I remember the righteous smugness I used to feel when the one conservative friend in my social circle would begin expressing his opinions at a dinner gathering. I and the other ‘enlightened’ diners would shift uncomfortably and glance at one another, rolling our eyes: "Here he goes again." My stomach would tighten with a worry not fit for the occasion. I began to feel personally offended. And the smugness sometimes boiled over into anger, as I'd listen to my friend, loyal and kind, simply share his "crazy" ideas and opinions with us.
What I thought then was only my frustration with his views, I know now was also my own discomfort with my belief it was okay to dismiss and condemn him for expressing himself. We ganged up on him. And while he didn’t like it (who would?), he took it well, and eventually the conversation would drift into safer territory like work and sports, and all would be forgotten.
Oftentimes after these dinners I was left thinking (no pun intended), that this guy was one of the smartest, nicest people I knew, and all he was trying to do was offer another angle on things. He was sharing a voice that wasn't that of an echoing lemming skirting over issues in search of a choir, but rather an informed, passionate, and to us, provocative perspective we were all uneasy with. And again, I could feel in my gut that I hadn’t been fair or nice. But wait, aren't us liberals supposed to be “nice” and sensitive… and open? I mean, if the basic meaning of the word liberal is to “advocate the freedom of the individual,” why then is there such hell to pay for those who don’t agree with the Left’s political or social views?
Why the defensiveness? Why the arrogance? Why the hostility? I think it’s fear; the fear of one day realizing that we may just be wrong, and have been wrong all along. But because we’ve been entrenched in the culture for so long with this way of thinking, we can't simply admit we’re wrong – we’re just way too far down the road to turn back now. So instead of listen, absorb, and respect a contrary opinion, we resort to demeaning character or intellect, and attempt to intimidate. Feeling over facts.
So, who wouldn’t be hesitant or scared? I would be. I was. But a few years ago I did it. I decided to turn around and head back up the road and look at things from the other side. And after much rumination, research, and listening, I began to rethink my positions, and it became abundantly clear to me that I am a conservative. Not a criminal or a hater or even a telemarketer, no, just someone who doesn’t agree with the ideology, and won’t fall victim to emotional manipulation and hypocrisy of the Left any longer.
So I decided to do something that many people won’t or can’t do. I came out…‘right’, and owned the fact that I see things differently now.
And boy howdy what a reaction I got! When I first shared my new views on Facebook it was as if I had announced that I was dedicating my life to murdering kittens. The vitriolic responses from my “friends” only reinforced my theory that the "party of tolerance" was only tolerant of those who agree with them. Soon after that experience I wrote a taut farewell to Facebook-land and haven’t been back since.
Being someone who lives and works in Los Angeles (and wants to continue to do both), I had plenty to lose by revealing this change of heart and mind. Plus, having been raised in Massachusetts by a socialist mother during the ‘60s and ‘70s, this was the ultimate about-face. Many of my old colleagues don’t call me anymore, and have become alienated because I am so “out there” now. Some members of my family keep our conversations on the light side, and I get tight smiles from certain friends. I don’t begrudge them as much as I simply don’t get it.
So now here I am, a reformed, or shall I say transformed liberal, living in the center of the religious Left, wondering whether I should I continue to open my trap or keep my opinions to myself.
But… let’s just say I do decide to express my utter dismay for our current president’s arrogant, divisive, and remarkably cavalier manner as he’s bulldozed his agenda across the boundaries of democracy. Abusing his authority to spy on political opponents, attempting to align us with our enemies while leaving our allies hanging in the balance, and injecting himself into every racial incident to stoke the flames in order to strengthen his preferred narrative -- well then, I hope that whomever I do share these views with, especially if they don’t agree with me, behaves better than I did when I was on the other side of the dinner table.