September 1st, 2014

Hey, what about that “mind/change” story?

Every now and then I get an email or a comment asking me to explain whatever happened to my “a mind is a difficult thing to change” series. Why did I stop writing it in early 2008? And will I ever resume?

I used to say that oh yes, I plan to finish it soon. Just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

But lately I’m beginning to realize that maybe the bulk of the story is told. I’ve described the major events, and everything else would just be elaboration and/or repetition, and has already been augmented with some of my regular blog posts that have described some of the repercussions of the change for me, social and otherwise.

What I plan to someday do with it all, though, is try to work up a book on the subject. Now, I’ve been saying that for years, and so far I haven’t done a thing about it. I keep focusing so much on current events in my writing that I don’t seem to have the time and/or energy to look back and rework that material, although it still interests me very much and I want to do it.

I’ve thought of soliciting people’s stories to add to it. If and when I ever get around to actually writing it, I’ll ask these questions in a more formal way—but for now, if anyone wants to talk about your own political change experience in the comments to this post, I’d love to hear about it. Or, if you don’t want to tell about it publicly, you can email me at jaybean33@yahoo.com with your story, and let me know if you want it kept private or if I can share it, as long as I keep your identity confidential. Thanks!

19 Responses to “Hey, what about that “mind/change” story?”

  1. Ymarsakar Says:

    The comments have metamorphosed another layer.

  2. NeoConScum Says:

    The very best memoir-meditation of the mind change in recent years is, in my estimation, the great American playwright David Mamet’s, “The Secret Knowledge:On the Dismantling of American Culture”, (Sentinel, 2011).

  3. Alan F Says:

    I have done much reading on this, along with introspection, because I’ve been frustrated (to say the least) about my feeling of disharmony with so many liberal friends after WTC 9/11. One book is studied applies a Darwinian approach (which I like): The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer. He is a founding publisher of Skeptic magazine.

  4. Eric Says:

    Joined the Army. Served in Korea. Access to go-to-war plans. Learned the US mission in Korea is entirely what we say it is: help defend the ROK from DPRK. Serving on a mission that was passed down to me from the soldiers who fought WW2 and the Korean War opened my mind to duty, honor, and the timeless responsibilities of leadership. As a soldier, learned the importance of masculine values and what it meant to inherit an essential American heritage that is older and deeper than the nation it serves. Compared my military experience to my upbringing steeped in Vietnam War protest culture. Changed my mind.

  5. J.J. Says:

    Mine is not a story of left – right change, but of an opening of my mind to examine why I believe in conservative values.

    I grew up during WWII. In my small town there were only men over 40 and boys under 18. All the other men were gone – either in the service or working on big military construction projects. No one questioned the war effort. Everyone pitched in. We had big paper drives, scrap metal drives, war bond drives, celebrations of our military, and more. I grew up believing everyone was pro America. And when the Iron Curtain fell, I knew Communism was a bad thing and worth fighting. I joined the Navy at the end of Korea and was immersed in military culture and anti-Communism right through my service in Vietnam in 1965. Politically I was essentially agnostic. I believed in a strong military, a robust anti-Communist foreign policy, and fiscal sanity in government. I tried to vote for candidates that reflected those views. I had not ever sat down and reflected on why I believed these things other than the effects of the way I grew up and had been immersed in the military.

    What changed my thinking was my 24 month tour of duty as a recruiter on college campuses in northern California. There I came into constant contact with people who hated America, hated me because I was in the military, and believed in Communism.

    The experience shocked me into questioning all that I had believed and more or less taken for granted. I began a period of study and reflection about this country, our form of government, what Communism was all about, why Communism was a bad form of government, our history, world history, and much more. In fact, it has been more or less an on going process since 1966. I can say with confidence that I’m not a knee jerk conservative who has never examined my beliefs or why I hold them. Though I was never a leftist or liberal, I can also say that I have examined their arguments in detail and found them wanting. I do try to keep an open mind as I recognize that we are all subject to blind spots and bias. A few years ago I sat down and wrote down what I believed and why. I periodically examine that tract to see if it needs revision. So far, it has remained intact.

  6. Mac Says:

    Unlike Neo and most of you, I was at the age of 20 or so a radical leftist in a very incoherent sort of way. My political change began when the ’60s were over, and really took hold in the late ’70s, and I tend to think of it as an almost incidental aspect of my spiritual journey overall. I have a memoir in progress which will deal with both. But as it happens, I touched on the subject just today in a blog post:


    The Telegraph writer quotes Orwell again:

    …who once said that, however silly or sentimental, English patriotism is “a comelier thing than the shallow self-righteousness of the left-wing intelligentsia”.

