them by.

  4. david foster Says:

    I suspect it’s particularly hard for people to leave the “progressive” fold when they are in professions documented by that worldview. Shortly after the American Civil War, a former slave remarked: “Tell me where a man gets his corn pone, and I’ll tell you where he gets his opinions.”

    For those who get their “corn pone” from predominently “progressive” peer and employer groups–actors, writers, professors, advertising people–there is probably considerable subconscious pressure to avoid reassessing their opinions. No one wants to think of himself as a coward, and rather than say “well, I have to pretend to believe X in order to keep getting paid,” it’s easier to convince yourself that you really *do* believe X.

  5. david foster Says:

    …professions DOMINATED by that worldview

  6. “A mindset” continued « lookingforlissa Says:

    […] 2: Neo-Neocon herself linked!  Thanks! Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Blogger’s BlockRemindersIn Which […]

  7. harry McHitlerburtonstein the COnservative Extremist Says:

    In an item passed off as news was this caption below a picture of a horrible looking critter washed up on a beach:

    “Montauk Monster: This otherworldly looking creature found on a New York beach July 13 has been called an alien, a science experiment gone bad, even “how I imagine Karl Rove looks on the inside.”

    Does any one here doubt that if the the guy being quoted said Hillary Clinton or Harry Reid instead of Karl Rove, the quote would have ever been included?

    In talking about the liberal mindset we must remember that its not just that they cant or wont grasp reality as it exists, their convictions are shallow, and they are some of the least tolerant people I’ve seen in America. In general I find their sense of “fairness” or “respect” or “inclusiveness” extends no farther than their own interests.

  8. gcotharn Says:

    I’ve written before about how I would monitor discussions amongst very accomplished liberal cousins and other family members, and how they were so confident of their political wisdom, and I would think “They surely must be right about what they are saying, but I just cannot understand their logic.”

    I thought it was me. I thought maybe I was missing something. I wondered if maybe I was dumb, naive, or blinded to something which everyone else knew. It took me the longest time: years, to finally understand and believe that I simply knew and understood more than they did, and that I was thinking more rationally than they were.

    I’m happy to report that my larger family is being metaphorically rent down the middle by newly opposing political views. Influential family members have and are becoming more conservative in their thinking. This is causing some roiling of the waters at family get-togethers, and much staying away from and tippy toeing around political subjects.

  9. Kurt Says:

    When I went off to college, I really wanted to become a liberal. And shortly after I got there, I met a guy who became one of my best friends because he was everything I thought I wanted to be. But time went on, and my search for that persuasive argument that would have made me a liberal once and for all eluded me. Still, I remained more sympathetic to left-wing political views, though I couldn’t actively believe in them myself. I continued along this path through college and into graduate school, with my interest in the liberal side only diminishing as I became acquainted more and more with its excesses.

    It was only after that I took a visiting faculty position at a small college (in the midst of the Lewinski scandal) that I began to realize just how empty and lacking in justification many of my fellow faculty members’ arguments in favor of their positions truly were. And then a few years later, still, came 9-11, and many other subsequent events that have convinced me that my attempt at political reorientation would never work.

  10. Vince P Says:

    Tammy Bruce frames the issue as partly being a factor of GroupThink as well as Malignant Narcisicism (a word i could never spell)

    I think she’s awesome.

  11. Tim P Says:

    Bravo for Lissa. She appears to be actually thinking about the issues of the day and analyzing what others are saying are the problems, causes, solutions, etc.

    Following the truth is never easy. Especially when it means leaving behind the comfort of the assumptions and ideas that one has held as true. Especially if it creates a rift between yourself and friends, family co-workers and others who you respect and like. It takes courage. Good for her, wherever it leads her.

    It seems to beg the question why many, though not all, on the left seem to not just disagree, but actually hate, disown and despise those with whom they disagree. Why the need to demonize those with different opinions. While it exists on the right also, it is not nearly as prevalent as it seems to be on the left. Today’s left seems more like a cult than a political view.

