Saturday, December 10, 2011

Everybody’s So Different, I Haven’t Changed


I call it being disconnected from the timestream.

It started when I joined the military.

Thirty years ago, I left home and the Midwest where I grew up and went off to find my place in the world.  I was gone for more than a year that first time, boot camp and technical school, before I came back home for a visit.  Things had moved on while I was away, but not very far.  I left again after a few weeks of leave and went off to Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.  It was almost three years before I came back again.  More things had changed, and so had I.  I left again, and was again away for years. I always intended to come back permanently, but somehow I just kept going.  There was always another hill, another horizon, another distant shore. And so it went, the years turned into decades, the world changed, there were a couple of wars, I got married, I had a son, and somehow there was always one more battle to be fought, one more hill to climb, until finally when I came back I hardly recognized the place where I grew up. 

And few folks there remember me.

Now, when I return, briefly, to Michigan I am a stranger in a strange land.

My folks still live there, and my mom tells me about people I haven’t seen in a very long time or have never met.  She tells me about the children of my cousins who now have children of their own – and I can’t get past the fact that in my mind those second cousins are only four years old, how could they have kids? 

See, for me, time stopped when I left home. 

I expected to return and find things the way I left them.

Instead, the children I remember are pot bellied and balding and talking about mutual funds and mortgages and what college their kids are failing out off.

I am adrift in the timestream.

I suppose it happens to all of us, in one degree or another.

Of course, the reverse is also true – for those people, and the many others I’ve met over the years and lost touch with, I am the one who has changed radically.

With the advent of social media, I have reconnected to a number of those long unstuck people in recent months.

Inevitably they all say the same thing (with varying degrees of either joy or aghast), Good Gravy, you’re a liberal! When did you change sides?

This seems to be happening more frequently of late.

Every time I write something like the previous post on same-sex marriage, people I haven’t seen in years, hell decades – acquaintances, former comrades in arms, people who I knew long ago – see it on Twitter or Facebook or Google+ or some other link and write to ask when I went over to the dark side.  It’s never a flood, but the nature of social networking is that it grows exponentially like neurons in some vast global brain, and when I write something that gets a lot of play people who knew me back in the day write to find out if I’ve been kidnapped by sparkly gay environmentalists and spirited away to their lair beneath an abortion clinic in San Francisco or something.

When did you change sides?

I’m not big on introspection, I am who I am and I like it that way just fine – sharp edges and all –  but the fact that I keep getting asked this question made me wonder: have I changed? Inside? In my conviction. Where it counts?

Have I really changed so much that people I haven’t seen in years think that I have switched “sides.”

I believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and I always have. I believe that all people have those inalienable rights.  All people, every single one, and I always have.  I believed in it so much that I went off and spent most of my life defending those ideals. And so, when people whom I haven’t seen in a very long time say, “when did you change sides?” it makes me wonder.

There are things that define Left and Right, that define the line we Americans have drawn in the soil of our nation. Abortion. War. Peace. Guns. Homosexuality. Creationism. Evolution. Big Business. The Environment. Race. Sex. Religion. Entitlements. Poverty. Wealth. Government.

Things like this bumper sticker:

In case you can’t read that, it says, “Tolerance is for the person who has no conviction.”

This bit of sound-bite Christianity is taken from Christian Apologetics. It’s the sentiment of certain evangelicals, if you don’t believe as we do, you don’t count. This is an odd philosophy to embrace when you profess belief in a religion whose founder said, “turn the other cheek.” Don’t you think? For me, this sentiment brought things into sharp focus.

Have my views on those fundamental divisions listed up above changed in the last thirty years?

I believe strongly in tolerance, have I no conviction?

To answer that, I’d have to look at where my viewpoints came from in the first place.

Growing up, I was bullied – mercilessly, tenaciously, relentlessly, day in and day out, from grade school to the day I graduated from high school. It took me a while to get over it. It’s not something I dwell on these days. Time lends perspective, and while I don’t much miss the place where I grew up I realize that I wouldn’t be who I am without it. My experience is tempered by the fact that I had good family and a few good friends who were always there for me, and by the things I’ve seen since in the dark and dangerous corners of the world – no matter how wrong you think you’ve been done, there are always those who are far worse off and you’d do well to keep that in mind.

I have no compelling need to either get even or prove anything to people I haven’t seen in decades and who likely don’t even remember either me or their cruelty, but I suspect that experience during my formative years explains a number of things about why I see the world the way I do. Back then there wasn’t much I could do about it except endure – these days, I do not suffer a bully to live (which, if you’re paying attention, might help you to understand my commenting rules), nor will I stand idly by and let somebody else be victimized. Period.  This is non-negotiable.

When did I become an advocate for gay rights?

I never did.

I’m an enthusiastic advocate for civil rights. I’m a passionate and unrelenting advocate for human rights, regardless of race, creed, color, sex, age, origin, station in life, or any of the other bullshit categories people use to exclude others from full participation in our society, and that most certainly includes sexual orientation.  Give me one good reason why anybody should be made to hate themselves. Give me one good reason why one person should be able to define another.  That’s what bullies do, you know, define others. Put them in a box. Limit who they can be. Force them into categories: Fatty, Fag, Geek, Nerd, Retard, Stupid, Ugly, Loser. Bullies make their victims hate themselves.  Well, I won’t stand for it.  The single most fundamental of all human rights is the right to define yourself, that’s exactly what the Founders meant when they said, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness… Noting more and nothing less. Either we are all free, or none of us are. And I am fully willing and able to stand up to any son of a bitch who says different.

When did I become so anti-war?

I never did.

I have always held that viewpoint. You think that odd for someone who spent their entire adult life in the profession of War? Willingly?  Heh, you don’t know many professional military folks then. War. Violence. I was born the year the world nearly ended because a bunch of lunatics came within minutes of lobbing nuclear missiles at each other over a shitty worthless speck of an island in the Caribbean.  I grew up during the Cold War, every single day pundits and politicians speculated not if we would destroy ourselves, but when – every kid in my generation grew up with the realization that the world could end at any moment because a bunch of assholes we’d never met couldn’t get along with each other. Every single evening during my childhood the TV was filled with the bloody images of Vietnam, pictures of dead and wounded soldiers and burning helicopters and body counts. The streets were full of  protestors and haunted shattered warriors.  I remember the Iranian Hostage Crisis, and a couple of folks I only vaguely knew bragging about how they’d cornered an Iranian student in the parking garage of the local junior college and beat the hell out of him in revenge. There, that would teach those goddamned Ayatollahs.  And I thought, what the hell? How is assaulting some random Muslim, an Iranian attending an American college and who might grow up to take back his country, how is that in our best interest? How does that make any sense?  Contrast that against the tales of honor and glory and duty told by the likes of Pournelle, Heinlein, Drake, Kipling, Hemmingway, and the other books I read and the stories my dad told of Korea and my uncles in WWII. It seemed to me then that war might be a necessary evil, but an evil nonetheless, an evil that takes a terrible toll on both the winners and the losers.  Two decades of military service, two wars of my own later, and my opinion hasn’t changed.  Until there is a fundamental change in human nature, war and conflict will be a necessary evil.  But it is not something to be entered into lightly or for false reasons or because of hysteria or without due diligence and thorough consideration and an understanding of the consequences. Every single life lost, on both sides, is a waste of humanity – in both senses of the word.  Stand before the Vietnam memorial on the Mall in Washington D.C., run your hands over the 54,000 names inscribed there and tell me that I’m wrong.  I’ll be 50 years old in a couple of months, during my life we’ve been at war for more than half of that time. All of it if you include the events of the Cold War. That’s insane. We could have remade our world into a paradise for all, we could have fed every soul on the planet, we could have raised the standard of living for every single man, women and child and erased poverty forever, we could have cured diseases and afflictions and genetic defects, we could be halfway to the nearest star by now – if we had put one tenth of the energy into ending the causes of war as we do finding excuses to kill each other. How many Einsteins, how many Galileos, how many Rembrandts are laying out there dead on the battlefield? How many Sagans and Salks starved to death in Africa this year?  How many Bill Gates and Steve Jobs died of cancer and AIDS?  Lost before their genius could be realized? How much of our potential have we as human beings pissed away in war and conflict and burning death?  My son is now a teenager and for all of his life, every night the TV is filled with bloody images of dead and dying soldiers, burning helicopters, and body counts. Americans are still beating up Muslims in parking garages and my son hears my stories of Iraq and Libya and Beirut.  Our streets aren’t filled with protesters this time around, but there are plenty of those haunted shattered warriors out there and more every day.  When did I become anti-war? Wrong question.  The correct question is why the hell aren’t you?

When did I become pro-abortion? When did I become anti-gun? When did I become anti-religion? And so on?

I never did.

It’s all part of a set piece. The world is full of dying children, here and abroad. They starve to death every day in unlamented tens of thousands and rot in a hundred thousand unmarked graves.  They die of disease and neglect and war and poverty and abuse and slavery and a thousand other horrors. I’ve seen them. I’ve walked among their shattered bodies.  Those folks who bleat so loudly about God’s will and God’s love should go out and see with their own eyes what God’s will and God’s love has wrought in the dark corners of the world – and right here in the United States.  People like the Pope pray and sing and enjoin his followers to save a handful of cells unattached to the uterine wall.  That pompous hypocrite. Children? You’re goddamned kidding me.  There’s a place in hell for that guy, yes there is. See, I’ve walked through his home too.  He lives in a palace of gold surrounded by a city-state of riches while real live living children are abused under his very roof, while tens of thousands more starve and struggle and cough out their lives on parched soil.  Mega-Church pastors stand before millions of TV viewers every Sunday and lament their poverty, while surrounded by billion dollar empires of glass and steel and silver.  They talk of peace and wage war. They speak of sacrifice and live like kings. They praise truth and yet decry science. They preach love and inclusion but practice hate and exclusion.  They offer salvation, at a price.  They speak of humility and arrogantly try to impose their will upon the world.  When did I come to hate bullies?  For just as goddamned long as I can remember. 

When did I change?

The simple answer to that question is that I never did.

So what changed then? Because something sure did.

What has changed are the labels, the boxes people keep trying to put me into.

I tried to visualize it and this is what I came up with (Maybe those classes the Navy paid for with Tufte at Yale weren’t wasted after all):


You can click on the graphic for a larger image.

I attained the age of majority during the Carter Administration.  Back then I was defined as a traditional conservative.  Balanced budget. War only when necessary. Mom. Apple pie. Conservatives were doctors, engineers, scientists, the guys with the buzz cuts and white shirts who worked at NASA and got us to the moon and back. They smoked Pall Malls and drank Pabst Blue Ribbon. They worked on the assembly line at Ford and GM and they BBQ’d in their backyards in the suburbs on the weekends. You didn’t have to ask, you knew they were veterans.  If they went to church on Sunday, that was their business – they never talked about it.  They were Boy Scouts and Little Leaguers and members of the Elks Club. Live and let live. They were the folks who said “I don’t agree with what you say, but I’ll die to defend your right to say it” and they meant every word of it.

