Friday, February 04, 2005

Conversion experience: Or how I stopped worrying and learned to love the left

I’ve ranted here a while but I haven’t posted much about me. This blog is a bit more personal. Its about my own conversion from Rock-ribbed Republican all the way over to the Leftist I am to day. These are comments made in a conversation started by This Diary Called "Confessions of a former DittoHead over at Daily Koss

First me expressing soldiarity with him because I'd made a similar journey, then some random musing about the nature of conservative true-believers and how to reach them:

Been There Too
(4.00 / 31)I was raised Catholic and a registered Republican. I marched in the March for Life. Voted for Regan, Bush, and Dole and truly sincerely hated Clinton and wanted him impeached.(i claimed to be a libertarian, but that was only because I could never quite stand the Morality police side of my party, though I supported a lot of the same causes so I'm not sure what the difference really was)
Then, I woke up. I'm not sure how else to put it. I was having a harder and harder time reconciling the reality I saw with the reality I was being asked to accept. Starting in 1999 when I went to Burning Man for the first time ( yes, you read that right, I honestly and sincerely believed myself a conservative libertarian/republican, But I also wanted to go to BM...self-delusion is a powerful thing). And continued in law school where i was asked to think critically about man of the basic verities of my economic, social and political beliefs. With my newly re-sharpened analytical skills none of those beliefs really held up, or made a whole lot of sense for that matter.
The final break for me was the 00 campaign when GW savaged McCain's war record (that tactic sound familiar?) while hiding his own. I stopped voting republican and I've never looked back.
I've reached a point where I'd call myself a full-blown liberal and each election has radicalized me a little more. I really have to wonder if I have really changed so much, and how I could have allowed myself to be deluded for so long, or if the rift between the parties is widening, and where I used to stand right of center now counts as far left......Knowledge is power Power Corrupts Study Hard Be Evil

then a question from another reader about racism:
Racism? by cscs
First, thanks for the post, and thanks for coming clean.
I've spent a lot of time talking to wingers, and always felt racism was driving their political positions.
They were anti-affirmative action because it threated the jobs of "qualified white people." They were anti-abortion because all these women in ghettos were using it as birth control.
And 9/11 played right into this. I was told we should just "nuke all those turban-heads."
I am curious if you ran into this in your dittohead-days?
on Tue Feb 1st, 2005 at 09:36:36 PST

and My reply:

Re: Racism? (4.00 / 14)
I honestly don't think so and I think that's one of the most dangerous assumptions the left makes about the right. and I recall from my righty days its one of the most offensive arguments made by the left and of those most guaranteed to shut your mind off to whatever follows.
Case in point, both my parents are rock-ribbed to the bone conservative republicans (Dad only reads the Washington Times and listens to Christian radio and Fox News)They are anti-abortion, anti-homosexuality, anti-premarital sex and borth control fer pity's sake. They are about as Red-State Core Voter as they come.
However, when I was growing up, our formerly almost all white city in a majority black county (Suburb of Washington DC) was undergoing court ordered busing, and racial tensions were high in the town. (partly because the white students were upper middle class and the black students were from neighborhoods well below the poverty line). My Parents taught CCD (once weekly after-school Catholic religious ed for high school kids) classes in those days and noticed an increase in racial slurs and jokes coming out of the mouths of their students)which offended the hell out of them After calling them on it several times with no result they took drastic action. The rounded up an 8mm projector (this was in the 70's pre-vcr) and all the new footage of the Selma and Montgomery marches they could find and made and without a single word made those kids watch them in all their awful brutality. I saw those film too when I became a teen because to my parents, respecting people of every race was as much my Christian duty as opposing abortion. Its a mistake to believe that all conservative republican Christians are secretly hypocrites or selective believers in Christian doctrine. Many of them are good decent people Who really do believe that they are doing the moral thing.
I've converted far more by speaking to them in the language of their morality, than by attacking it and declaring it invalid. And ya know if people actually followed the teachings of Jesus rather than the institution they call Christianity, we'd have a very tolerant and caring society, heavily invested in social welfare. Confronting them with that disconnect can often start the "conversion"