    In this vein, I picked up Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer which I had never read, but heard of and which was mentioned on an earlier comment thread here. (Thanks to whoever it was for reminding me of this book)

    Much of what he says, about today’s left is dead on.

    There is a fundamental difference between the appeal of a mass movement and the appeal of a practical organization. The practical organization offers opportunities for self-advancement, and its appeal is mainly to self interest. On the other hand, a mass movement, particularly in its activist revivalist phase, appeals not to those intent on bolstering or advancing a cherished self, but to those who crave to be rid of an unwanted self. A mass movement attracts and holds a following not because it can satisfy the passion for self-advancement, but because it can satisfy the passion for self-renunciation.

    People who see their lives as irremediably spoiled cannot find a worth-while purpose in self-advancement. The prospect of an individual career cannot stir them to a mighty effort, nor can it evoke in them faith and single-minded dedication. They look upon self-interest as something tainted and evil; something unclean and unlucky. Anything undertaken under the auspices of the self seems to them foredoomed. Nothing that has its roots and reasons in the self can be good and noble. Their innermost craving is for a new life, a rebirth or, failing this, a chance to acquire new elements of pride, confidence, hope, a sense of purpose and worth by an identification with a holy cause. An active mass-movement offers them opportunities for both. If they join the movement as full converts they are reborn to a new life in its close-knit collective body, or if attracted as sympathizers they find elements of pride, confidence and purpose by identifying themselves with the efforts, achievements and prospects of the movement.

    To the frustrated a mass-movement offers substitutes either for the whole self or for elements which make life bearable and which they cannot evoke out of individual resources.

    While as Hoffer says that this could apply to any movement, be it right or left, religious , nationalistic, etc. It certainly seems to peg many on today’s left quite accurately. The broad visceral hatred for Bush, Republicans, conservatives and anyone who doesn’t agree with their world view seems to be ripped right out of the pages of his book.

    I think that Obama quite cynically plays to this need in many of his followers. Remember the episode where during the primary in Ohio, Obama was throwing out anti-NAFTA red meat for the masses while one of his senior aides met with the Canadian ambassador in Chicago and told him not to take that talk seriously because basically, it was tripe for the rubes (my characterization). Or Obama’s smug characterization of many Americans who oppose him as “bitter working-class rural voters won’t embrace him because they “cling” to God, guns and bigotry.”

    This type of nudge, nudge, wink, wink do as I say, not as I do behavior has been a continual characteristic of Obama’s campaign.

    I suspect when the Obama rapture is over and the disillusion sets in, that many will have quite an Obama hangover. Meet the new demagogue , same as the old demagogue.

  12. Vince Says:

    Ms Neo,
    If you haven’t already, you might be interested to see the conversion stories embedded here.

  13. SteveH Says:

    Heres the irony i’ve detected. The more books a liberal has on his bookshelf on the subjects of social enlightenment and self help, the more unenlightened and beyond help he is.

  14. Alex Bensky Says:

    Someone remarked that John Maynard Keynes had changed his position on a certain issue and he replied, “When the facts change, I change my mind. And what do you do, sir?”

  15. expat Says:

    I was going too mention that Weekly Standard piece, but Vince beat me to it. I’ll just encourage everyone to follow his link.

  16. njcommuter Says:

    If indeed Obama causes a liberal hangover, it will be interesting to see how many people choose the hair of the dog and how many take the pledge.

  17. Dennis Says:

    Being a liberal, in the context of its current meaning, means never having to ask or answer the questions of who, what, where, when and how of an issue. It is also comforting not to be responsible for problem solution and making the hard decisions based on a solution that might actually work.
    Some how we are going to magically find and deliver to the end user, given all that is required to change every aspect of transportation and logistics et al, safe alternative energy to all the world by not using that which is available as a bridge to that unknown promise land of environmental utopia. Some how all of the world’s bad actors are going to be swayed by our desire to have a dialogue. Some how all of the problems of existence are going to be solved if we just get rid of those who disagree with us. Some how there are only yes or no answers that only a person of a liberal mindset envisions as correct. All other opinions or facts are without validity and need not to be addressed
    It is comforting to leave all those messy details to someone else to solve. Oh to feel good just because you believe that you care and those who disagree do not.
    It is addictive for those who do not wish to think.