    “Comelier”–yes, a good choice of word. Decades ago, the casting off of my own youthful leftism began in part with the same recognition. I became disgusted by the disgust my fellow leftists evidenced toward their own country and countrymen. Another important factor was simply empirical: I began to suspect that leftist diagnoses of our problems were not very accurate, and leftist policies not generally the best solutions, or even workable.

    Not that most of the right’s are adequate, either.

    One moment that stands out in my memory is seeing Casablanca ca. 1971 or so and being struck very forcibly with the fact that there was no place in hippie/lefty posturing for that kind of courage and dignity, and that my parents’ generation (my father and his two brothers fought in WWII) had more of it than we did.

  7. mf Says:

    I recall that somewhere I heard about a man-made famine in the USSR (the Holodomor). I was probably about 15. I could not imagine that millions could die and no one knew about it. I went to the library to verify and found enough to satisfy me that something terrible happened and few knew a thing. I asked my parents of WWII Navy and Red Cross heritage and they were clueless. I started reading National Review which opened a new world for me. Later I read parts of “The Gulag Archipelago” and “Solzhenitsyn: A Biography” by Michael Scammell. Then I read Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose”. This cured me of any feelings I might have had that could be considered leftist.

    When I came on the internet, I learned so much more, mainly about my remarkable country and its glorious history. I learned why people were so concerned about abortion–something that had always puzzled me when I first was introduced to it in The National Review. And I learned things about our implacable foe, the vicious left that I wished so much would not be true, but they were.

    I had high hopes after 911 because for the first time in my life my nation was united. Didn’t last long but it gave me a taste for what our country could be if the left was put in its proper place and people could get over their pettiness.

    Looking back, I think I could have easily become an LIV but there was something in me that always looked for answers. I always questioned and I always needed answers.

  8. Cornhead Says:

    When the Left attacked my classmate’s husband, Clarence Thomas, I knew I was finished with the Dems.

  9. Cornhead Says:

    And, yes, Mamet’s book is great.

  10. Charles Says:

    Alan F – I too had a similar reaction to “liberal” friends after 9-11. One “friend” who I am clearly no longer friends with was so upset that members of congress stood on the US Capitol steps and sang God Bless America. “How dare they mention God!” she would get all bent out of shape over.

    This “friend” was outraged over this simple act done by congress critters who were simply trying to say that we, as Americans, stand together in this time of national tragedy. Yet, this same person didn’t have the same outrage over what happened to us in New York, despite the fact that we were working in mid-town Manhattan at the time of the attacks.

    It must be so nice to live in a bubble world and not see the truth even when it comes ramming into your life.

    While there are many die-hard ideological liberals, what I suspect is that many folks who called themselves “liberal” were liberal in the traditional sense of the word – not the ideology that it has become today.

    After all, so much of American education teaches that “liberal” is good while “conservative” is bad. Only when folks start to understand what the two words really mean do they start applying the labels to themselves correctly.

    Personally, I have always thought of myself as neither – more middle of the road. I’ve avoided labels; however, since 9-11 I have taken to calling myself socially liberal, yet politically conservative.

    I’ve also become more outspoken about politics when someone throws it into my face. Those on the left have done way too much damage to allow even the tiniest amount to go unchecked. A couple of years ago I chided a boss who always started meetings with some rant against Bush by telling him that I didn’t think it was necessary to waste company time listening to him pontificate political ideas in a work meeting. Needless to say I do not work there any more. I still think the guy was a big idiot.

    Finally, as a gay man I find those on the left far, by far, more intolerant than those on the right.

  11. artfldgr Says:

    I never changed. my lessons were made before i was born, as dad came through a DP camp, and my early years were the childhood of a refugee… refugees imagine that they will one day go back, but since i was never there, there was never a place to go back to as what was, no longer existed, and the latvians here knew more of the old culture than those there modified by stalins and russias occupation. even this change story thing is a repeat of history… now we will have to go to war, or let putin have all the countries he wants if he is slow enough about it. though he is ready for nuclear conflict. its interestineg reading the times as they mention that they know he is nuts cause anyone who isnt nuts would cooperate with the lefts ideas as to what they should do…

  12. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    I was once a liberal leaning independent and I suspect like most, my transition to a conservative leaning independent was not an easy transition for me. Rather than go into a lot of detail, I would only venture the suspicion that to change from liberal to conservative, psychologically, one must have prior fertile ground.

    Like neo, I have always had a questioning mind. ‘Appeals to authority’ and peer pressure are not, in and of themselves, persuasive. I have always been deeply attached to logic, reason and intellectual consistency. Dennis Prager’s “I seek clarity, not agreement” deeply resonates. Grandmaster SciFi author Robert Heinlein’s iconoclastic brand of libertarianism deeply appeals.

