Thursday, October 07, 2004

The evolution of a conservative

To the elite few who read this blog, I have finally readjusted to adding member number three to the family. Thanks for all the well wishes. Expect regular posting once again. Now on to the show.

A quote that I like has a line in it that says "a conservative is a liberal who got mugged." While my current political outlook evolved somewhat less dramatically, you could say I got mugged by reality.

I grew up in a single parent home, raised by a mother who was pretty liberal. I grew up accepting the ideology of the Democratic party without much question or reflection. In fact I considered my life growing the epitome of the liberal dream. As I said, I was raised by my mother. She worked two jobs most of my young life and at the same time was finishing her Bachelor's degree. We were financially challenged to put it in politically correct vernacluar. Buying gasoline a dollar at a time with change scrounged from the couch cushions was commonplace and we received food stamps and government food.

Although I did well in high school I made a decision to enlist for military service. I applied to the Naval Academy as well. I was accepted and entered with the class of 94. In my sophomore year I had a roommate who was very conservative and we used to butt heads all the time. To me, he was the epitome of what the Republican party represented. His family was very wealthy and I saw him as typical spoiled rich brat who didnt know what hard work was or how the real world worked. I used to get spitting mad after one of our little "discussions." I didnt question why this was at first, but as I thought more about it, I realized that my notions were being challenged by rationale that made sense. Well doggonnit, thats just not fair. Nonetheless my perceptions had begun to shift.

The next major ratcheting in my beliefs came about when I chose my major. I wont go into the boring details of how I made my decision, but I decided that Economics was the right choice. That's right folks, the dismal science! One thing I learned early on is the value of critical thinking in economics, and it transferred neatly into my outlook on life in general. I began to realize the folly of the myriad of programs that existed to help the downtrodden in America.

The point that you could say my views clicked firmly into the conservative side of things occurred one day not long before I finally graduated. I was reflecting on my life up to that point and I had a moment of clarity. My life experiences up to that point had nothing to do with the liberal dream. It had everything to do with the conservative dream! I had taken advantage of the opportunities given to me. I worked hard and succeeded, not because society guaranteed me an equal outcome, but because society guaranteed me equal opportunity. Now to many out there, that may seem like an obvious point. But in 22 years of life I had grasped it for the first time. And it didnt just apply to me either. Because my mother, through the virtue of hard work and sacrifice, did the same. I am proud to say that I wasnt the first person in my family to graduate with a college degree. More importantly, because my mother never neglected my moral development and thus ingrained in me a sense of the importance of family, the value of making hard choices, and in general how to be a decent human being.

It's funny how things come full circle. Like I said, my mother was a fairly liberal person. She wasnt particularly comfortable with my decision to join the military. You'd never know if you were on the outside looking in. She was and is my most ardent supporter other than my wife. But I knew it was something that she wasn't sure about. During the times leading up the President's decision to invade Iraq, she told me that she supported the President's decision to do so. She had her eyes opened to the evil in the world, and unlike many Americans, she didnt put the blinders back on. In fact, she made one of the most shocking statements I ever heard from her. It was in reference to the Abu Ghraib scandal and to paraphrase, she said she didn't see what the big deal was! When it began to appear that we werent going to find stockpiles of WMD, she began to waver in her newfound convictions. But we had a long talk about why that wasn't the central issue and in the end she stuck to her newfound guns. I think Florida might have just found another vote for Bush. Thank God for muggings.