Over at Stonekettle Station, retired Navy officer Jim Wright wonders how someone like himself, who started out as a traditional conservative, has become a liberal. And realizes that he hasn’t changed at all, the labels (the little boxes we put people in) have changed.
Take the issue of gay rights. Once upon a time, conservatives believed in the words “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Nowadays, people who claim to be conservatives sport bumper stickers that say “Tolerance is for the person who has no conviction.”
When did conservatives become assholes? And when did these assholes start getting away with bullying everyone else?
Wright brilliantly documents his journey:
I attained the age of majority during the Carter Administration. Back then I was defined as a traditional conservative. Balanced budget. War only when necessary. Mom. Apple pie. Conservatives were doctors, engineers, scientists, the guys with the buzz cuts and white shirts who worked at NASA and got us to the moon and back. They smoked Pall Malls and drank Pabst Blue Ribbon. They worked on the assembly line at Ford and GM and they BBQ’d in their backyards in the suburbs on the weekends. You didn’t have to ask, you knew they were veterans. If they went to church on Sunday, that was their business – they never talked about it. They were Boy Scouts and Little Leaguers and members of the Elks Club. Live and let live. They were the folks who said “I don’t agree with what you say, but I’ll die to defend your right to say it” and they meant every word of it.
By the time Reagan came along, people dropped the “traditional” and just referred to my position as just “conservative” with a lower-case “c.” Most everybody I knew was the same. The first warning signs came when people started referring to something called compassionate conservatism. Compassionate? As a opposed to what? Condescending conservatism? Intolerant conservatism? Screw you conservatism? Seriously, why would you have to qualify a political position in a such a manner? Unless of course, there was some indication that your beliefs were increasingly less than compassionate. Unless, you yourself, believed that your ideology was increasingly one of selfishness.
Eight years later when George the First took office, people had added the prefix “moderate” to my version of conservatism. Moderate? Again, as opposed to what? Extremism? Yeah. Funny thing, that, as it turns out…
Clinton took office and the noun “conservative” disappeared altogether leaving me with just the modifier like fractional division where certain values just cancel out. That’s what happened to me, I got cancelled out right out of the Republican party.
When George the Pinheaded ascended to the throne, we moderates were relabeled “progressives.” I thought that was an improvement. Progressive. Progress. That’s a good thing? Right? Yeah. Funny thing, that, as it turns out…
And now, under Obama, I am, of course, a homo-lovin’ red-commie anti-capitalist liberal-traitor rat-bastard who hates America (insert the label of your choice here, Fatty, Fag, Geek, Nerd, Retard, Stupid, Ugly, Loser, and so on. Go on, you know the words) – as are all Americans who don’t cling to their guns and their bibles and their militia uniforms. The entire republican party has shifted right and thrown people like me over the fantail into their wake. You’re either with us or against us. Conservatives who used to be the serious men in white shirts and buzzcuts, the men who got us to the moon and home safely again, the ones who once taught science and engineering and medicine in the colleges, are now the party of Creationism and Rapture and screw you I got mine. Live my way, or don’t live at all. I don’t agree with what you say, so I’ll have to kill you until you’re dead dead dead because you have no right to say it. None.
My views have not changed. I’m still the same guy you used to know.
I stood fast, firm in my conviction and the war flowed around me and the battle lines shifted like flowing mercury.
One day I looked up and realized that I was on the other side.
And you know what? I’m just fine with that.
I feel the same way, except that for as long as I remember I’ve always thought of myself as a moderate. Or more accurately, a pragmatist (the best policy is the one that actually works and to hell with ideology that doesn’t).
And yet I appear to be a unrepentant liberal, even though I still believe in the constitution (yes, that includes the right to own guns) and free markets (although a market that is controlled by a small number of big corporations is in no sense free).
Wright’s rant struck a chord with me. I haven’t changed; the world has gone crazy.