Political shifts, left and right (pt 1)

I remember coming to political awareness in college.

I went to a very conservative Baptist college. All sorts of rules: no dancing, daily chapel services, dress codes, no displays of affection, no R-rated movies…all that fun stuff.

I remember being surrounded by conservative professors, hearing conservative speakers in chapel, talking with conservative friends about conservative things.

I remember the Bush vs. Gore election. I remember watching the debates in a large classroom with about 100 other students. Regardless of what was said, we would cheer for Bush and jeer at Gore. What a bore, that Gore! Hahaha. Laughs all around.

There was this one guy I sat next too, though. He was for Gore. And he was pretty well-read. He asked me a bunch of questions that got into political philosophy and reasoning behind my purported preferences for Bush and conservatism. I had to deflect–I couldn’t give answers to the stuff he was asking. He was respectful and happy for the conversation, regardless. A few of us gave him a hard time for being on the “wrong team”. He laughed it off. We won the evening, of course. Gore was stupid.

For me, 9/11 happened in college. It brought a lot of realities to the forefront. I remember Fox News being on non-stop. America. War. Patriotism. Iraq. Saddam. WMDs. What was normally just background noise to normal college pursuits drew me in, my interest piqued. I would say I started looking into issues, but I didn’t really. I remembered bullet points and saved them to fire off on someone who hadn’t memorized as many bullet points. Luckily, everyone was on the same side, so I left the heavy lifting of reasoning to others.

I heard a lot about how awful liberals were. Fox told me time and time again how there was this whole sub-race of people out there who were against everything America stood for. Our speakers in chapel would often take jabs at “the Left.” They were idiots, devoid of reason. They were tearing down our families. They were destroying our schools. They wouldn’t rest until everything was gone—destroyed, laid low.

I honestly wondered how the U.S. tolerated such a cancer. Could there even be Christian Democrats? How could they reconcile their terrible beliefs with the Bible? Liberals were just so backward on everything. It was crazy.

They hated our country so much–on every level, they wanted to tear down hard-working people and prop up illegals and free loaders. I didn’t understand why people so debauched and against everything good could even live with themselves.

I would ask my professors about it. I was told to pray for them. I was told to pray for my country. The end times were coming. Things were going to get pretty rough, but at least we had the truth on our side.

Then I graduated.

I moved to Michigan and helped a friend set up a film company. I started reading some really amazing theological books from authors more on the Left–not so much focused on the Social Gospel and not Universalists, but just more left than the mainline Evangelical diet I was accustomed to. I gained a lot of insight out of those books. They gave me a lot to mull over.

The film thing came and went and I enlisted in the Army.

Basic training was interesting. Pagans, Mormons, a Hindu, Catholics, some illegals, Protestants, atheists and anti-theists. Heck, we even had two guys from Puerto Rico who didn’t speak English. We argued and debated about all manner of stuff. Now we were junior enlisted, so it was more how things sucked or some chick was hot verses parsing out Federalist No. 51 for ways to decentralize power…but it was still an eye opener to have such diversity of opinion.

Later, the WMD thing turned out to be bogus. Bush had his gaffes. For the year I spent in Iraq, a lot of us bonded around the question “WTF are we doing here?” It seemed a little scandalous, because back then you were a traitor for questioning the president. But we still were pretty miffed about the whole deal. As the year went on, fewer and fewer believed in the mission. It was eye-opening.

When I was at camp, downloading images from the previous mission before heading out again, I always seemed to get there right as Bill O’Reilly came on. I didn’t like how he just steamrolled over people and didn’t let them finish. Fights with him were over before they started. But now and then someone would make a great counter to his arguments.

I moved to DC for my final assignment with the Army and, by chance, ran with a different crew. I found myself not watching Fox News at all. I watched Daily Show and even Rachael Maddow and Keith Olbermann (didn’t like that guy).

Liberals made some really good points. A lot of them really seemed to love their country. I started to break out of old habits and mindsets.

Yeah! What was with conservatives? Why were they so dead set against conserving the Earth? They seemed to be driven by so much self interest and greed. Ayn Rand? Seriously? Conservatives were too cozy toward special interests and corporations. They were selling out democracy. They were against everything America stood for, if you thought about it. They were pushing out everyone not exactly like them. Brown people made them nervous, be it Mexicans, Blacks or Arabs. They were destroying our schools. They wouldn’t rest until everything was gone.

I honestly wondered how the U.S. tolerated such a cancer–

–Hey, wait a minute…

###

About salemonz

Born in San Diego, Calif. Raised as a Navy Brat, I jumped ship and crossed over to the Army. Served as an enlisted journalist for a bunch of years, then helped the DoD figure out what the hell to do with social media. After the Army, now I drift down the river of life, trying not to be a jerk.

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