  18. Promethea Says:

    As I’ve mentioned on this and other blogs a few times, my experience in leaving the liberal cocoon circa 2001 has been quite eye-opening. All but one of the people in my entire social circle are liberals, and these liberals will NOT discuss any issues at all. Their answer to everything is a sneer or a TV/NYT sound bite.

    At first I tried giving an argument or two for supporting the Iraq war or for questioning anthropogenic global warming. Now, when they give me their standard snark, I just laugh.

    Really and truly, they are the “reactionaries” that they always feared. No new ideas can penetrate their hardened brain shells. Feelings, not facts, are their sources of information. They all, of course, are planning to vote for Obama, because he’s so cool.

  19. Jimmy J. Says:

    I just finished reading “THE MAN ON MAO’S RIGHT” by Ji Chaozhu. Mr. Ji was a child when his family escaped to the U.S. from the Japanese invasion of China in 1939. Schooled in the U.S., including a year Harvard, he seemed to love living in the U.S., but was homesick for China. A committed Communist (yes, there were a lot of Communists in the U.S. in the 40s &50s.), in 1950 he returned to China planning to join the Red Army and fight in Korea.

    The rest of the story details how he managed to make himself nearly irreplaceable at the highest levels of the Communist Party because of his knowledge of English and American culture. Although even he was often caught up in the purges, re-educations, backstabbing, political intrigues, and chaos that were rampant in China from 1950 to 1979. Mr. Ji managed to survive and was instrumental in doing translating as well as making preparations for Nixon’s historic trip to China.

    Reading the book was a challenge to my sensibilities because he never questions Communism and its workings. It seems he places more emphasis on how individuals such as Mao and many others in the “Party” went off track and made errors that “interferred” with economic progress. His opinion was that the leaders just didn’t get it right, rather than there being anything fundamentally wrong with the system.

    He never once questioned why South Korea became prosperous while North Korea remained a land of starvation. He never once wondered about the economic success of Taiwan compared to the backwardness of Red China.

    Today, as a retired Chinese diplomat who lives in Beijing but maintains an apartment in New York City, he does not seem to grasp what profound differences there are between Communism and democratic free market capitalism. He is a very intelligent, hardworking, decent person who claims to love the United States, but never grapples with the issues that stand between the two systems even today.

    When I read about his stints on farms where he worked from dawn to dusk with barely enough to eat, and the fear he felt for the well being of his wife during the Red Brigades rampages, it amazed me how he continued to be loyal to the Party even though he was experiencing all the misery and fear that such a system could engender.

    Hoffer’s book on the “True Believers” does shed some light on the kind of mental processes that people go through to arrive at such irrational belief. IMO it has something to do with our predilection for faith/religion. Our ability to build a strong belief in a story or fable that cannot be proven but still affects us to our core. Mr. Ji seemed, if nothing else, more like a dedicated hard shell Puritan, willing to accept unmitigated suffering for the good, not of his soul, but the Communist Party, which was his deity.

    I think someone could do a great service to the world by discovering why these irrational beliefs have such a strong hold over some people and how more people could be led to the transformations of Neo and so many others.

  20. Gringo Says:

    Here is a story from Venezuelan blogger who has spent a lot of time in the US, regarding the reasons that a US friend gave for supporting Obama.

    I talked to a long time friend in the US, a friend I had not talked to since last year. At some point I asked him, knowing that he supports Obama, to give me a good reason to support him. Now, before I continue, it is important to say that we lived in North Carolina together when Jesse Helms was senator, and from the number of fund raising activities and political civil right rallies we attended together he knows where I stand, without a doubt.