By the time Reagan came along, people dropped the “traditional” and just referred to my position as just “conservative” with a lower-case “c.”  Most everybody I knew was the same. The first warning signs came when people started referring to something called compassionate conservatism.  Compassionate? As a opposed to what?  Condescending conservatism? Intolerant conservatism?  Screw you conservatism? Seriously, why would you have to qualify a political position in a such a manner? Unless of course, there was some indication that your beliefs were increasingly less than compassionate. Unless, you yourself, believed that your ideology was increasingly one of selfishness.

Eight years later when George the First took office, people had added the prefix “moderate” to my version of conservatism.  Moderate? Again, as opposed to what? Extremism?  Yeah. Funny thing, that, as it turns out…

Clinton took office and the noun “conservative” disappeared altogether leaving me with just the modifier like fractional division where certain values just cancel out.  That’s what happened to me, I got cancelled out right out of the Republican party.

When George the Pinheaded ascended to the throne, we moderates were relabeled “progressives.”  I thought that was an improvement. Progressive. Progress. That’s a good thing? Right?  Yeah. Funny thing, that, as it turns out…

And now, under Obama, I am, of course,  a homo-lovin’ red-commie anti-capitalist liberal-traitor rat-bastard who hates America (insert the label of your choice here, Fatty, Fag, Geek, Nerd, Retard, Stupid, Ugly, Loser, and so on. Go on, you know the words) – as are all Americans who don’t cling to their guns and their bibles and their militia uniforms. The entire republican party has shifted right and thrown people like me over the fantail into their wake.  You’re either with us or against us. Conservatives who used to be the serious men in white shirts and buzzcuts, the men who got us to the moon and home safely again, the ones who once taught science and engineering and medicine in the colleges, are now the party of Creationism and Rapture and screw you I got mine. Live my way, or don’t live at all.  I don’t agree with what you say, so I’ll have to kill you until you’re dead dead dead because you have no right to say it. None.

My views have not changed. I’m still the same guy you used to know.

I stood fast, firm in my conviction and the war flowed around me and the battle lines shifted like flowing mercury.

One day I looked up and realized that I was on the other side. 


And you know what? I’m just fine with that.


  1. "If you like who you are, you have to honor how you got here." -- Steve Perry

    I hate to be a boot-licking sycophant, but yes. This. You speak for me and my point(s) of view in this piece.

    I'd offer to buy you a beer for your birthday. We're about a year apart in age, kid. That is, I would offer to buy you a beer, but I don't really drink beer much anymore and you're stuck in the snowy wilderness.

    Next time you come down to SoCal, though, let me know. We'll take you guys to Disneyland!

  2. Yes. I used to be a Republican, too. Back when they weren't, you know, batshit.

    1. A-yup. Voted Republican through Reagan's first election. Not since, 'cept for Connie Morella, a Maryland moderate Republican in the late '80s.

    2. Yep. I voted Republican until Reagan's second election. Never since, 'cept for Connie Morella, a moderate Republican Congresscreep from Maryland in the mid- to late-'80s.

  3. Totally freaks some people out if they can't label you or define you according to their own assumptions & ignorance.

    However, instead of Pall Malls and PBR, make mine Marlboro Lights and Rolling Rock.

  4. I'm a registered Republican. The party has left me.

  5. I usually just check the you are a god button at the bottom of your posts but this time I felt the need to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). I love your stuff. This post should be read by every single person of voting age (that would be 18 Mr Perry) before they cast a vote. In fact, it should be mandatory before a person is even allowed to screech about things they have no clue about.

    Thank you for putting into words what many of us have been wondering about.


  6. I don't think you've changed. You have always been a Democrat in your Heart.
    The republican party got really ugly after Nixon was elected. And it kept going downhill from there.
    I like you just fine!!

    1. That oversimplifies things greatly. The Overton window has continually shifted to the right, especially since Faux Noise came on the scene.
      Democrats are not angels without blemishes either, and the democratic party was not always the (ideally) progressive party of today.

  7. This is an astonishingly difficult thing to explain to my students, who have never known a world where the US had anything approaching an actual left instead of a center-right and an extreme-right.

    Even Barry Goldwater reluctantly concluded he had become a liberal in 1996, simply by standing still and letting the Republicans lurch to the right around him.

    Damn, Jim. You're making this whole "try not to be a sycophant" thing awfully difficult these days. ;)

  8. As always, your writing makes my eyes water in so many ways.

  9. You may be one of the few bloggers I read to which I must ultimately respond, "well, of course." I've mentioned that it struck me as odd that we have so many viewpoints in common despite the difference in career paths (if you can call my stumbling a "career path").
    It turns out that our experience with bullies most of our early lives had a resonating effect. I also despise them, and haven't had much "tolerance" for them since then.
    I've always had a liberal bent, but thought of myself as more of a "moderate" in that I'm pro-capitalism (strictly regulated, of course), and pro 2nd Amendment (which I consider the Right of Self-Defense... arguments about people owning tanks, rocket launchers, and nuclear weapons fall on deaf ears with me, since I cannot see any way to define these things as instruments of self defense). I like meat, and I don't like PETA or the HSUS telling me that they'd like to rid the world of domesticated dogs and cats. I can't imagine life without dogs.
    I feel the SAME way as you do about human rights. There's no such thing as a partial right--it's all or nothing for everyone. A right denied to someone else is a right denied to ME. Or so I see it.

  10. Another fabulous piece of writing, Jim.
    I've stood in pretty much the same political place for decades, too, . . . while the vocalizations of the political spectrum slid to the right. What I find puzzling and disturbing is that so many people slid right along with the sound bites, instead of remaining firmly in the middle ground; apparently lacking conviction in their beliefs, and instead depending on others to define who or what they should be or beleive in.

  11. Did someone say "sycophant?" Me! Me! I want to be a boot-licking sycophant!

  12. Love it! I, too, cannot stand a bully and there's the defining point. Back when we were kids, the social order was recognizing and expanding the rights of the previously disenfranchised. The Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and, for a while, the ERA. And then what was considered the social order shifted rightward. Now the social order is to feign piety, shame those trying to upset the proverbial apple cart, and to return those minorities and women to their "rightful" place. Your buddies are using shame to control you, since you are displaying unorthodoxy...but it won't work because you remember being bullied and you won't stand for it, for yourself or others. So, embrace being a social justice loving liberal

  13. As usual, you leave me speechless. so i'm just gonna go back and click "you are my god."

    thank you

  14. You blew this one right out of the water. A heck of a great piece of writing, which like a few others have said, brought tears.

  15. My thoughts exactly - but you say it better. I used to think I was right smack in the middle of the political road - then the crazy people moved the whole damned road.

    I do find it amusing when people assume that my 20 year military career means that I am staunchly right wing. I wonder if they have ever read the Constitution I promised to defend. Their words and behavior would indicate that they have not.

    Yeah. I didn't change either, but some of them sure did.

  16. The only thing that changed is I no longer believe the line about a rising tide raising all boats, or that people need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. A rising tide only helps if you have a boat, and there of plenty of people who don't have access to bootstraps, let alone boots. The party also left me. When the party embraced the Social Conservatives (who are neither), I joined the opposition where I found many people of like mind (they also were the ones that showed me how titled the playing field was).

    If there's anybody out there who wants to argue how far the politics of the right have gone, I'll point out that Sandra Day O'Conner, when appointed was a solid, middle road conservative. By the time she retired her positions (which didn't change) labeled her a "dirty liberal."

    1. I think a rising tide does lift all boats.

      My problem with that line is, if I wanted to make that line fit what I think we have now, there would be an artificial lake - essentially a swimming pool four miles in diameter, and a half-mile deep at the center - being filled with water from the bay. So, while rafts and canoes and rowboats and sailboats are all being left high and dry, the person who owns the yacht moored at one end of the artificial lake is saying, "My boat is being lifted! The tide must be rising!"

  17. Seems to me you can be most tolerant when you HAVE courage in your convictions. Then you can hear and evaluate different ideas.

  18. Another great one. Your bullies remind me of my dad...he is disappointed I vote dem every time, but I think it is our responsibility to take care of others. I am proud that I am raising four kids to speak up for others who are bullied, give a homeless person food or water and who are able to recognize that they have a good life as Americans. The screw you attitude my dad has will end with him in this family.

  19. So any theories from you former Republicans about where all those crazies came from? Jim, those people who ask you why you changed sides--how did they get where they are now? Surely you would have noticed if they always were there.

    1. It came with the tele-evangelists in the 70's who preached give to us and God will bless you 3 times more, you will be rich, and other rubbish.And the Bible was quoted at times. But it sounded good and they wanted to be good people and help others talked about in foreign countries, pictures of starving children. Pat Robertson became a billionaire this way. He still has non profit status but he sold 700 Club to Rupert Murdock, and Robertson owns diamond mines himself, not his donors. He and all TV preachers still beg for money and the urgency they need it. Still the right wingnuts listen to him talk of President Obama being the Anti-Christ, and which foreign leader we should kill, and other political topics (who to vote for in elections also). In the mid 70's Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker (PTL Club) fell from the top with sex scandal and stealing from the investors of Chrisian living Heritage Villege. Jim was in prison, they divorced and Tammy died but he is back in business as is his son. Billy Graham was sold out by his own son Franklin, after his 30 years of drug, sex and whatever he realized he could repent and get Dad's Empire.Franklin talked his Dad into Republican dogma, changing literature from Democratic ideas Billy Graham always held. He destroyed one of the best Christian leaders in the world. Now Franklin runs everything as his Dad in his 90's is suffering with Parkinsons. Republicans, most I know, don't think for themselves. They listen to the TV, their large denominations Church view, or Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly and they feel righteous when they speak this nonsense. They believe they are good Christians but they don't read the Bible and research what they hear. They want to be accepted and be known as the big people, the winners, they think these people are for America. The rest of us are stupid, not really Christians, un Patriotic, and always wrong when we speak. But they are racist, bigots, refute Science, and want women controled by men. They honestly think it will get them some social standing and a big piece of the wealth. All is greed but they are blind. Sins by politicians are only done by Democrats, they will not admit their own mistakes much less Republicans. Their heros are Reagan and Bush W, Bushit. It has been a silent take over from the TV (almost like the book 1984, and The Ugly American). We have met the enemy, and it is us.

    2. Good analysis and describes my fundamental, rightwing "Christianist" family to a "T." When I was a kid, church was an ok place where we actually read the Bible and learned about "do unto others," be kind to one another, and the Golden Rule.

      I go to my family's "churches" now to learn what propaganda line is being spewed. Most of family attends propaganda mills set up and run by the Family/Fellowship creeps. At a recent service, the minister (a son of a close childhood friend) repeated 5 times (I counted) words to the effect of: "we will all meet in heaven IF you're a Christian."