by Magorn on Tue Feb 1st, 2005 at 10:08:53 PST

Sounds like your parents are good people...
by cscs on Tue Feb 1st, 2005 at 11:01:42 PST_
)but I'm curious. The issues you mentioned are related to sex, and I understand their religious viewpoints and their positions. What about other conservative issues?
And, more generally speaking (ie, not your parents specifically), if it's not racism, what explains the right's position on so many issues which place minorities on the shit end of the stick?
Maybe it's more as Fleet says below -- they don't care who's on the bottom, as long as they're on top?
What about affirmative action? You don't think this anti-AA "white men get screwed" attitude doesn't reek of racism?
How can someone truly believe that everyone in this country already "gets a fair shot", or anyone can grow up and be President, as we're all taught in grade school? It's a load of crap.
I don't just seems like the right uses race when it's convenient for them. How many Republicans commented on Rice being African-American, or Gonzales Spanish?
But when it comes to REALLY helping people of color -- by supporting affirmative action, by supporting welfare programs, by supporting universal health care, there's nothing. They are for tax cuts, though, which go mostly to rich white guys.
There's no element of racism behind that?
(And I certainly agree with your statement re: Christian values -- yes, if only all Christians acted liked Christians, the world would be a better place).



Personal vs. Societal
by Magorn on Tue Feb 1st, 2005 at 12:51:06 PST

that's the interesting thing about them. As people they are generous, tolerant, good-hearted, they've given thousands of hours and dollars to various charities, and Mom once brought an AIDS patient/junkie home from the hospital(she's a nurse) to live with us for a while.
But politcally they support a very selfish, narrow minded intolerant agenda. They not only vote the ticket they believe in the ticket unreservedly. These are people who without seeing a contradiction voted for Both JFK and Barry Goldwater. How can you reconcile that?
This thread has made me think hard on it, and the answer I think is the dichotomy between the personal and the systemic
For a conservative everything comes down to personal motivations and personal morality. For a liberal its about societal systems, impacts rather than motivations.
Take for example, if there was a ballot measure in their hometown to close basketball courts at dusk.(there was once upon a time) Now a liberal might look at this measure, note that the city was predominately white and its basketball courts were being used predominately by slightly lower class African Americans from surrounding communities. This measure then, to them, is really an attempt to exclude blacks from the community and therefore obviously racist. (as it may well have been )
The conservative doesn't see it that way and is offended and puzzled that you do. He says "well there has been an increase in crime in the areas with all-night basketball courts and we are doing this to cut down on the crime. To him, because he is does not believe that he is supporting the measure out of racial animus, it is not, ipso facto, a racist law. Since he "knows" this is true, he considers you wrong or dishonest when you bring up the race issue, and thus you have no credibility with them
The fact that it has a racist impact is to his mind, utterly irrelevant, so long as the law itself is neutral (read a bunch of Supreme Court decisions on the Civil rights act, you'll see this self-same split among the justices). This is the problem with their world. They view, all economic and social problems though a similarly over-simplified lenses. Every problem to them boils down to a matter of personal choice and responsibility. All social ills cold be cured if people would only make the right choices.
An imbalance in wealth distribution to them is nothing more than the natural rewards to the virtuous of their hard work. Its never about a system rigged in favor of the wealthy rewarding a chosen few at the expenses of all others.
Ask them what causes poverty and you won't hear a long explanation involving a complex inter-connected set of economic factors, and the lingering effects of racism on the educational system. Instead, to them a person is poor because they lack lack of motivation or drive to be rich ("lazy welfare recipients" anyone?). Thus they object to things like welfare and SSI because it's a reward for people that make the "wrong choices"
Their world view is therefore very susceptible to anecdotal evidence. As proof of their theories on poverty, they will cite a story they read in Reader's Digest about a single mom who went from living on welfare to the CEO of their own company, and by golly, if she can do it anyone can!
On the flipside, if they every actually meet a poor person, they will make an exception for them from the general stereotype. This is where they are most susceptible to conversion. Throw them enough counter-examples, expose them to enough exceptions to the rule, and if they are at all intellectually honest they will see their previous views are insupportable.
This is greatest weakness of the extremes of both sides of the Debate. Go too far left and you deny personal power altogether as everyone is merely an automaton at the mercy of social and economic factors far beyond their control that determine most everything about them (Marxism anyone?) Go too far to the right and they give far too much credence to an illusion of unlimited personal freedom and choice, completely ignoring the effects of past injustices, imbalances in wealth, education and resources.
The cure is to refuse to let anything be reduced to easy stereotypes. Life itself is complex and full of contradictions. Force enough exposure to it and you can usually shatter any inflexible pre-made one size fits all ideology.



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