    Well, not only he sort of got mad at me (even though I was careful to explain that for once I had not followed a US primary as closely as I used to do, you know, I have a Venezuelan blog to run) but he could not give any real good reason. The only thing he could come up was that Obama was intelligent (agree) and that “everybody I know likes him”. OK, he hangs out in a very Liberal crowd but still, were there not Clintonites? When I asked him he told me “I was with Hillary, until Obama came along. With Hillary it would have been the same old crowd” (which, well, it is hard to disagree with).

    “everybody I know likes him”?

    Now, I am not at all writing this to start a debate on Obama versus McCain, not at all (and any comment on that respect will be erased without contemplation). No, what I felt was a very discomforting deja vu experience: we hate something so much that anything that will remove it form office is welcome. I had bad flashbacks to 1998. True, Venezuela in 1998 cannot be compared by any measure with the US. But popular effects do have a way to cross political cultures. I had the misfortune to try to convey that idea and as you may expect the conversation started turning worse so I quickly shifted to other safer topics such as who he was dating these days.

    Interesting that the blogger, who got a Ph.D. in the US, who would be classified in the US as a Liberal, sees a parallel between popular attitudes towards Obama and Chavez, who was running for President in 1998.

  21. John Spragge Says:

    Trying to figure out why this rhetoric grates so profoundly on me, I finally figured out the answer, thanks mainly to a New York Times article about Internet trolling. The article points out, among other things, that

    The willingness of trolling “victims” to be hurt by words, he argued, makes them complicit, and trolling will end as soon as we all get over it.

    Thinking about the discussion on this and similar web logs, I have come to see the problem as a parallel one: the desire to validate each other by means of words. The words, in this case “conservative” versus “progressive”, “liberal” or “leftist”, act as markers for a personal identity, not indicators of specific values or principles. That explains the focus on relationships I see; you don’t usually lose friends by disagreeing them about an intellectual proposition, but you do run the risk of breaking up relationships if you see them (or they see you) as a threat to their identity.

    Now, as it happens, I try not to make politics my identity. I have good friends from across the political spectrum. If I have to come up with a word to describe my political beliefs, I call myself a conservative reformer. I believe in prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude, government under law in all areas of policy, and equal justice before the law for everyone. When the so-called “left” where I live takes positions that I regard as at odds with any of those principles, I take them on.

    And you know what? I can count the number of friends who have cut themselves off from me on the fingers of one hand. Most people on the left accept that sometimes they’ll agree with me and sometimes they won’t, exactly the way the conservatives and centrists I’ve worked with do. When we agree, we work together, and when we don’t agree, we’ll respect one another. Basing my positions on facts and political principles works a lot better for me than worrying about my political “identity”, or whether the people around me will agree with my conclusions; sometimes they will, and sometimes they won’t.

    But I notice that all this focus on politics as an identity actually tends to stimulate much more ad hominem and anger than serious discussion of questions such as the best way to promote democracy around the world, and especially in Western Asia, or the most prudent forms of public financing, or other matters of public policy.

  22. Cappy Says:

    After years of not discussing much, once the liberal finally understands that your vote/contributions/reading will not change do to tired emotional arguments, you won’t hear much from the liberal.

  23. Tim P Says:

    John S, it’s a good policy to, as you say, “.. try not to make politics my identity.” You are also fortunate to have friends who while they do not agree with you, respect your views. We all do.

    However, the gist of Neo’s post, as well as what many of us who replied and who also do not make politics our identity wonder, is why so many who call themselves ‘liberal’ ‘progressive’ ‘left’ do make it their identity. Right now, the vast majority of ad hominem attacks and hatefulness seem to be coming from the left. This is objectively indisputable.

    Again, this hateful bile occurs through out the political spectrum. But at this point in time it seems to be far more prevalent on the left. Might that prevalence change over time? Probably, the intellectual and political ebb & flow of ideas changes over time and so will the intellectual initiative. This has been true throughout history.

  24. njcommuter Says:

    I believe in prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude, government under law …

    Prudence (or practical wisdom) means seeing the consequences of your actions, recking what you will wreak. Leftists who move from good intention to good intention without ever evaluating the consequences are committing egregious sins against prudence.