      Sigh. My family and their "churches" have changed radically from when I was kid. Most of them are addicted to Rush, Fox & O'Reilly and see so no reason why they should listen to any viewpoint other than that spewed forth by their "ministers" and the media they watch.

      BTW, though, Billy Graham was always racist and anti-Semitic. I have no love lost for Graham the Father, but I do agree that Franklin Graham is a Grade A Number 1 greedy, grasping, bigoted, homophobic, sexist, racist, parasitic creep. Sadly, a member of my family married into a family deeply entwined in the Graham ministries. They don't like me very much... oh well.

  20. We were transferred overseas after 9/11. Before we left I had a conversation w/a friend where she asked what I was most happy to leave behind (she thought for sure that I'd say my awful ex-husband). I told her that I was so glad to to leave behind all of the batshit crazy voters with the sense of entitlement magicked upon them by their god/church/conservative politics.

    We were back in Alaska when the last presidential campaign was getting hot, and lo & behold, Alaskans and Americans had become even more divisive & insane. I changed my voter registration from Republican to Independent the week after McCain picked Palin. It was beyond obvious that the Republicans were no longer the party for me.

    My husband and I are engineers. We believe in science, tolerance & compassion (not necessarily in that order). There is not a whit of any of that in the current GOP. We wonder, often, what will come of the US. Will the churches hold the right hostage to their bizarre beliefs & intransigence? Will there be a civil war? I like to think that someday those wretched people voting against their own self-interests will wake up. But I'm not sure that it will happen.

    I love & agree with everything in this post except the bit about the entire country shifting to the right. I've dragged my husband a bit to the left -- he'd never agree with the current manifestation of the GOP, but he has become much more compassionate through our many years together, thanks to me. Left alone he'd have skewed right, minus the religious stuff (he's a scientist through & through). I, personally, can no longer lay claim to belief in the business/taxes/capitalism rationales that used to define the GOP beliefs -- they cannot be separated from enabling scandalous corporate deeds & profits any longer. So, we've both shifted left, and maybe some others have too. The Republican party has shifted right dramatically, but not the country.


  21. Except for the military service and you being 2 years older than me, pretty much everything you said is my experience, too. I thought I had changed, until I read this and realized that no, I haven't. I've just been redefined by freaks who are working very hard at marginalizing the rest of the world. Thanks, Jim. I'm now considering how to address this issue myself, for the people who keep asking me when *I* changed or keep patting me on the head and saying "Oh, Jet, tsk tsk" as they shake their heads. It's getting increasingly harder not to punch them for their ignorance and condescension.

  22. The Republican party has always changed with time. They were the Progressives starting with their first, Lincoln, but it ended with Teddy Roosevelt snatching up a bunch of beautiful, unused land (back then it was very remote) away from the big money land grabbers. As the party changed, Teddy was hounded out of it. Then, rather suddenly, with FDR the Democrats became the party of progressive change and taking care of the weak. Now we have both parties inordinately controlled by big money, where we can't even count on Democratic senators to follow the President's example.

    All politics is local. People of good standing in their communities and solid, real compassion, need to get on down to the county courthouse and file for office. Then put your walking shoes on.

  23. just read your blog and I LOVE it...will follow you on twitter and subscribe to your blog. People have called me a "rabid" liberal, but I'm just like you...if they only knew! I admit I am now a registered Dem, but only because my GOP changed too much for me to stay....

  24. Another great post Jim. Enjoy your writing. Back in Eisenhower days you would have been a good Republican. You're right, you haven't changed. It's actually too bad that the Republican Party has gone so far to the right. In the past 20 years, they have become the John Birch society. Thanks for the post that I will share.

  25. Bullied in school? Check.

    Same age? Close enough. Check.

    Military career? Check.

    Were Republican when they were the sane ones, hounded out when "those damn pastors" (to use Goldwater's description) took over the joint? Check.

    I can certainly see why our viewpoints coincide so often.

  26. I have a question. Do you think that the majority of Americans are batshit crazy or is it just that the more outrageous, extremist, god fearing nut bars get more air time because controversy makes for more entertainment?

  27. I have always struggled while trying to explain why I don't have a party any longer. I thought maybe I had changed over my military career; my priorities had shifted while my mind opened with experiences.

    I realized I hadn't changed. It took coming 'home' to realize that too much had changed around me and I was a loose peg.

    Thank you very much for this. You said what I could not put to words and I am grateful for that.

    I like being a loose peg.

  28. I have been trying to explain this very thought to people who question me when I say that I am a disenfranchised conservative. Yes, I guess in today's world, I am a progressive. Thanks for once again proving you have the ability to say what many need to have said.

  29. Never in my 60 years have I been a republican, Jim. Actually didn't know it wasn't pronounced "goddamrepublican" until I hit elementary school. My parents, children of the Depression, both quit school to work so their families could eat.

    As an adult, my father worked 2 jobs to keep us fed and clothed. The machinists' union helped with workers' rights and pay. I remember my father walking a picket line one year on my birthday.

    First one in my family to go to college. Where did I end up? The helping professions.

    Bottom line, I think everyone has the right to become their best self. Sometimes that takes a little help from others.

    Too many these days believe as you noted: I've got mine and screw you.

    Thank you for writing your blog. You have a gift for communicating.

  30. Absolutely loved it... I usually pick the "You are god" button for articles that resonate so well with my thoughts. Felt compelled to de-lurk and leave a comment - thank you thank you, thank you!

  31. My brother and I discovered this disconnected from the timestream when we reconnected after our respectived divorces. He's one of the few people I'll talk politics with, and we found that without either one of us moving in our opinions, our labels had changed. We're a little older than you are and grew up worshiping NASA, Heinlein, and praying to God that the missiles stayed in their silos. Conservative? Maybe.

    Only now, few people know where to place us. He's a gun-loving vegetarian, pro-choice fiscal conservative, whose best friends are gay. I'm a left-wing Christian who listens to NPR and right-wing talk radio, somewhat fiscally conservative who receives govt aid for a disabled daughter.

    Sometimes, I wish we could just be Amurricans, no labels, thank you.

  32. I'm eleven years older than you, so I've had ten more years to get more confused.

    I don't get how Christians went from being people who taught their kids never to be bullies to people who got legislation passed in Michigan guaranteeing that it was OK for their kids to pick on gays, or people they suspected of being gay in all their puerile wisdom.

    I don't get how "conservative" went from meaning "fiscally responsible" to "downright mean, and scared to death of gays, immigrants and atheists."

    I don't get how "liberal" went from meaning "caring about everybody, regardless of socioeconomic status" to some kind of swear word.

    I'm not stupid. I've got advanced degrees. But the list of stuff I just don't get seems to get longer every day.

  33. "it's hard to leave, when you can't find the door"

    This topic as been on my mind of late as well. Had a couple of friends going back and forth in Facebook about an opinion piece they read on Huffington Post. In the end, it came down to one one person being intolerant, but not recognizing it.

    I think the intolerance (not just my buddy in the argument) comes down to a deep seated need to be 'right', and the only 'right' is version of 'right' I espouse. It's akin to being on the winning side.

    Dunno Jim, I keep hoping for our better natures to take control. Problem is, there are too many people trying to sell us that we are 'right', or join our side to be 'right'

    1. I was reminded of some lyrics, too. "The Generals sat, and the lines on the map moved from side to side..."

  34. You know what's even more disconcerting?

    I've been a liberal Democrat pretty much my whole life, and with the exception of That One Issue, have believed strongly the Democratic platform.

    It's mind boggling when all of a sudden all these people who were conservatives when I was growing up are getting called "commie bastards" and the word liberal has become a slur.

    I've watched the Republican party from the outside for years, and am gobsmacked by the vitriol thrown upon anyone who doesn't toe the party line, and--quite frankly--disgusted by the exclusionary nature of conservative politics.

    We've all joked before about the Conservative mantra being, "Fuck you, I've got mine," but I'm beginning to worry they've taken it seriously.

  35. This is one of the best things you've ever written, Jim. Well done.

    And let me sort of echo Michelle from the left: me, I've never been a Democrat, having realized early on that they weren't left-wing enough for me; I've identified as a socialist ever since discovering an explanation of mixed-market economics that made perfect such perfect sense it just seemed self-evident that a logical society would provide certain vital services so everybody could have access and let the private sector handle much of what was left. So it leaves me gobsmacked when an Eisenhower Republican like President Obama is branded a "socialist"; I want to jump up and down, waving my arms and saying, "No, no, no! He hasn't nationalized a damn thing and I'd really like him to." The whole country has veered off into a crazyscary place.

    1. Sorta de-lurked just to say "right there with ya, Eric." And Jim, I'm not nearly as brave as you are, in many ways. In addition to struggling with how to articulate my beliefs, I struggle with how to respond in the moment to encountering someone spouting bat-shit crazy. But I'm tired of just walking away. And inasmuch as you are a god(!) in this regard, I plan on coming back here often.

  36. I've always been in a strange middle ground as I am rather conservative in my own life but very liberal (and becoming more so) in my view of how the world should be for others.

    I became involved in theater, music, dance and art while in high school and learned to interact and embrace all sorts of interesting and different people. The experiences I had as a child in my Catholic church convinced me to stay as far away from organized religion as possible and I cringe when people claim to be Christians and then act as anything but.

    I now work in a city school where I am part of the minority. When people admit to being frightened or hateful towards Muslims, I think of my 6 and 7 year old students and wonder how anyone could be afraid of them.

    I hope that, like many times before in our history, the pendulum will eventually begin to swing back towards a more tolerant society. We've gone so far to the right we are nearly falling off the edge so we HAVE to head back in the other direction pretty soon!

  37. Dammit Jim!

    You go and quote the Walsh to start your essay and I'm all set for some heavy duty *irony*! Instead I get a dose of Stonekettle serious with a typically laser precise assessment of 'the shape of things'. I'm a bit younger than you, don't live in the same country as you, haven't had the bullying issues like you and somehow I know exactly what you mean. I'll confess it's a bit depressing too, because those exact same forces of petty, ignorant, intolerant bullshit are on the march up here in Canuckistan. It seems painfully obvious that this new, strident conservatism is scared shitless at the prospect of a world where decency and inclusion and a basic respect for people who aren't 'you' is normal because it would expose the hypocrisy and pettiness of their philosophy of exclusion.

    Although it is a bit conspiracyish, I also suspect that fractious, hyperbolic way that the media covers political discourse suits people with influence just fine. It entrenches sides and acts as a paralytic to a significant portion of the population who are sickened by it all. Rational debate doesn't get ratings and so it's left to wither away while we end up with Jersey Shore, the C-Span edition.

    As your essay makes quite clear, the condition is pretty damned obvious it just seems that a solution is far far away.

  38. Great article! Well thought out and well written.

    One thing we should remember - so many Americans fall for jingoism because they know so little of the rest of the world.

