Leaving the Cult: my journey from Right to Left
Thanks to Obdicut for the inspiration.
My earliest recollection of politics consisted of arguments around the Thanksgiving table or occasional outbursts from my mother as she watched the news. Those in my family interested in politics were what most would consider mainstream left but probably not real liberals. I didn’t pay that much attention but figured that Reagan was evil incarnate, Carter was alright, and ‘the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.’ Uncle was a union machinist working for the electrical utility PG & E.
About that time I read Ayn Rand. I found some of it interesting. Not Oh My God I’ve Found The Answer! good but thought provoking. I did conclude it was best to take care of one’s self, especially if you need or want to take care of others. Maybe Randian thought was only to take care of one’s self and it ended there so I don’t know, maybe I was mistaken.
I just made it out of high school and got a job since college wasn’t for me. It was a small company in the construction industry with different politics than my family’s strain. I heard some ideas different than those of my family, mostly pro-business/libertarian/lite anti-union politics. After a few years working there Iraq invaded Kuwait. A few months after that, US warplanes were bombing Baghdad.
Then I started paying attention and thinking of things. In retrospect, not enough, but put more effort into it.
Wanting information I began to read more news and listening to AM radio. I recall the late night liberal talk show hosts of early/ late 80’s and figured there’d be some action there. Fell into this fellow named Limbaugh, he was a much different spin than my family. Reagan was not a bastard after all: he was somewhat of a rock star. Throw in a little brash and bombast and he was my kind of curmudgeon.
I broke the news to my family: I might vote red. My mom thought I did it just to spite her since I was brainwashed by my employers: Grandma asked me every Thanksgiving if I listened to ‘Russ’ Limbaugh and heard what he said. The thing that bothered me most was that I realized there was another side to the story, I figured out what I heard was dogma and partisanship. I was told that I was brainwashed and couldn’t think for myself: my response was that you’re merely trying to brainwash me to unless you can explain the why. The why was that I was young. I was disappointed in that.
My mistake was to choose others dogma and partisanship since it seemed to make more sense. It seemed, I don’t know, cooler to be conservative, taking care of myself first, my problems are my fault and such. Just work hard and keep the government off your back, we’ll all be fine.
If my Grandmother had listened she might have been delighted Limbaugh was a short lived fancy of mine. I got sick of a 3 hour show only having 20-30 minutes of interesting talk at best. Bored of people calling in with ‘Oh, we looove you here in (Small Town) and keep sticking it to them!’ Then the harping on Clinton this, Clinton that. Cattle futures and Whitewater, Foster killed himself because he was emotionally distraught due to Clinton’s corruption. That started getting old, although when I look back know it should have gotten old sooner than it did. OK, he was liberal, but evil?
Over time I worked, sometimes a lot. I paid attention to politics but not all the time and did not understand them as well as I thought I did. But my talking heads sounded fine so I stuck with the team chosen when I became a fan of the sport.
I started getting on blogs and was a member of Mother Jones comment section until it closed. Conservative, glibertarian, I wanted to engage with others for some of the right reasons. One of the wrong reasons was a desire to win in debate before the effort to actually learn of other opinions. Shortly before this, 9-11 happened, so I became interested again just as I did in GW1.
Now I was paying more attention and becoming aware of more things.
After a few years I came to LGF after bouncing around a few forums. I liked it here. A year or so after I joined the Purge started then Why I Parted Ways With The Right happened. There was a sense of accountability to this place despite some of the unruliness of the participants. Sometimes I was sympathetic to the ideas of those who were booted but I recognized that they got booted not for disagreeing but for being assholes. There’s something inherently just in that which resonates with me.
I started paying more attention to AGW since saying to myself ‘Greenland is called Greenland for a reason’ just didn’t sit right with me even though I heard the words come out of my mouth. I paid attention because the facts and discussion taking place here demanded I pay attention. Over a short period of time I realized the canards I said out loud to myself were not based in reality. I read a book or two, became pissed, more at myself for being duped. What else had I been duped on?
I didn’t pay too much heed to gay issues since I wasn’t gay and started thinking Sarah Palin may be a good fresh new face. But I was duped before, so I just started asking deeper questions. Palin was a disaster and I denied it for about 3-4 months. I also felt that gays should have the same rights as the rest of us but was still distracted by the canards put up in opposition. There was just enough distraction for me to hesitate and cop out of having to really think it through and make a choice.
While the realization of AGW was bearing down heavily, Palin flopped, and I decided to think things through with regards to gay rights, a black man was elected president. I got sick of the Bush Derangement Syndrome pretty quickly but Obama Derangement Syndrome kicked it up something fierce. Was this my team?
Then cometh the Tea Party. I thought the concept of ‘limited government’ sounded reasonable but was not to be considered in perpetuity, as in no matter what government should be smaller no matter what because shut up you liberal that’s why. And now that I was paying attention there seemed to be some other elements there that rubbed me pretty wrong, things to do with religious fervor, creationism, abortion. The party of personal freedom was all for personal freedom when it came to making money and paying taxes, on all other things it was surely not for personal freedom. Hypocrisy on a grand scale. Was this my team?
I think back to the crack that became the leak, leading to the inevitable failure of the damn that was my personal ideology. Was it the realization that ‘my team’ was very wrong on AGW, or, that they’re mindless sheep letting themselves be blinded by their own ignorance, or worse, corrupted by money meant to maintain the apocalyptic status quo? Do some conservatives not care that we may be causing the world (at least as we know it) to fundamentally change for the worse, because Jesus will come and save us?
Hell no. This is not my team.
I titled this missive ‘Leaving The Cult’ so you’re probably wondering why I keep making the team analogy. During this long period of time I merely thought that I believe this, this, and that, and this team is mostly for that. Now that I’ve rejected the team I’m struck by the recurring thought that this is what it feels like to leave a cult. I believed some of the bullshit spouted at me just because. I questioned it a little, but not a lot. Definitely not enough. Better late than never I guess.
Coming to LGF helped with this 3 year or so process. I’m deeply thankful to Charles for marshaling LFG to where it is now, especially from where it was. Although I still identify with ‘conservative’ I realize that may be outdated, or wrong, or maybe I never really was one. My grandmother was being dogmatic when she said ‘the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.’ At the time she was saying it she was wrong: nowadays it’s pretty clearly true. She was wrong at the time but ended up being on the right side of the issue. I don’t think Reagan was as horrible as she said he was, but he’s not as wonderful as Limbaugh thinks he is either. I’m still looking at that, but I’m very sensitive to people being overtly passionate about a person or issue without presenting evidence commensurate with that passion.
Intellectual honesty is more important than party so I’m trying to live up to that now. But I’ll just let Mom know I’m likely to vote for Obama and let her think I merely ‘grew up.’ It will be our secret.
Until I figure it out I’m just paying more attention. Thanks for reading.