  25. A mindset is a difficult thing to change — but not for the reasons you think « lookingforlissa Says:

    […] 2: Linked by Bookworm (and second-hand by Flopping Aces), thanks!  Also, Neo linked Part II. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)DoneI knew this would happenNo […]

  26. James Says:

    I can not wait for your book. I love your style of writing but I find it especially captivating when you tackle political change. It is a process that is important in a properly functioning and at the same time very poorly understood.

    Thanks for the awesome work neo.

  27. James Says:

    *properly functioning democracy

  28. John Spragge Says:

    Tim P.: With respect, I think you’ve asked the wrong question. Consider your statement:

    Right now, the vast majority of ad hominem attacks and hatefulness seem to be coming from the left.

    Even if you could tally and classify the terrabytes of data coming from the web, as well as traditional media, and sort out the ad hominem and personal attacks, you would still miss the point. Politics asks what collective actions and accommodations will produce the best society we can achieve. Someone consumed with hate and spitting bile may still have the best answer to that question. You may identify a person on the “Left” who hates President Bush, but that does not make the Bush Administration’s policies successful. Making one’s attitude towards President Bush or Senator Obama a matter of personal identity obscures the real question of whether their stated policies will or will not work.


    Prudence (or practical wisdom) means seeing the consequences of your actions, recking what you will wreak.

    Right. In my view, this includes the consequences of allowing the US national debt to grow by a third in the eight years of the Bush Administration, or pushing a fifth of the population of Iraq into internal or external exile, or undermining the basic foundation of the international system post-1945 by waging a “preventative” war, or allowing a growth of debt at all levels to push the value of your nation’s currency down by a third.

    Leftists who move from good intention to good intention without ever evaluating the consequences are committing egregious sins against prudence.

    Specifics, please. What “leftists” exactly have done this? In what context have they done it? When and why did they do it? I can point you at web sites that can detail the flow of refugees from Iraq, the decline in the US dollar, and the growth in the US federal debt. Please do the same for your comment of so-called well-intentioned “leftists”.

  29. Mitsu Says:

    I’m afraid when I read the Lissa blog, I can only sigh at her apparent naivete — her conception of “liberal” politics was sadly rather simplistic. She used to believe that social problems could be solved just by funding big government programs better? That soldiers were generally immoral, stupid, dishonorable people? That there are no poor people who are poor because they don’t work hard? I mean, of course these ideas are wrong. I don’t know any intelligent liberal who believes any of these things … even hard-core leftists don’t believe such things. One of my close friends who is a very idealistic leftist was in the Navy for years. He obviously doesn’t think most military people are not upstanding, etc…

    I am a liberal, but I don’t believe any of the things Lissa apparently thinks are “liberal” positions. I respect the military. I think most soldiers are upstanding, honorable people. I think government spending per se is obviously not going to solve our social ills, certainly not simply by increasing spending without carefully looking at HOW you’re spending money. I believe the market is essential in providing goods and services in an efficient manner.

    Despite these views, I am a liberal. Why? Because I don’t believe the market shouldn’t be regulated at all — I believe intelligent, relatively modest regulation can be not only beneficial but crucial in maintaining economic prosperity, protecting the environment, and so forth. I believe social programs which are intelligently designed can help the poor and needy, without making them dependent on handouts (training and educational programs, etc.) I believe that some sort of national health insurance plan, perhaps combined with a market approach, could provide far better health care with far less waste. And so forth.

    I think there are perfectly rational arguments for these views. I also believe there are rational arguments for more conservative positions. However — if you live in a world where things are black and white, and you’ve taken on overly simplistic versions of “liberal” views, then it’s hardly surprising that “conservative” positions seem appealing. But there’s no reason to go “all the way” to the right. You can simply adopt more realistic, moderate positions which take into account a more accurate picture of the world.