    Being a military brat, I lived all over, including overseas as a child. The more places we lived, the more I realized that people were just people everywhere. 99.9999% of the people in this world simply want to be happy and live a good life, regardless of their country of origin. Seeing that growing up, it made it impossible to believe stupid sloganeering and condemnation of entire countries - it just seemed foolish.

    If more Americans travelled the world we would have a much more informed and mentally alert citizenry...

  39. I also watched a father who had to limp across the room everyday after having been shot in Vietnam. This was a constant reminder of the price that people pay for silly conflicts that had no reason to be waged in the first place.

  40. I really want to post something thoughtful and well crafted -- a comment worthy of the post. Cos we are of different age, and started from different places, but have landed well within ball-tossing distance of each other.

    Regrettably, I'm too tired tonight to construct a worthy commentary, and I'm booked to the tits tomorrow.

    So, let me just leave it at "good 'un" and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

  41. Very well written Jim.

    Your writing strikes a chord in me - something visceral. I think it is the idea of wanting to belong to a community of shared values and beliefs, but looking around and finding extreme views and unsustainable paths that are, well, Diffferent.

    Regarding war: I am your age and was raised in the family of liberal peace-marching Democrats during the Vietnam war. Nixon was the anti-christ. I still remember when growing up hand-carved wood billboards with peace signs and the words "war is not healthy for children and other living things". We hated war then.

    It seems to me that War has become sterilized. For most of us who have not served our country, war has been OVER THERE, fought by someone else, with no caskets on TV, and paid for by future taxpayers.There has been no shared sacrifice. While I have yet to support a war effort that our country has entered in my lifetime - the rationale for going to war has never made sense when weighed against the loss of human life, and long term suffering due to depleted uranium, etc - I have admittedly not done enough to object to the conflicts we have entered. I am as guilty as the next person.

    Regarding changing values and political party affiliations, it seems to me that we as a society have lost the art of compromise. Where did we all get the notion that we were right and THEY were wrong? Life is not black and white - life is made up of the many different shades of gray. Shakespeare was a master at showing the many facets of the human character. None of us are perfect, yet we are all human beings.

    Because of the extremist views in politics today I have increasingly found myself without political party affiliation. I was admittedly hopeful when Obama took office. He spoke more eloquently, and argued more cogently that most politicians of late. He really seemed bright, and, I thought, might get things done because he was not a washington outsider. I thought he would be different. I was wrong.

    Democrats and Republicans have increasingly become two sides of the same coin. Different in name, and perhaps the lobbying interests that tend to favor their party.

    Our government is no longer as Lincoln described it "a government of the people, by the people, and for the people". We have all been replaced by corporations; we have become a corporatocracy as a nation. Where monied interests run politics. where it pays to lobby, and where big pharma, big banks, big agriculture and the war industrial complex run roughshod over individual rights and entrenched political interests trump rational and sustainable ideas.

    Like you, I have conviction in my views, but I am finding them increasingly at odds with the poltiical and economic realities of the day.

    ...well that comment ended up being an off-topic, late night rant!

  42. Know what you mean about the meaning of "conservative" having changed over the years. Once upon a time, conservatives were the grownups who wanted America to be a pleasant place of modest conservative families leading quiet conservative lives without any fuss or muss. Nowadays, they're the lunatics who want to impose their own will on everybody, hold rambunctious rallies waving teabags while screaming "keep your government hands off my Medicare!", and otherwise are a spectacle that would have appalled conservatives of the era in which we were born (I was born within a year or two of you, in case you're wondering).

    Heinlein had free sex and military stormtroopers in his books. How could that be reconciled? Well, he was a small-c conservative, from before it was a "movement", back when it was just how America worked -- a nation of hard-working people who mostly minded their own business, did the right thing because it was the right thing, and behaved with some dignity rather than the spectacle that is today's "conservative" movement where you have people like bug-eyes batshit crazy Bachmann or slimy reptilian Newt Gingrich as the poster child for everything wrong with today's conservatism. I can't imagine any conservative of our childhood saying that child labor laws should be repealed and children put back to work in the mines. It just wasn't done. Conservatives would have been appalled. Conservatives of that era simply would not have made a spectacle out of themselves making such an outrageous proposal. Newt said it, then doubled down.

    America's always been a conservative nation. It still is. President Obama is a conservative, for example -- he behaves with dignity, tries to incrementally fix what's wrong with the current system rather than do the radical thing of completely dumping it in favor of a new untried untested system, favors pragmatism over ideology, and so forth. What's changed is that the definition of "conservative" has changed so that people like you, or I, or President Obama, are "radical Muslim socialists intent upon overthrowing America", for not embracing the radical agenda of Movement Conservatism -- an agenda which has absolutely nothing to do with conservatism in the small-c meaning of the word, and shares the same principle trait as the radical agenda of Communism -- it simply doesn't work when tried in the real world. Because valuing ideology over pragmatic realism *always* results in fail. Reality simply *is*, regardless of your ideology, and if you try to impose your ideology onto reality, it is your ideology that will lose. Which is why the United States is in deep, deep trouble right now... the ideologues have been running things since Reagan came to office, and now reality is snapping at our heels. Ugh.

    - Badtux the Pragmatic Conservative Penguin

  43. So well said. I used to think I was conservative, and now I think I'm pretty moderate, but I'm pretty sure I look like a big time liberal to many of my conservative relatives. I don't understand all of the hate professed by so-called Christians. It just baffles me--and scares me, to be perfectly honest.

  44. I just turned 61 last Monday, but aside from having ten more years of experience in this shifting of perspective, I do understand where you are "coming from" and why you have written what you have.

    My disconnect with the timestream came first when I moved 500 miles away for my first year in college. I had to move back home and get a job the next year, but didn't really get back together with anyone I had hung out with in high school because they were all still away at *their* colleges.

    The big jump came when I resumed my studies, this time at Pepperdine University; I took advantage of their Year-in-Europe program and went to Heidelberg in the fall of 1975. Knowing I would have to stop out again and work a while, I took advantage of my location and became a Department of the Army civilian at Headquarters, US Army, Europe & Seventh Army, in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Logistics. (I'm proud to say I made the acquaintance of several fine Warrant Officers in that branch of service.)

    My staff element was actually in charge of our, um, presence in Iran in those days, and as part of the newly-formed Word Processing Department, I saw a number of After Action Reports when it all started falling apart there.

    I returned home to the Los Angeles are in May 1980, and again, did not re-connect with anyone from my childhood. Now I realize that the people whose thoughts and opinions I most value are scattered around the world -- from you there in Alaska to my friend Kathy in Florida, and scattered throughout the vast middle of our country. For me, this is what Getting the Big Picture means.

    Thank you for putting it into words so well -- and the nifty timeline graphic in the middle makes the shift all the more clear.

  45. The saddest part of this post is that it clearly points out that some Americans now have "sides". Put me on the "side" of ALL people. I'm am so disgusted that it has finally come out openly (and embraced solidly by the right) as "us vs them". good grief...

  46. I found this post through a friend on FB. I'm another military brat like a previous commentator, and while I came into the political arc later than you, I've experienced the same trajectory. As a kid, I started as a proto-conservative under Reagan, and now...well...I'm not.

    Thank you for your eloquent words. You've nailed it. So, now, can you please just tell me which way it is to the line of boot-lickers?...:)

  47. Hi Jim,
    This is the first time I have read your blog (received a link from The Christian Left) and you seriously brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for putting into words what my heart has felt for a long time. After reading through other's comments, I can see that I'm not alone in my thinking. If you weren't already married, I'd ask you to marry me! I look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  48. Sadly, the people who most need to read this won't because it's too long.
    Please write your thoughts again in posts of no longer than about three lines.

  49. Of course, how would I even know if you had changed; since I only met you via Face Book a couple years ago? I happen to believe change is good, since I hate to see things go stale. To me each day is a new lesson, and therefore I strive to learn more to continue to educate myself.
    I have followed you, because I like your raw honesty, and the way you express yourself. I read what you say, and think..wow..someone else thinks like me:-) That is a really good feeling.
    I really dislike labels, and it does seem everyone has a need to pigeon hole everyone else they know..or even don't know. Everyone has an opinion, and if you don't quite match their own, they set out to try and destroy you.
    I never would have guessed you were someone bullied, but I can also see how it has helped shape your views, and made you much stronger. I hate bullies, and have always tried hard to protect those being bullied. It often gets me into hot water, but I don't mind.
    I am glad you really have not changed, and am really pleased you have chosen to share with us in the way you do. Thank you very much.

  50. Sigh, reeducation is a bitch.....but Jim, you are hearby sentenced to 243 hours of alternating viewings of "The Green Berets" and "Red Dawn". This is for your benefit not ours.

    If war is not the agent of benevolent change in foreign places, then those Brown Communist Muslim (and probably Kenyan) people will come to the God Blessed USA and shove their alien ways up our.........you get the idea. I'm glad we had our chat, now start viewing and learning.

    Semper Gumbi Mate

  51. Fascinating! Ten years ago, when I started voting Green, I said the Democratic party had left me in its rightward migration: now I find Republicans of my generation feel the same way. It's so logical, I should have suspected it before.

    Furthermore, we ex-Democrats and ex-Republicans are probably closer in our values to each other than to either of the parties (in their practice, not necessarily their rhetoric) today.

  52. My husband is retired military and currently works for FEMA. He loves to make heads spin by announcing that he'll vote for the party that lets him fire his guns and marry his boyfriend.

  53. Hi Jim!

    Well said, sir. I am 10 years older and once was a Nixon supporter, before I got out into the world and realized that he was a crook and a charlatan.

    My path is similar to yours, without the military service, which was replaced by time in law enforcement, a similar change maker. Unfortunately the folks in that world have similar control tendencies to the nutcases who advocate all kinds of laws so we can be "secure."

    I am also a military brat, respect and support the troops who perform their missions regardless of the politics involved.

    Now I find myself a "liberal" to many friends who sit comfortably behind their doors without realizing that their government pensions, service-connected disability payments or social security would be among the first things to disappear if this bunch of bat-crazies who call themselves "conservative" had their way.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your journey.

    Fair winds and following seas, my friend.


  54. The more I read you, the more I discover to respect and admire. Interesting thing, labels. I've worn many and yet the only one I wear with any pride is "human". I find immense solace in knowing that I do not walk under that umbrella alone. Thank you for sharing the walk.

  55. Did you like take those thoughts out of my mind and put them on the screen? No I am not a veteran but I share all the rest with you. I have been away over the years and it has changed a LOT. It is not the same country I grew up in. I have not been a Republican since Nixon lied to us all on TV (what song is that??). Reagan is not a Republican either by todays standards. The Bush boys sold out the GOP to the highest bidder and the winners aren't even Americans!
    I am posting your URL on my facebook I want my friends to read this...

