My #WalkAway Story Series is a bigger and more long term project for A Lady of Reason, and it’s all about YOU! This is your big chance at getting your voice heard and your own story out there! For many closeted conservatives, afraid for our livelihood, social networks, family connections, even physical safety now, being stuck in the closet can be extremely isolating and it’s easy to feel like it’s you against the world sometimes! I certainly feel that way! By sharing our stories collectively, I hope to give a voice to you, my dear readers and followers here on WordPress and Social Media, to show each other camaraderie and that in fact, we’re NOT alone, just in the shadows. Well folks, it’s time to come out of the shadows and into the light! The “silent majority” is at least half of our nation, so you’re not truly alone. Come and hear others, and add your own voice, your own story to the mix, of what it’s like being a conservative in an increasingly Leftist country! Send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or direct message me at @aladyofreason1 on Twitter to add YOUR story!!! 🙂 I’ll send you the standard question list, or you can just write it free form as a narrative…
This very detailed and articulate story is from a regular reader here on my blog, who chose (humorously) the pseudonym “Dems are Dumb”! Hear his words of wisdom:
When did you become conservative? If you were ever liberal, what made you walk away?
The terms “liberal” and “conservative” mean different things to different people. To me they are shorthand terms for various positions on the conservative and liberal “shopping lists” such as gun control, abortion, immigration etc. that address the role of government versus the individual. If you buy the stuff on the conservative shopping list then you’re a conservative and if you go for the items on the liberal list then you’re a liberal. I think of myself as a libertarian. I buy more many items on the conservative list but, I do sneak a few of the liberal items into my shopping cart as well. For me, the deciding factor is whether or not a specific position imposes state interference on an individual’s choices. Because liberal positions tend to call for more state interference than do the conservative positions, I identify more with the conservative side. Treebeard in the Tolkein trilogy put it well: “I’m not entirely on anyone’s side because no one is entirely on my side. But there are those whose side I’m entirely not on.”
In my youth, I identified as a liberal. As is the case with most people, my first experience with government authority was as a student in the public school system. To say that I was not impressed would be an understatement. The system struck me as arbitrary, hypocritical and authoritarian. In those days, school faculty and administrators tended to be conservative. That was during the Vietnam war and dissent was considered an offense. Draconian dress codes and hair length restrictions were tools to crush individuality. They tried to teach us what to think rather than equip us with the tools to make our own decisions about things. I saw them more as drill sergeants than as true educators. The left was the opposition and because of that they opposed the restrictive atmosphere and were free speech advocates. I naturally sided with them.
Even into my early years in college, I didn’t notice the inherent contradiction in my views. I was distrustful of government authority and opposed to interference in individual decisions that do not directly hurt others. On the other hand, I embraced the liberal philosophy which included big government programs. At first, any attempt to point out the cognitive dissonance in my combination of both my distrust of authority along with pro big government views fell on deaf ears. In retrospect, that was natural. Like most kids, I grew up in an environment where my parents provided everything for me so it didn’t seem unnatural for government to do the same. The first cracks in my liberal identification started in college.
I went to a very liberal college. The group there that was the most to the left held views that generally coincide with main stream leftists today with one exception. Back in the day, they proudly proclaimed that they were Marxists while today’s leftists try to avoid that admission. The Marxists back in college advocated restricting conservative views. I remember a discussion that I had with some of them where they said that they need to protect people from dangerous (i.e. non-Marxist) political views just as adults need to prevent small children from touching a flame and burning themselves. I heard similar views from leftists elsewhere as well. That’s when it started to dawn on me that they only were cool, dissident free speech advocates when they were in the opposition. Once they got into power, they were the same self righteous, dictatorial authoritarians as the old conservatives, but with one difference. The leftists called for more intrusive and controlling government programs making them more dangerous. I suspect that the modern school and college experiences would find them equally dictatorial.