  30. Tim P Says:

    An intersting post on this subject

  31. Jimmy J. Says:

    My younger brother and his wife are salt of the earth type people. They worked hard, played by the rules, and never asked for anything from anyone.

    Now in their 70s and comfortably retired they are, as they have always been, dedicated liberals. We get along very well but we have learned to stay away from politics when we are together.

    I have long tried to understand why they believe what they do. Essentially they believe the U.S. is a racist society where the odds are stacked against minorities and poor people. They also view our corporations and the Republicans who champion business as corrupt. For those reasons they believe that the democrats in government are less corrupt and for the average man. There is a certain element of superior morality to their stance. It is just the “right” thing to do to be for the little guy.

    They will admit that there are welfare cheats, lazy layabouts, and crooked politicians, but overall they are more comfortable supporting democrats. They have been ambivalent about the war in Iraq. Lukewarm supporters at first they turned against it quite strongly when the violence escalated. They get all their news from the MSM and do not read blogs.

    Whenever I try to explain some of my beliefs to them they cannot see how I can be so un concerned about the plight of minorities and others who, in their opinion, have the odds stacked against them. When I point out that they came from nothing to a comfortable middle class life it is almost as if they feel a bit guilty or that somehow they were lucky and others just aren’t so lucky.

    It’s a conundrum to me.

  32. John Spragge Says:

    Jimmy J: If the couple you speak of has now reached their seventies, that puts their birthdays in the 1930s (1938 or before). During that period, state policies backed up by terror restricted the economic and political options of people of colour. People identified as “white”, conversely, received preferential treatment. At least 35 lynchings have taken place in the United States since 1938, and lynching refers to an obscene, open murder committed with exaggerated brutality for the purpose of terrorism in the service of economic and political repression. Lynching terrorized people of colour into accepting discriminatory policies in housing, lending, hiring, and education. Someone born in 1938 would have grown up in many parts of the country going to segregated schools, and to universities where public policy backed up by organised terror excluded people of colour from any hope of advancement. People identified as “white”, and educated and promoted on that basis, ran most businesses. These businesses, in turn, benefited from paying artificially depressed wages to people of colour.

    Those policies had both practical and moral effects in the economic sense. In practice, organised discrimination, enforced by law and backed up by terrorism, diverted capital from people of colour to people identified as “white”. That meant people identified as “white” had far more opportunities to buy houses, start businesses, and otherwise accumulate capital, and to pass these advantages to the next generation. At the same time, generations of abuse alienated people of colour from the dominant economic system. These results combined to ensure that people identified as “white” could accumulate wealth far in excess of what their labour and ability justified, and produced corresponding poverty among people of colour. The legal discrimination backed by organised terror took place well within living memory; many other forms of discrimination and outright robbery continue to take place today.

    If you really classify the oppression of people of colour as an “opinion”, you have to explain away a huge amount of very ugly history, and its contemporary effects. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if your conservatism depends on denying, or having no concern about, the effects of racism in “Western” society, then you will have based your politics on a denial of history.

  33. Jimmy J. Says:

    My brother and his wife have lived their entire lives in either Colorado or Utah. In the 30s there were very few blacks living in those areas. The major minority group would have been Mexicans. There was discrimination, but no such things as lynchings, open job discrimination, or open attempts to hold people back. That is not to say there was not some attempts by those in a position to do favors for people of their own race didn’t do it.

    However, after WWII the Mexicans who had immigrated legally to the U.S. made their mark in Colorado. Today they are business owners, politicians, farmers, ranchers, and major contributors to the state of Colorado.

    From 1950 to 54 I worked summers on a tree disease control program in the mountains of Colorado. It was tough physical labor and quite a number of college students that started out in June dropped out before the end of summer because it was too hard. I found it hard also but stayed with it as did two of my good friends from those summers. Their names were Artie and Moses Sandoval, both of whom graduated college and made successes of their lives. Their father was a small sugar beet farmer near Ft. Lupton, Colorado.