  56. I have a feeling that things may get worse before they get better. I think that a lot of "conservatives" today are pathological: they always think that everything is "too liberal". Except for themselves, of course.

    And I we should not cast Barry Goldwater as some poor libertarian victim who was cast out by the nutjobs. He enabled the nutjobs. Look at an electoral map for the 1964 election. He got the nutjobs vote.

    1. But it didn't take long for him to realize they WERE nutjobs and began warning the rest of us about them.

  57. I can remember the conversation I had with a mentor as a very young woman trying to determine if I should follow my family's Democratic politics blindly or think for myself. He asked "Do you believe in limited government or that government takes care of you?" That was about 1967. I became a Republican.

    Then came, as you so beautifully described in your piece here, the hard right turn of the Republican Party with the annointing of W. They left me standing in the middle of the road waving goodbye.

    I proudly wave the banner of 'progressive / liberal / wimp' these days and wonder what took me so long to get here.

    You helped explain my own journey to me with your splendid graph. I knew all along it was the Party that changed, but seeing how I really am still standing in the middle of the road / chart is comforting. Thanx!

  58. You have another new fan, Jim. I can so relate to where you are coming from. I am a witch. According to most, if not all, of my witchy/pagan friends that means I MUST be as far left liberal democrat as I can be. I should be part of the Constitution trashing, big government, everybody dependent on the government for everything they have crowd. When did that become the norm? How did it become the norm?

    Sigh. I am not sure what "label" I fit under anymore. Not sure I want a label either. I'm not a screeching right wing republican. I'm not a Progressive....of which both parties can lay claim to that label. I'm all for progress, but that shouldn't involve a road leading to serfdom, which is the road we are on at present.

    I believe in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I'm a citizen of the United States of America. I am not a citizen of the world. I don't believe we need a New World Order or a One World Government with one monetary currency. I want the right to raise my children the way I want to raise them. I want the right to be able to have a farm and grow my own food and eat what I want. I want the right to be able to defend my home and family. I want the right to live my life without the government's intrusion into every facet of it. Those things are part of the "unalienable rights" guaranteed to us as human beings. And those are the rights and liberties that are disappearing every day. Does that make me a fanatical conservative?

    What ever happened to personal and family responsibility? Everyone looks to someone else to blame for their problems. And expects the government to step in and fix it. This is not what the government was designed to do. I believe in a small federal government. Protect and defend the country. That is their job. It's not their job to take care of every soul in this country on a personal, intimate level. What are we teaching future generations? That it's okay to not take responsibility for anything you say and do. It's okay to depend upon the government to house, feed and clothe you. No one is learning to take care of themselves anymore. When did all of this become okay?

    And now, because I choose to prepare for the worst (while hoping for the best) I can be labeled a terrorist in my own country. Because I choose to stock up on food to help me counteract the inflation that is ramping up...because I choose to learn to survive and thrive, instead of let someone else take care of me and mine.

    What does that make me? What label do I fit under? I don't. I'm just a single mom with 2 kids trying her best to survive. Worrying about the world her boys will be asked to make their way in. Who will I vote for in the upcoming elections? I have no idea....none of them speak from their heart. They are all on some sort of political agenda. Right and Left. I truly wish that I felt that at least one of them was listening to "we the people" but I don't think they are....they listen to who lines their pockets and a religious agenda that has no business even showing up in politics.

    Well, I could talk all day about this...it truly worries me the world my kids are inheriting. Thank you for a very thought provoking article....I'll be reading more.

    Blessings, Storm

  59. Brand spank'n new reader. Found you on The Christian Left FB page. Stonekettle Station has sucked up my entire morning:) Consider me a super fangirl.

  60. Another fantastic piece Jim, gosh you write so well. So much feeling, I get just swept up in your words. As I have never met you, I have, without realizing it till just now, created a 'voice' that I 'hear' in my head when I read your material. And it's such a strong thoughtful voice. It reminds me of my favorite teacher in Jr. High School, Mr Edward's. He was the first person I ever heard talk about inclusion and what it might mean for a society. It makes me think of the kind of voice I want to hear leading this country, and I for one believe we are lucky to have a voice like that right now in President Obama. It is the kind of voice I wish spoke in all those glass and steel mega churches, spoke in the halls of Congress, and spoke on t.v. news and the AM radio airwaves. Your voice, by virtue of your words, rings clear and true for me. Thank you for speaking, for speaking out, I 'hear' you, and you are appreciated.

  61. Amen to all that. Your best post- well, next to the one on customer service. LOL I was always straddling the line, but sometime in the last 12 years, I realized that the batshit crazies had moved the line. That's ok. I'm happy where I am. Here, let me send you some virtual sunshine **************

  62. This is SO good.
    I've been all over the political map, But I'd like to think that my core values haven't changed, either.
    Well done.


  63. Once again WOW! You say EXACTLY what is in my head. Well maybe with one minor exception I have always leaned to the left and have admitted it from the start.

    I have friends now that still say to me "Oh you are more conservative then you think" (They make this statement when I may agree with a point of view expressed by them). That IMHO does not make me a conservative it just means I have thought through it and have established MY view be it right or wrong. I actually had one friend that said I was really a republican but was afraid to admit it. Uh nope. Never vote based on party. I vote based on who I think is the best person to do the job and most of the time it is the more liberal thinker. I do not care if others like my opinion or not. It is MY opinion and they DO NOT have to agree with me. And guess what...I will probably still like them. Oh well.

    My wonderful husband of 31 years is much like you. I have turned him to the dark side! Mahwahahahahahahaha. :)

    As far as the turning 50 thing-WELCOME. Remember it is a do over. I am only 5. I look at it as a journey through the second half of my existence. So far it has been very interesting. Enjoy!

  64. Thank you for sharing your journey with us....I seriously thought I was the only one around who felt this way. I, too used to be a Republican, but am now labeled a "liberal" ... well, maybe I am. I have 60+ years of living that have shaped my life and while my experiences are quite different (I'm female and non-military) our conclusions came to the same place.

    How many more of us are out there who think they are alone? Look forward to reading you.

  65. Wow! Is that what's been happening!? Here I just thought that I was going a bit crazy. You & I share the same timeline. Honestly, I thought that I had jumped down the rabbit hole for all these years. Thank you for putting into words the clarification. May I put in my $.02 & say that you should continue as a writer. There are many of us out here that are listening. Maybe if each of us find our voices to speak out/up we might achieve a bit of true sanity.

  66. I've seen it from both sides. If you spent time in uniform, you're either a lazy loser who had no other skills or job prospects or a loser who is really into violence and oppression. So many people who never joined seem to have this image of the military...and if you prove them wrong, they get upset with you. God forbid veterans should be just like other folks.

    But, hey...when somebody can explain to my satisfaction how pizza became a vegetable and corporations became people, I'll lay out my reasons for never becoming a member of the Oath Takers...

  67. What a great piece of reality. I've been right there with you (only a bit older - I achieved voting age then 21, before Nixon's election ). I am chastised daily for saying the same things you did in this entry. I can't seem to be able to convince people that our nation began its decline in 1980 and we are now at the edge of the abyss...

  68. Sadly, the people who most need to read this won't because it's too long. (And has words longer than 1 syllable, you forgot that, Anon!).

    No, Anon, they won't read it because they don't read. Yes, the average American *DOES NOT READ*. They live in houses where the only books are a couple of "coffee table" books that are mostly pictures and are used as decoration, not as something to read, and their notion of intellectual stimulation is to gather around their tee-vee set and get the Daily Hate from Bill O'Really so that they know who they're supposed to hate today. They would no more voluntarily read than they would voluntarily walk further than it takes to get to their car. Then they whine about how those elitist "liberals" think they're lazy and ignorant. Err.... yeah :).

  69. Actually, Ronald Regan said it pretty well; "I didn't leave the Party; the party left me." and that is so true. I completely identify with this article. It happened to me and I'm sure it has happened to millions of others as well.

  70. "Growing up, I was bullied – mercilessly, tenaciously, relentlessly, day in and day out, from grade school to the day I graduated from high school. It took me a while to get over it. It’s not something I dwell on these days. Time lends perspective, and while I don’t much miss the place where I grew up I realize that I wouldn’t be who I am without it."

    We're about 10 years separate, from different states in different time zones, but those four sentences sum up most of my growing up, too. Add the Navy service and you're starting to sound more and more like the big brother I never had. Thank you for giving good, strong words to the experience.

    And should you find yourself in Seattle, you've got a beer waiting for you.

  71. God bless you! I'm a vet also (Army, 82nd Airborne and 1st SF) and have traveled the same road as you have and have had to answer the same question. I haven't changed, but the world sure as hell has, and we're essentially the same age. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    I've been reading you for about a year, and have linked to you on the blog I post on (http://www.all-things-in-moderation.com/). You rock, Dude, and if you're ever in Salt Lake City I want to buy you a beer!

  72. Hi Jim,

    Thanks for this well thought out and illuminating post. I've just discovered your blog, a friend linked it to me. I've always considered myself a liberal, and since I began following politics around the time of the 2008 campaign, I've considered myself very liberal. However, I'm pretty young, and if the picture you present of party identity and relationship with ideology as being a shifting landscape is in fact accurate, I wonder if my viewpoints would have been considered conservative, 20-30 years ago? Somehow I still don't think so, but at any rate, you've given me some wonderful food for thought, and I thank you for that.

  73. Excellent, as always. I would like to send this to my 30 yro daughter...it explains a lot of people's thinking....thank you for your terrific columns.

  74. Thank you for posting this. I have had exactly the same conversation with myself and others over the years. I too was bullied unmercifully at school, and abused and molested at home - and now, I have absolutely NO tolerance for bullies at all.

    I too have been 'tossed over the fantail' - I started out as a Republican, and somehow, without changing my essential beliefs, I have morphed into an America-hating, faggot-loving (apologies for that word), wealth-redistributing, commie socialist.

    Huh? Thank you for putting your story - and mine - into such eloquent words.

    ~ Kate

  75. I've been watching this trend for years, and I honestly think that it's really about fear.

    I think that fear as a ruling factor started to become more pronounced once we had the recessions and energy crisis in the seventies.

    In the early 80's, also, the income gap started to rise (graph on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Share_top_1_percent.jpg), and with every subsequent recession and "jobless" recovery, the middle class lost ground that was never recovered.

    This made people even more afraid, and they continue to be afraid.

    Sex may sell, but fear sells even better, and it didn't take too long for some extremist groups to figure this out and capitalize on it.

    Terrified of losing your job and your comfortable standard of living? It couldn't possibly have anything to do with your company shipping jobs overseas--It's those dirty immigrants!

    Scared your public school is going to hell because of budget cuts? Nah, it's them folks expecting handouts causing all the problems! Why, if we didn't have all those dirty, lazy people on welfare, we'd have enough money to spend on schools!

    I could go on but I'm sure you can come up with examples of your own.