Walking away from the left was a process for me rather than an instant revelation. One thing that pushed me away from liberalism was the leftist position on gun control. Aside from the toy guns that I played with as a kid, I wasn’t terribly interested in guns until I got to college. There I made several good friends (still close friends today) who were firearms enthusiasts. They got me interested in firearms and that started me looking at the political aspects of the gun control issue. I looked at the issue from both sides reading and listening to arguments from both sides. I saw that the pro-gun side used facts and logic while the anti-gun positions depended on hysterical emotionalism, disingenuous arguments and shameless mendacity. Because I became a firearms enthusiast myself, the left’s dishonesty regarding the issue did much to alienate me and caused me to become skeptical that liberals could be trusted about anything if they were so untrustworthy on the second amendment.
As I look back on it, my political views matured as I did. Experience taught me that facts are stubborn things and cannot be ignored without bad results. Believing that something is true because one wants it to be true is to ignore the facts. When I started applying that lesson to political analysis, I had to look at the question of how well liberal economic policies worked out where they had been adopted. What I saw did not indicate that socialism was a good route to follow despite how well it sounded. As part of my questioning, I read the work of free market economists such as Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams. I found them refreshing in that they relied on facts and logic rather than emotional suasion to explain their positions . As I matured, I found such free market arguments pushing me away from liberalism and more towards libertarian conservativism. Part of learning from experience is learning to distinguish between a sound argument and the the sales pitch from a snake oil salesman. That was a significant factor in my walk away from liberalism.
My views on politics and other matters are not static. They change as I observe more and hear different arguments. My opinions differ from those I held ten years ago and might well differ from the the way that I’ll think ten years from now.
Do you feel at all afraid to be openly conservative? If so, how do you cope with being closeted?
Even in my college days in a overwhelmingly liberal college, I was not afraid to express dissenting views. It never occurred to me to do otherwise. One of the great things about college is that you encounter people who think for themselves. Not everyone there does, but enough do to make college interesting and enlightening. One can find like minded people even when they are in a minority. I do not think it helpful to disguise one’s opinions for fear of isolation. After all, when are you more alone, when you are by yourself or when you are around people with whom you are afraid to be yourself? I also found that people who respect themselves and their own views tend to win the respect of others. I did not consider those who did not respect my right to hold opinions to be worthy of my time.
I never wanted to be a public persona so I never published my views or posted on the internet. That wasn’t for fear of being openly conservative but rather a preference for privacy. Although anyone looking at the back of my vehicle would readily see that I am pro-gun, I refrained from putting on any overly inflammatory bumper stickers because I frequently park in a city and I know many leftists have no compunctions about vandalizing a vehicle that draws their ire. I prefer not to gain attention.
Before I retired, I would avoid political discussions in a business environment because I believe that politics has no place on the job. I think I would have felt the same way if I were a liberal. Other than that, I had no compunction about discussing politics. Over the years, I’ve learned that political arguments seldom change anyone’s mind so I don’t bother with them much. I’ve grown to see the value in disagreeing without being disagreeable.
What advice to you have for other conservatives afraid to speak out?
Because I haven’t been afraid to express my opinions, I’m not sure what advice to give to those who are afraid. Personally, I see no need to look for arguments but I see no need to pretend liberal when I’m really a conservative or vice versa.
For the past few decades, I’ve lived in an area where most people have conservative opinions so I don’t have a lot of first hand experience of what conservatives have to put up with in liberal areas. That makes it difficult to advise people who are in more intimidating situations. What works for me might not work for you and we all must decide for ourselves how or whether to express their convictions in the face of opposition. All that I can say is that the secret of life is showing up for it. If you are looking for inspiration, I can suggest that you look up the life of Cassius Marcellus Clay, not the heavyweight boxing champion who changed his name to Muhammad Ali but the ardent abolitionist who lived in the pre-civil war south. He openly and vocally campaigned against slavery in the face of opposition so violent that it’s said that he gained enough experience to write a manual on bowie knife fighting.
Thank you so so much for your detailed answers, and wise insights! You are more than welcome to do a guest post or comment on my blog anytime! It’s great to get your voice out there! Thank you, “Dems are Dumb” 😉 !