    At my school, the University of Colorado, we had two outstanding young black students, (There were many more black students, but these two were in the limelight.) both of whom were elected to offices in the student government. I don’t remember the man’s name now, but the woman made quite a success of her life. She was Mary Berry, who worked in Bill Clinton’s administration. I never agreed with Mary’s politics, but she was as smart and intelligent as anyone I’ve ever known.

    I was fortunate enough to finish college and go on to be a Naval Aviator. In the 50s and 60s there were not many black officers in the Navy, due no doubt to discrimination. However, the Navy began recruiting qualified black men and in 1964 I was in a squadron when two young Ensigns who happened to be black reported for duty. There were a few eyebrows raised and, yes, there were a couple of southern boys who had a bad attitude. Whenever a new officer reports to a new unit there is always a period when he is on probation. He has to show that he is up to doing the job. In a short time, those two Ensigns proved they could do the job. From then on even the southern boys treated them just like part of the family. It wasn’t race or class that mattered, it was competence.

    If you have been privy to a lot of racial discrimination where you have lived, I imagine you are very sensitive about it. I guess I’ve just been a lucky fool because race, class, or pedigree has never been much of an issue as I’ve made my way through the world. Only competence mattered.

    I am not going to feel guilty because some idiots thought that skin color, or class, or pedigree mattered and tried to take advantage of someone because of it. I condemn it in no uncertain terms. But in my 75 years I have just not seen a lot of it, and I believe there is less of it every year here in the U.S.

    I’ve been to Africa and, as a result, I have seen real discrimination. When the color of your gums can get you killed, well that is discrimination with a vengeance.

    If you feel that there is still a lot of unfairness in the world, I guess you and my brother would have a lot to talk about. My guess is though, that you are, like my brother, competent, hard-working, and able to hold your own in the world. Too bad you have to feel guilty about your success.

  34. John Spragge Says:

    Jimmy J: This doesn’t have to do with my subjective feelings but with the documented facts of history. Nor does it have to do with the few exceptional individuals who by a dint of competence or a special talent escape from the worst effects of the system of racism. I don’t have any particular desire to take away your sense of well-being or accomplishment, but if you root your politics on the assumption that every person has an equal chance for success, then you root them in a manifestly incorrect assumption.

  35. Jimmy J. Says:

    J.S. saud,”…..if you root your politics on the assumption that every person has an equal chance for success, then you root them in a manifestly incorrect assumption.”

    I root my politics in the fact that we are not equally endowed with talent by our Creator and we cannot expect equality of outcomes in our society. It is when we try to enforce/achieve equality of outcomes that societies falter and achieve equality of misery. There are so many contemporary examples of this, no thinking person could evade the truth.

    We are desceneded from ancestors who lived in tribes. For 100,000 years belonging to and being a member in good standing of a tribe was key to survival. It has only been in the last 200 years that tribalism has begun to be seriously challenged as necessary to survival. All discrimination is based on these ancient tribal instincts. Have you ever been in a country where people still base their identity on their tribe? I have and I understand where it comes from by looking at the way we have evolved. But, if we are ever to live in a world at peace, tribalism has to be overcome.

    As a matter of fact, I view the conflict between the forces of modernity and fundamentalist Islam as being between anti-tribalism and tribalism. We are not evolved enought to cast off our tribal instincts completely, but I see humankind as moving in that direction.

    Since we cannot expect equality of outcomes, what can we do? We can try to provide equal opportunity. This nation has made great strides toward that since the end of WWII. I look at those improvements as something to celebrate. I consider the fact that Barack Obama is a legitimate nominee for the office of POTUS as visble, concrete evidence of that. Do we have perfect equality of
    opportunity now? No, of course not, and we won’t until we can shed all our tribal instincts. That may take a long time.

    You see U.S. history as something to be ashamed of apparently. I see it as a story of evolution from more tribalism to less tribalism. So my politics does not seek to redress the injustices of the past, but instead, looks for ways to continue to evolve away from tribalism. Identity politics is tribalism and that is why I’m against it.

  36. Thank you « lookingforlissa Says:

    […]… […]

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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