    When people are afraid, they get stupid. (I include myself in this number) Anything that promises to relieve that fear gets a lot of attention, no matter how illogical.

    You also see many people get into magical thinking (currently referred to as "personal responsibility"). People who have met misfortune, the thinking goes, must not have made the "right" choices. I make the "right" choices, therefore it won't happen to me.

    This is NOT limited to the obvious stuff. My very conservative neighbor was talking about how "anybody can get a job if they try hard enough". At that point, I think that there were something like 8 applicants for every job opening.

    Logically, doing the math, it's pretty obvious that no matter how much those eight applicants "do everything right", seven are still going to end up with no job.

    So why does he say crap like that? Because if he admits that maybe people can't get jobs, he's going to have to admit that maybe he's going to get laid off and he won't be able to find a job. It's better just to assume it's someone "not trying hard enough" rather than opening up a whole can of worms (and fear!)

    If he loses his job, he'll find out firsthand, if he doesn't, he has had nothing change his opinion.

    Do something about the fear and then we'll start seeing sanity again. As long as people are afraid, it's just going to get worse.

  76. It's gotten to the point when discussing events of the day, the right's gleeful embrace of ignorance and the corporate gutting of this world's middle class with friends and strangers that I simply say, "go to stone kettle station, I haven't the patience to cogently articulate all that you'd chosen to ignore in school to support my position but he does".
    With your personal history and now your pursuit of art and craft you may be interested in the autobiography of the Renaissance goldsmith B. Cellini (and his treatise on goldsmithing)...yes, I just called you out as a Renaissance Man.
    Thanks for writing like you do and being accurate as often as you are.
    Jim Bailey
    Cripple Creek CO
    (Qui Nhon RVN 68-69)

  77. Got here by way of The Christian Left. Other than being a little more than 10 years older'n you and female, having lived my entire life in South Texas, having never even considered voting republican, never considered serving in the military (but the mom of a Navy vet), we may be identical twins born of different mothers.

    I too believe rational thought processes can take you nowhere else but MYOB and keep yourself occupied pursuing your own life's idea of the pursuit of happiness. If you don't want nanny state government (aka "the people") deciding what "right" you have to determine your own religious beliefs, your own medical procedures, your own choice of spouse, then, don't try to limit and determine other people's right to do so! Is that easy or what?

    When I was young, it was taught that your freedoms end at my nose. Nowadays, a simple majority no longer is "good enough" (i.e., Congress now requires a super majority for any legislation) and state "super patriots" can undo local elections and appoint "managers" who have almost carte blance over financially troubled towns and cities.

    Now, I question whether these people even want to live in a democracy. Seems to me here in Texas, I'm living among people who are looking for an authoritarian Big Daddy (King George?) or at the very least to re-argue the Articles of Confederation. One curious note though - I've been conducting an informal survey of all the Tea Party members I come across - curiously, they all drink coffee.

  78. Wow, I realize I'm just a few years older than you, from Grandville rather than Jennison, but how did you know me well enough to write my biography?

    I was 54 in 2001, retired from the Navy for three years when I woke up and realized the US had gone absolutely batshit crazy. As I watched the towers fall on television from my safe island in SE Alaska and listened to the talking head commentary I knew we were in for a bad time. The hysterical comments and hate filled garbage spewed by the commentators convinced me that what I had thought was a moderate conservative political stance wasn't where I was any more. The following three years pushed me farther away from any label I had ever had for myself. I guess I'm just one of those bewildered guys in the white shirt and tie that wonders where his heritage has gone.

    Thanks, Jim, for putting into words what I feel.

  79. BRILLIANT! As someone who was born on Oct. 23, 1962, I say this: You've NAILED IT.

    This essay deserves to be shared.

  80. You don't know me; I don't know you. But I'm with you on this.

  81. I fucking LOVE you. And I didn't even know you existed ten minutes ago.

  82. What changed is that discourse and compromise have evaporated. Watch the movie 1776 and see what it took to create a nation -- and remember it'd be over 20 years before they figured out how to run that new nation.

    There was nothing wrong about being a conservative or a liberal when I was young. Now you can't find the one and the other is labeled as evils that it isn't remotely.

    Excellent post.

    Dr. Phil

  83. outstanding post. beautifully written. thank you.

  84. I am very intrigued by your observation regarding scientists. Every scientist I know would find it revolting to be in the party of bullies.

  85. This is my first comment after months of reading your blog regularly and often waiting impatiently for the next. The whole piece today is great, but the paragraphs on why you're "anti-war" and "pro-abortion" should be required reading. Fabulous. Thank you for the time and thought you put into your writing. Oh, and also for the pictures of cats. And the humor.

  86. Wait, you took classes with Tufte?

    I'm jealous. And nicely done figure, too.

  87. I'm very glad to see that we fall very nearly in the same spot on the spectrum regarding cheeseburgers. Well done. But not the cheeseburger, I prefer that to be medium-rare.

  88. Wait, you took classes with Tufte?

    I did. Because of what I did in the military and because of the doctrine I was designing, my command felt it worthwhile to send me to Tufte's courses on conversation of complex systems and information into graphical models. He's a fascinating and brilliant human being - though he has a strange hatred of Power Point that verges on Obsession. I use the things I learned in his courses on a regular basis and in fact I have a signed copy of Visual Explanations on the desk next to me right now.

  89. My copy is at work, and unsigned.

    I think his work is fascinating; the published PowerPoint rant is fascinating but less, um, helpful than some of his other works.

    Graphical display of complex data is one of my favorite things to play with.

  90. "Conversation" of complex system?

    You know, autocorrect would be lot more useful if it was context sensitive.

    That should have been conversion.

    I have signed copies of all of his stuff, one of the advantages of taking his classes. One of the many advantages, I mean. He's a dynamic speaker, his classes are fun. If you ever get a chance to sit through his analysis of the Challenger disaster, you absolutely should. It had a profound impact on how I looked at things and how I designed information and intelligence systems, especially systems used under the intense pressure of war. I credit my training under Tufte as one of the reasons that I was so successful during my participation in the Iraq conflict.

  91. I turn 50 in 41 days. There are times I admit, that I never thought I'd see that milestone.

    You scored big time, Chief. Awesome post. Give me a heads up for your birthday and I'll donate a pan of chicken enchiladas for your consumption.

  92. Yep, I looked for the "center," and there was no "there" there. Especially this year, things have turned out strangely. The longest running "reality" show is "Campaign Survivor," but there may be a mid-season competitor, "Political Apprentice," if The Donald can decide whether he is going to endorse Gingrich or run himself.

    Before this, I could not have imagined the current group of misfit toys being taken seriously rational adults, much less as candidates. And Gingrich is supposed to be the intellectual among them! "In the Land of the Blind, the One-Eyed Man is King," I suppose.

    I have voted for a few Republicans in the distant past, but this bunch defies belief.

    Good job, Jim.

  93. Long time reader, first time commenter.
    I have noticed the shift in the parties as well, the huge division between left and right, and the political polarization of these United States. It seems the further the extremists move (either left or right, depending on who is "in power"), the bigger the shift is for the more 'moderate' folks.
    Great article, and its nice to know after reading through the comments that we are not alone, though we seem to have less of a voice these days. Thank you.

  94. Generally speaking, I tend to agree—(strongly even)— with almost everything you have said in this well-written essay.
    I find, however, a glaring inconsistency halfway through it, when, after (rightly) pointing out the folly and irrationality behind the bully mentality, you proceed to engage (obliviously, I'm guessing) in precisely the bullying conduct that you had just censured a moment before.

    To wit, your words:
    Give me one good reason why anybody should be made to hate themselves. Give me one good reason why one person should be able to define another. That’s what bullies do, you know, define others. Put them in a box. Limit who they can be. Force them into categories: Fatty, Fag, Geek, Nerd, Retard, Stupid, Ugly, Loser. Bullies make their victims hate themselves. Well, I won’t stand for it.

    I agree. I applaud this statement, and I empathize with its resounding truth and its heartfelt conviction. But then, a few sentences later, you go on to refer to Cuba as, "a shitty worthless speck of an island in the Caribbean." I really wish you had not said that. I really hope that this was just an ill-conceived paroxysm which you are willing, in retrospect, to rephrase or to recant.
    Anything less than that would render the rest of the piece null, void of whatever merit it may have superficially otherwise had.

    With all due respect.


  95. @Quixie, reread the statement that you find so offensive in the context of the paragraph it was written in. Please read the entire sentence, including part that comes before the description you quoted. There is a particular reason I wrote exactly what I wrote in exactly the way I wrote it - and it's not because I hate Cubans and want them to feel bad about themselves. I use the words I do for a specific reason, to convey a particular emotional background and context to the message I wish to create. Much of what I write has more than one layer of meaning - as does this particular sentence. It does exactly what I want it to do, I have no desire whatsoever to either "recant" or "rephrase" it.

    So far today, 22,000 people have read this post, not one of them was offended by that turn of phrase. A few, however, didn't care for my description of the pope, but they didn't ask me to change it.

  96. Enjoyed reading it, shared it on FB. Thanks.
    No boot-licking, BTW. Just thought I should say thanks to a guy that did me a good turn by taking the time to write it.

  97. Quixie,
    Are you really so intolerant as to close your mind to everything good this man has said because you are offended by a fraction of one sentence, 3 words, out of _everything_ he wrote? Wow. If I went through life that way, then I'd have no friends and even my cat would run away.

    Good post. Not perfect- you misplaced a comma somewhere, you scoundrel, but I'll deign to keep reading for a while longer. Aren't you relieved?

  98. Jim- About dang time someone drew a real map, with real coordinates and all, to describe where their feet really are. Good job!
    When I was small, about the time you were born, I was struggling with building strategies to deal with multiple learning disabilties . While there were much larger challenges along the way,the biggest thing at one point was being unable to understand and distinguish right and left. Kids picked on me for being stupid and all that nasty side of kidliness type stuff but it was the frustration of not-getting-it which upset me most.
    My Pop sat me down with a set of maps and a compass when I was 7 or 8 and taught me how to use them .
    It was another 10 years before I got-it on the left/right thingy but what I got out of Pop's lessons in orienting myself geographically has served me practically and metaphorically better than almost anything else I've ever learned.
    I don't know what he really thought but he told me that knowing right and left was useful in that one could describe things in relation to one's self but knowing N,E,S and W and where that self was in the world was often far more useful.
    From over here in the left-left quadrant of political thought where I reside, I applaud you
    Your mapping skills are excellent. While folks can change the names of towns and mountains, the things themselves have not changed in relation to the names and their coordinates certainly don't change.
    You've done an excellent job establishing that renaming a traditional conservative a liberal does not change the actual place one resides on the political quadrant either.
    Thank you.
    Now I need to go deal with the impulse to hasty generalization that USN types have magical powers . Pop was a submariner 1943-48.