    All of this, coupled with a deep abiding belief in a “benevolent providence” and a ‘gut’ certainty that Jesus Christ represents the highest attainment of humanity, led to the ‘fertile ground’ necessary for my transition to conservatism to take root.

  13. Mac Says:

    You’re Latvian, artfldgr? I first heard of Latvia in elementary school in rural Alabama in the late 1950s. We had a guest speaker, not a routine event by any means, who was from Latvia and spoke about what had happened in his country when the Soviets took over. We had never heard of Latvia and I probably didn’t hear the name again for at least another ten years, quite possibly longer. I don’t remember anything specific that he said, but it made an impression on me, and the general idea stuck with me, and I guess planted a seed of anti-communism in my 10 or 12-year-old head.

    Thinking about it now, I realize that the man must have been having a hard time getting a hearing, if he was speaking at our little country school in what most Americans would have considered then as well as now the most backward and inconsequential part of the country. Not surprising.

  14. parker Says:

    I am just a stick in the mud conservative with libertarian leanings simply because that was the way I was raised. When I went to college 1965 I was shocked to learn that there were people who did not realize that flawed as America might be, we were all born in the most benevolent and forthright society that ever existed in all of human history. I could not understand how there could be people who did not see that America was the example of liberty for all the people of the world. Now I know better, there are evil people and their brainwashed zombies who want to hope and change America into a brutal utopia.

  15. raincityjazz Says:

    I was a liberal up to age 40. Then I went to college as an economics major and had to try to reconcile leftist preaching with the obvious truths my amazing, financially conservative adviser taught me. I added in experiences from working at a supervisory level in several businesses and the rearing of several children. It was the ultimate college makeover. That was more than twenty years ago, and I have been privileged to help several others learn to think right. God bless us all!

  16. Gringo Says:

    My change was gradual. By 1980, I had left the Democrats and was voting Third Party- a plague on both their houses. Over two decades, I gradually changed from Third Party to Pub. Foreign policy was the primary mover. My time in Latin America showed me that many “progressive” views on Latin America did not stand up to on the ground observation. The Demo stance on the Sandinistas appalled me. I had acquired little love for “revolutionaries” from my time in Latin America- and also from extensive library research. I was disgusted at seeing all but about 5 Demo Senators vote against Gulf War I. That was a partisan vote. Had Bush been a Demo, they would never have voted so. After Gulf War I, I decided to never vote for a Demo Presidential candidate.

    I voted Third Party in 2000, so I was initially neutral about the Florida outcome. Democrats’ behavior during the recount disgusted me. Example: wanting to change the way a county discarded or kept ballots- when the Democrats had set the rules in the first place. That showed that many Democrats had no compunction about changing the rules in the middle- if Democrats benefit. Increasing Democrats’ votes trumped principles. [As another example, consider how many times in the last decade Democrat Massachusetts has changed the rules for selecting a US Senator in the event of a US Senate vacancy. ]

    After the Florida recount of 2000, I decided to always vote for the Pub Presidential candidate, and not waste my vote on an Independent.

    Even when I was a lefty in high school I saw some shortcomings in those who professed to be upstanding liberals/leftists. Ex: many of those at my NE regional high school who abhorred southern racism had no hesitation about applying their own in group/out group criteria- in this case labeling as “dumb farmers” students from one town. Of course these same students would have been appalled at racists labeling someone as a “dumb N@@#.”

    While I had been raised in bluest lib-land, home of the “anti-antiCommunists,” my home town also hosted an inordinate number of Iron Curtain refugees. They stood in mute testimony- they didn’t like to discuss their experiences in the old country- to the evil of Communism.

  17. roc scssrs Says:

    On this topic, I heartily recommend Political Passages: Journeys of Change through Two Decades, 1968–1988, edited by John Bunzel of the Hoover Institution.

  18. Liz Says:

    I was always a conservative and like Artfldgr, I had a parent who experienced the DP camps after the war. My mom was a war bride and was proud to become an American. She put her old life behind her and worked on helping her husband and children grow and succeed in America.

    The one regret I have is that mom never taught us her languages (Latvian, Russian and German). I still have her Latvian books as well as some preserved news clippings from when she first arrived in the US. She was interviewed about her times under the Nazis and she dismissed them as not being as bad as what was going to happen with the people under Soviet control.

  19. Clarityseeker Says:

    Welcome to the fight. And congratulations for having the willingness to understand the rationale behind those conservative ideas you apparently agree with. It is hoped that you continue on your path in embracing their promise.
    All the best to you.

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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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