As I learned in Political Science 101, political socialization is a lifelong process. Thus, it is no surprise that it took me 30 years to become a conservative. I hesitate to even write that word, because I have been indoctrinated to believe that "conservative" is a dirty word, synonymous with cruel, lying, ignorant, bigoted, fanatical, brainwashed, and stupid. If it is difficult for those of the Millennial generation -- those born in the 80s through mid 90s -- to declare themselves, let alone become, conservative, it is far more difficult for Gen Xers. Our entire identity was rebellion against the establishment, to the point that even our jeans were not allowed to be clean or fit properly until we were well into our 20s. (Mine are still questionable.) This mindset of radical liberalism became so prevalent that it is now its own institution, with its own protocol and dogma.
As a dyed-in-the-wool Gen Xer, it was inevitable that I rebel against it.
What I have learned over time is that modern liberalism is sentimentalism without substance. It's all very fine and good to see someone in trouble -- say, an out-of-work single mother -- and want to help her. The difference between modern liberals and modern conservatives is that liberals want to hand her a chunk of other people's money, while conservatives would prefer that she be empowered to earn a chunk of money, and keep earning more chunks, and keep that money to spend as she sees fit, rather than having to give large chunks of it away to perpetuate an endless cycle of need.
The other -- probably more important -- difference is that modern conservatives feel it is necessary for the good of the single mother, and by extension society itself, to point out the mistakes (conservatives believe in mistakes) that led her to be in a position so desperate that she requests a chunk of money from the taxpayers in the first place. Among the mistakes conservatives would point out are a failure to follow the basic tenets of sexual morality (conservatives believe in morality) such as having sex with someone she was not married to. Children of single mothers are more likely to do poorly in school, have sex as teenagers, and become single mothers or absent fathers themselves. At some point someone's got to stop the cycle of terrible decision making by pointing out that some decisions are terrible. Liberals would rather we affirm the "valid choices" of promiscuity and irresponsibility and instead teach our first-graders how to apply condoms and choose the IUD that's right for them.
The great Catholic writer and philosopher Peter Kreeft points out that the reason why the God of the Old Testament is often seen as cruel when compared to Christ (usually by whiny atheists who don't believe in the Bible anyway) is because compassion without justice is mere sentiment, and God had to instill a sense of justice -- a sense of right and wrong (something else liberals don't believe in) -- in His people before they could understand real love, a love with muscle. Love without muscle becomes something puny, that thing the liberals call "tolerance." Tolerance implies putting up with something. It invokes images of nameless masses, not separate individuals. It is not the hearty Christian love the Greeks call agape, which is true charity, which is not only active, vivid, and honest, but gets things done. Agape requires accountability. A parent doesn't teach her child responsibility, doesn't in fact teach her child anything of use, by giving her whatever she wants no matter what. That is simply not love. It is easy, and it makes the child temporarily happy, but it is not love. Ultimately, it's not even a particularly nice thing to do.
This is why liberal attempts to recast Christ as a misty-eyed hippie are so ridiculous. Yes, Jesus rescued the woman about to be stoned for committing adultery, but He also told her, "Go, and sin no more." This incident, among hundreds of others, implies that Jesus believed there was such a thing as sin, which immediately takes Him out of the running for hippiedom in particular and modern liberalism in general... although it never fails to confuse me why people who don't believe in Jesus want Him on their side so badly. It also tells us, more specifically, that Jesus believed adultery was a sin -- a decidedly un-liberal point of view. If He were a liberal, He would have instead said, "Go, and do whatever you want with whoever you want. Here are some condoms and, just in case, the number to your local Planned Parenthood and Medicaid office."
If you are wondering how I went from being the far-left radical I was at 22 to the conservative Libertarian/Republican I am at 30, the answer is complex... unless of course I strip it down to first causes and just say: God did it. Because that is the truth. It is also exactly the kind of answer that drives liberals crazy. I know this because I was one, remember? That phrase -- "God did it" -- is where I probably would have stopped reading and started ranting about the irrationality of belief in an interventionist deity and quoting loudly from Beyond Good and Evil.