  99. Dear young Mr. Wright: Yes, you're young. Three of my children are older than you, so I can call you young. You're wise beyond your years, and I truly enjoy your blog. There's one thing that sticks up in today's post that irritates me. So I'm writing to tell you about it.

    The people who rant so vigorously about their religion are ignorant of faith. And I believe that you are rational enough to understand that things that are different are not the same. Religion is a human organization that collects money and gives cover to pedophiles. Faith is confidence in the Creator-God. Religion-mongers don't read the Bible: they lie about it. Psalm 11:5: The Lord trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth. God does not love bullies. No matter what the religion-mongers tell you, there are people God hates.

  100. @grammy97, note that I didn't mention either faith or people of faith - with perhaps the exception of one fella in a pointy hat.

    I fully understand the difference between belief and religion. That's why I have such a problem with most religions.

  101. This so perfectly describes what happened with me and the Republican Party. I still stay registered as a Republican, but cannot stomach the way the party, my party, panders to the lowest common denominator. There are very few Republican politicians that have maintained my respect, but I can't say the Democrats are doing any better when they stoop to the same sort of fear-mongering and name-calling.
    Thank you so much for this post and for the blog. Thank you also for your service to this country.

  102. Welcome to my world. I was probably an independent my first couple of elections. I remember watching the national conventions for both parties with my mother.

    I have been a yellow dog Democrat since Reagan ran for president. I did not like him - although I will admit that he played the role of POTUS very well. It was during this election that I started listening to the GOP attacks on candidates and realized that the GOP was will to say anything to win an election - even blatant lies.

    To me, the GOP has just gotten worse - more hateful toward anyone who is not a 1950s clone.

    The GOP only looks backwards to the past and every 20 years picks a new decade to hold up as the ideal time in US history while totally ignore the bad aspects of that decade.

    The GOP of today is a selfish bunch of people who care only for their well bring and nothing for anyone they deem outside their circle. This does not seem very Christian.

  103. I was at a symposium in The District back in 2004. The two moderators of this particular one were Kiki McClean and Bay Buchannan (look them up if you don't know who they are and please don't judge me right away ;) I listened to the discussion for quite a while which, as you can imagine from the moderators, went along the lines you'd think they would. At some point, someone said something and I'd had enough. I raised my hand and the people who knew me were trying to sit on top of me to keep me from speaking. Bay called on me.

    I started with the fact that I was a registered Republican for as long as I could vote, and then my speech went similarly to yours except for the fact that I was never in the military and was there as part of a CEO group. So take out military and substitute business and you get the picture. The people who know me were all squirming as I continued my rant about where the Party went, how now I felt marginalized as the noise got increasingly batshit insane etc. All the time I was speaking, although I hadn't noticed, Kiki had left the podium and was making her way to me.

    As I finished, Kiki had taken the seat next to me, put her arms around me and said "There there honey, we have a word for people like you now, they're called Democrats honey. Welcome to the party." Again this was in 2004. My how we're "progressed" since then huh?

    How right she was and is. As the Less-than Grand Old Party sinks into insanity, and a list of phobias too long to mention here, it left me behind just as your example. I used to feel a bit unrooted, but this is what happens over time to old friends who take different pathways. The GOP is now like that old friend where I remember the days of social liberality and fiscal conservatism that defined it. And now look at Michelle Bachmann or Rick Perry and try not to stick a fork in my forebrain to stop the insanity from hurting me any more.

    A post that clearly has hit home for me. Thank you.

  104. Skyman123, a perfect example of the insanity of the current insane clown posse that is the Republican Party is the fact that Pat Buchanan is what passes for the voice of reason in the party nowadays.

    Pat Buchanan.

    GOP voice of reason. In that he's a racist anti-semitic misogynist crufty old partisan hack, but he's not batshit crazy.

    *THAT* is what passes as a voice of reason in today's GOP.

    I rest my case :).

  105. Dr. Phil mentioned the importance of compromise, and while I agree that, in a better world, that would be the solution, this is no longer a country in which compromise works.

    I learned what a jr. high locker looked like from the inside on several occasions in 7th grade, until the day I came out in a rage and literally climbed on the guy who threw me in and punched him half a dozen times. If a teacher hadn't pulled us apart I might have gotten my ass kicked. But the funny thing was, I was never bothered again. Most bullies want easy victories with no cost; draw a little blood and they'll usually back off. Maybe not all of them, but one thing is certain -- if you don't fight back you'll never know, and you’ll keep getting stuffed in that locker.

    Those of us on the left -- liberals, progressives, lefties, whatever you want to call us -- allowed too many PC types to speak for us. We made the mistake of thinking non-violence meant "giving in". We lost our stomach for the fight, and until we get that back -- whether it's in Congress telling the Republicans to shove it, or at the grassroots level taking on the Tea party crazies - we will continue to lose.

    Now, I'm not advocating street fighting, but I am advocating its political equivalent. OWS may be a disorganized mess, but it has gotten people thinking. Get politically active, and support candidates who are willing to use the same tactics on the right wingers that they use. Unions are weak, but you might have a local chapter that can serve as a focal point.

    And you “independents” – I’m sorry, but until you get involved and do more than vote once every 4 years, nothing’s gonna change. Don’t tell me you don’t really like the candidates on either team, they’re all the same, wah wah wah. Don’t like the candidates? Then go to your local precinct meetings and make better candidates. On a personal level, this Christmas, don’t let that blithering idiot brother-in-law who’s in the Tea Party get away with saying moronic things he gets from FOX, even if it means making your family uncomfortable. Heap large portions of ridicule on his plate right next to the dressing at your next holiday gathering.

    No it isn’t easy, and it isn’t quick. Come out of the locker. It’s time to stop playing nice.

  106. Yes, exactly. Although I never was a soldier, I feel like you spoke for my experience with other people also. I don't think I have changed; they have. When did people get so mean and selfish? What happened to our ideals?
    I have a sinking feeling that we are reliving the 1930's and watching the rise of fascism all over again. The signs are all there. God help us.

  107. I was born in 1943. I attended the same Baptist church from 1953 til 1963 when I joined the navy.
    I never heard the words "vote for" during those ten years, nor did I hear them during my spotty visits over the next eighteen years.
    I didn't hear anything political when I returned from the Dominican Republic in 1965 or from Vietnam in 1969.
    Everybody was the same, except me, war changes all parties in some way.
    My belief in human rights were only made stronger.
    The folks at the church and my homeboys began to change in 1981 when I returned from Okinawa.
    The pulpit was screaming "VOTE FOR" and the congregation was screaming "AMEN" and it was all about denying someone something that I believed in and still believe in.
    I retired in 1995 and didn't want any of those former friends near me.
    When they find me, I cast them out.
    They're all Perry and Bachmann and Santorum and Gingrich people and none of them can tell you why.
    I think that if I had stayed in that little Texas community, I would be one of them.
    The 30+ navy years and three conflicts made me feel like one of the crew in PLANET OF THE APES.
    I still feel that way.

  108. Wow, Jim! You really hit the nail on the head. Kudos to you for a fantastic diatribe. I'm sending on to all the sane people I know.

    Thanks for sharing. I am with you.

  109. You can go home. Please come home. Ottawa County* needs you.

    We can get that birthday beer in Zeeland or Grand Haven, your choice.

    *The last Democratic Party candidate to carry the county was George B. McClellan in 1864.

  110. Goddamn, Jim. Goddamn.

    I'm about five years younger than you. So much of this rings so true.

    For those asking, HOW did the Republican party get so batshit, the best imperfect answer I've found in one place was reading What's The Matter With Kansas, by Thomas Frank. I recommend it.

  111. I grew up in western Oklahoma (conservative, heavily religious). I live in Austin TX (a liberal bastion in the south central US). Back in OK, I'm a hairy-legged pro-gay hippie environmentalist who dropped out of church. In Austin, I'm a gun-toting (slightly) pro-life maniac who likes (relatively) small government (in some areas). I vote libertarian just as a protest vote, even though I think they're just as crazy as any other political party.

  112. Okay, I'm sorry, but this post absolutely enrages me.

    If you were such a decent person, how on earth were you a Republican even pre-Reagan? If I may remind you, long before Reagan came on the scene the Republicans were lying and thieving (Nixon), sending kids off to die in Vietnam (and expanding the war into poor innocent Cambodia on the advice of that crook Kissinger), undermining democratically elected governments deliberately by stealth or by force (Peru, Cambodia, Chile, Argentina, Vietnam, and who knows how many others), and in general desperately trying to turn the U.S. into what it would have been if we had lost World War II to the Germans.

    Yeah, maybe you didn't know about it all -- but you can't claim you weren't told. You know those "dirty hippies"? The ones you apparently despised, possibly still do? Let me let you in on a secret: they were right and you were wrong. They knew what the Republicans were doing. All those protest marches that clean-cut, well-dressed young engineers from NASA would sooner be seen dead than take part in? Those petitions you scorned? Those wimpish policies from Carter that Reagan overturned? That was the sane, decent behavior. Keeping up appearances and being a mindless conservative drone, as you apparently did, was wrong.

    And now, now that fifty years of increasingly greedy, foolish, shortsighted behavior on the part of the conservative establishment has effectively destroyed this country -- 'cause we sure as heck aren't going to recover from Reagan, let alone either of the Bushes, any time soon -- you have the nerve to come along and post this essay which attempts to wallpaper over your naivety and banal acceptance of evil by saying "it wasn't my fault, it was those crazy religious whackos".

    No, it was your fault. The religious whackos are there because the candidates you liked meshed perfectly with them.

  113. Hear Hear - exceptionally well said, you speak for the literal millions of service veterans out there (like me) that once were conservatives and now are "bleeding heart" liberals.

    Well said and worth several reposts.

  114. Very well said. You mention were born the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis - I was in high school then, living on base at Fort Lee, Virginia (my dad, career Army, had just been transferred back to the States from Italy, and we hadn't had time to get a house off base) - my father spent several weeks in the Norfolk area participating in the planning of the invasion of Cuba - which did not happen, thankyoujesus.

    I sometimes feel like a time traveler from the twentieth century. The comedy troupe The Firesign Theatre had a line I really like -

    "THIS is the future. You got to LIVE it, or live WITH it."

    Or, they didn't add, but as will happen to us all - get out of the way.

    I feel my country has lost its bearings. I don't know if it will have a conversion experience while I am alive, or not - since I have between zero and three decades (at most) left, probably not. Your title quotes a Joe Walsh song - this is from a song by the band Kansas, which I suspect many of your readers can relate to - "Carry on, wayward son - there'll be peace when you are done."

  115. No, it was your fault. The religious whackos are there because the candidates you liked meshed perfectly with them.

    And there you have it folks, sooner or later, it's all my fault.