My conversion to conservatism began with my conversion to Catholicism, and my conversion to Catholicism began with my conversion to pro-life from a default pro-choice position that was part-and-parcel with my liberal mindset, although I had never honestly considered the issue seriously by itself. No, I don't think you necessarily have to be a conservative or a Christian to be pro-life, but I think if you are going to be intellectually honest, if you are going to follow the pro-life argument to its logical conclusion, you are going to end up somewhere around conservative Christian. Recognizing the sanctity of life is recognizing that there is God, whether you want to call It that or not, and recognizing the right to life is going to cause you to ask some serious questions of modern liberalism, such as: how can the party that proclaims itself the champion of the poor and defenseless condone the ultimate in might-makes-right thinking? How can the same jerk in your workplace with the skinny jeans and ironic beard who got all up in your face about the innocent children dying in Darfur calmly dismiss the innocent children dying in their mothers' wombs at the rate of 1.2 million per year in the U.S. alone?
It's because liberals, for all their posturing about compassion, hold a functionalist view of humanity. That's because they have replaced Christ with Darwin, and they believe the solution to poverty is to kill poor people. (See Planned Parenthood.) One thing is for sure: it works! Just like blowing up your house will rid you of your termite problem. This is as brilliant as advocating that we cut off our feet because our pants don't fit. Your pants exist for your legs, not the other way around. These are the same idiots who recommend we conquer child abuse by killing children before they leave the womb, while suggesting we don't care about child abuse because we encourage people not to kill their unborn children. Then when we suggest people not have sex unless they fully intend and expect to make and subsequently care for a baby, we are accused of being Puritanical tyrants.
Having developed a healthy distaste for nonsense, I can no longer call myself a liberal, and having decided that, my only recourse is conservatism, which looks better and better the more I learn, the more I experience, and the more I think of Barack Obama, a black man, giving a speech at a conference for Planned Parenthood, your friendly neighborhood genocide factory, which has killed more black people than the KKK could ever dream of, and which operates legally in thousands of low-income minority neighborhoods around the world. How could I not identify with the only political ideology in the U.S. that recognizes this and condemns it? How could I not be proud to identify with that ideology, in an age when it is terribly unpopular to condemn anything besides condemning things? (Intolerance is the only remaining sin, according to liberals.)
Admittedly, I still have a lot to learn and wrestle with where conservatism is concerned. I am still learning about so many issues: civil unions, states' rights, isolationism vs. interventionism, the free market, the Fed, etc. But like St. Anselm, I belive in order that I might understand. And I refer here to Christianity, because where conservatism departs from Christianity -- and I am beginning to see that it rarely does -- I shall happily depart from conservatism.
The really difficult part is just beginning. I have to "come out." I have to admit to my peers, the people with whom I have identified and fraternized my entire life, that I am not one of them in a very fundamental and important way. I have to tell them that I can no longer support Barack Obama, that I am no longer convinced Ann Coulter is the Antichrist, and that there really is a liberal bias in the media. I am going to lose friends -- dear ones. And I am going to be faced with questions I probably can't answer just yet. But this is a part of life, if you're living it right: standing up for what you believe in, even when it's very unpopular.
I must become and remain a conservative pro-life Christian who speaks her mind as nonchalantly and unapologetically as pro-choice liberal atheists speak theirs. This is not easy. It means being ready to defend my position almost constantly, which is both tiresome and daunting. But it is necessary. Pro-choice liberals don't get up in the morning knowing they're going to have an abortion debate with someone, because theirs is the default position, at least in my age group. But to be a defender of righteousness, you must be perpetually armed and ready for battle, because your foe never sleeps. He is everywhere. He is lurking on Facebook right now, poised to click on the link to this blog and say insulting things, knowing he will be backed up by many anonymous commenters.
But once the friendly fire stops and the smoke dies down, I will be stronger and wiser for this experience. I will know who my friends are, and at long last, they will know who I am. Eventually, everyone will get used to the fact that I can no longer hide my beliefs. I will feel better, and they will get over it.
Meeting new people will be a bit trickier. I don't fit the conservative Christian profile. I'm not married and I have no kids. I work in the music industry. When it comes to other Gen Xers, I've read the same books, spouted the same arguments, made the same Rush Limbaugh jokes. I listen to the same music, go to the same places, sound the same, eat and drink the same stuff, wear the same Converse sneakers. I even have a facial piercing and tattoos. (When I voted in the GOP primary recently, the elderly gentleman who checked me in said, "You know you're at the Republican polling location, right?") I don't look the part, and this isn't going to change. On the outside I look just like your average 30-year-old MSNBC-watching Palin-basher.
They will never see me coming.
This blog was cross-posted to Modern Conservative.