  116. Well by damn, it is your fault Jim. What were you doing in 1969 ( building forts or doodling pictures spaceships in your social studies class? ) when my traditional conservative school principal Pop was warning the school board about the religious whackos and John Birchers who were trying to co-opt the budget, remove the National Geographic from the high school library ( Gasp! traditional dress on some of those people in Africa didn't include wonder bras for the ladies and there were photos even!)and fighting to keep teachers who thought slapping and verbally humiliating children was an acceptable learning environment?
    Why weren't you there when staid old farmers were the only dang support Pop had and even they couldn't stop the damn burning-Pop-in-effigy at a board meeting fiasco?
    There's plenty of blame we Boomers need to shoulder for ourselves and so far we have not done it.
    Dragging the next generation in to account for our failures ? Pffft.
    h/t to Eric's current post.

  117. Rion at carpovita@earthlink.netDecember 13, 2011 at 9:42 AM

    At 40, I see the changes too, but I also have to chuckle when people refer to Bush the 2nd as a conservative.
    From my point of view I do not think we have had a "true" conservative President in quite a while. I do think the Federal Government is broken and operating well outside its purview. That is something that BOTH parties are responsible for.
    Political parties made sense when people had to travel for days to communicate and it was easier to look at a platform and hitch your weight of vote to one or the other.
    I think with the communication capabilities this country has now, perhaps it is time we grow up and do away with parties and their professional politicians, as I do not think that most here would find much to disagree with me on aside from which party is crazy...
    The truth is they both are, and neither serve the needs of the people anymore, as they are far too interested in their own needs.

  118. Well, I have changed - but I've become more conservative. I was fairly left in my 20's, and now I'm - for want of a better term - I'm what you would call moderate. Heck, I'm a fiscal conservative, if it comes to that. I'd love to vote for a Republican if the whole can of crazy didn't come with it. I am a "decline to state" voter who doesn't register with a party.

    I cannot understand one iota their hateful positions on social issues, or the increasingly heard sentiment that to be educated, to be a scientist, to be a teacher is to b a suspicious "elite". Who do they think is going to lead the way in S&T over the next fifty years? It surely won't be the uneducated. It won't be people content to go by their "gut," relying only on religion and common sense. If we think that way Singapore and India and Thailand and China will eat our lunch by the end of this century.

    I am educated. I am an architect and an engineer. I believe in supporting science and education. I believe in civil rights, and that we should not discriminate overtly or covertly against anyone, much less write laws to do so (DOMA).

    And as someone who is not Christian - and has Muslim family members - I fail to see why one has to be a card-carrying evangelical Christian to be a Republican. When did that happen? I guess their party doesn't want me. I own my own company. I am one of those "job creators" they like to crow about. Yet, they clearly don't want me in their party. And I am frankly a bit scared of them.

    Not that the Democrats are any better. But at least they don't scare me, even if they are fiscally coo-koo for cocoa puffs.

  119. No, it was your fault. The religious whackos are there because the candidates you liked meshed perfectly with them.

    In all fairness FedUp, taking these people in was a process. A process to win votes and that's fine. I mean the Democratic party does give a big sloppy wet kiss to the "let's a join hands and sing kumbaya and the world will be a wonderful place" folks. So each party has it's crazy branch.

    But I'm with others in that the left's crazies aren't nearly as scary to a society as the right's. Because the right's, by definition, is...well... fascist. And, honestly, I think that the "Nation of Christian" people are pretty much fascist straight up with a twist. The twist being that not only do you not have your civil rights here, but you burn forever. So nice huh?

    Now, what would you rather have ringing your bell on a Saturday morning, some left loony or the evangelical? (I mean I'd take neither but this is only a binary choice). The left loony makes you think, yeah maybe if we all just sang "Imagine" it would be all right, while the right one is telling you your burning forever. I leave the exercise to the reader, as we say in college ;)

  120. You're collapsing things into the wrong axes. It is not a matter of "left" vs. "right". It is a matter of government control. Societies are not really organized on a left/right one-dimensional axis. They are instead, organized on at least a two-dimensional grid of equality/hierarchy and liberty/repression. A country that is 100% repression will be roughly balanced in hierarchy vs. equality, because anyone being above anyone else will give those people more liberty. Likewise, enforcement of the power of the state requires some level of hierarchy. A liberty country would still be hierarchy/equality balanced, because the state would not have enough power to keep people force people down from rising to their ability but also not enough power to artificially lift people up. On the other hand, a 100% equality or 100% hierarchy country would each be "balanced" in liberty vs. oppression. A fully equalitarian society would have a "liberty floor", since eliminating all liberty would require imposing a very powerful hieararchy. A fully hierarchical society would have a very broad distribution of liberty, with the bottom having very little and the top having a great deal. Over the whole society though, both would be roughly "middling" when it comes to liberty vs. oppression. The two axes essentially oppose each other. The more or less liberty you have, the less able you are to artificially impose equality or hierarchy. Likewise, the more equal or hierarchical your society, the less opportunity people have for exercising liberty.

  121. As good an explanation for the current state of affairs as any I've come up with:

    "We've got to do something," he said. "Because They're doing something. They're breeding a nation of technopeasants."


    "Yeah. Smart enough to do what we're told and docile enough to accept that. They encourage any meme that downplays thoughful analysis or encourages docility or self-indulgence or uniformity. A uniform, docile society is more predictable ...."

    -- Michael Flynn, In the Country of the Blind (1990)

  122. Thanks for the fantastic article! It takes work to create conviction in your beliefs, put them on a solid foundation of moral principles and then have the courage to hold to it. It's the best litmus test for bullshit. Too many people repeat what they think other people want to hear, or say that they believe what they think other people believe without the reflection required of a good human.

    Keep walking the good path, friend. I'll keep reading your blog.

  123. Dear Sir,

    Deftly written and deftly spoken.

    I am adding you to my blogroll.

  124. Bryan, your comment embodies everything that is fail about Libertarian philosophy. Libertarian philosophy admits only one center of power -- government. But the deal is that, as our Declaration of Independence so nicely states, there is a need for government because government is only one of the possible sources of power. We need government to defend ourselves against sociopaths who would use their power of conscience-less to steal, rape, kill, maim, and destroy, for example. We need government to defend ourselves against other nations that would come and take everything we own. We need government to enforce some basic rules of the road so that maniacs do not simply treat our highways like carnage derbies. We need government to counter the power of mega-corporations that have trillions in assets and, if allowed to do so, would make us all into serfs at gunpoint (*their* gunpoint, since power flows from the barrel of a gun, money buys lots of guns, and thus money is power). In short, in a functioning society, government is only *one* source of power, and if you take government away it's like removing one leg of a three-legged stool -- the result is not the perfect liberty and equality of Libertopia but, rather, either the anarchic misery of Somalia or the ruthless imposed serfdom of a classic Central American banana republic, because a stool with two legs is going to fall one way or the other -- it is *not* going to stay balanced.

    Once upon a time, conservatives knew this -- back in the days of Eisenhower and Goldwater, it was understood that a government strong enough to counter the power of evil-doers and corporations was necessary, but that said government should not become overly powerful because that would tip over the three-legged stool too. But at some point the crazies, the Libertopian anarchists, the fascists who rejoice in corporate serfdom, joined forces with the *other* crazies, the ChrisTaliban who want to impose Christianity (or, rather, their warped depraved version of Christianity) at gunpoint, to create a party of Peak Crazy where anybody sane has been driven out into the wilderness and is now... a Democrat. For what that's worth, since the Democratic Party isn't really much of a party, given that mostly Democrats nowadays identify themselves by what they're *not* -- i.e., not batshit crazy.

    - Badtux the Power Penguin

  125. Excellent post, as we've come to expect. The only question is whether you'll have more influence in shaping the future by continuing to write, or by running for office.

    In the meantime, it's helpful periodically to take the political compass test:


    The questions change, but I've been fairly consistent in landing near the Dalai Lama.

    Keep up the good work.

  126. @Scotty: Me too - not too far from the DL. I've moved less left over the years, but I am moderate-left, strongly-libertarian on the chart.

    But - being grumpy at categories, don't like being limited to that description...

  127. @Bryan said, You're collapsing things into the wrong axes. It is not a matter of "left" vs. "right...

    Actually, Bryan, the subject of this post is very much about left vs. right on a flat line. I assume you missed the part in the introduction that explains this, i.e. the part about switching "sides."

    You'll note that neither the graphic nor the paragraphs under it describe actual political positions on either side (one of the items under the Left, for example is “frozen yogurt”), but rather the perception of political positions and where they supposedly fit on a linear scale between perceived polar opposites.

    This post wasn’t about graphing actual politics, it was about the perception of changing political parties.

    It’s about what’s more important to you, your convictions or how you are labeled. The picture about Tolerance should have been a dead giveaway.

    Some folks, the majority of commenters here for example, feel that their convictions are what matter, no matter how those might be labeled and perceived by others. An example of this is, well, me – and the post above.

    The opposite of which are those folks who change position to maintain the labels because they simply cannot abide being perceived as anything other than what they’ve always been labeled as. An example of which is my folks: who have spent their entire life, 70 plus years, self-identified as “Republican.” To them being called a liberal or, shudder, voting for a democrat is a disgusting and horrifying idea. They would vote for Cannibal Nixon’s Preserved Head in a Pickle Jar before they’d ever, ever, ever vote for a democrat because democrats are liberals and liberals are the enemy of America. Period. End of discussion. They never gave a good goddamn about abortion or gay-marriage and wouldn’t know what the Federal Reserve was if it bit them on the ass, they don’t know a single Muslim and likely have never met one, ditto gay people, they haven’t been to church in twenty years or more – but by God they’re all about the sanctity of marriage, saving babies, Jesus, and killing Muslims if that’s what it takes to be called a Conservative today. They wouldn’t have given an idiot like Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann the time of day twenty years ago, but they’d vote for either one today and be happy to do so if it gets rid of the liberal black man in office right now. For them, it’s the Bush doctrine, you’re either with us or against us, the graph is Left and Right, US and Them, Blue and Red, and that’s all there is. Period. There are a hell of a lot of people in this country, on both sides of the line, who feel the same way (like my little friend, Fed Up, a few comments back for example. You can’t be anything other than a hippy liberal and be a decent person. QED. See? Us and Them and that’s all there is. You can’t reason with these people, because they are not reasonable people when it comes to this subject).

    That said, I personally agree that Left and Right is an over simplification for a real political model. This post wasn’t about that.

  128. I thought @Quixie’s comment was reasonable. You talk about tolerance but then you called Cubans “s#tty and worthless.” Seems like you’re being a hypocrite. However, I gave you the benefit of the doubt and went back and read it again like you told Quixie to do. It still seems like you’re being a bully. Please explain for the slow people.

  129. @Anon: I thought @Quixie’s comment was reasonable. You talk about tolerance but then you called Cubans “s#tty and worthless.” Seems like you’re being a hypocrite. However, I gave you the benefit of the doubt and went back and read it again like you told Quixie to do. It still seems like you’re being a bully. Please explain for the slow people.


    Look, there’s no way to explain this without sounding condescending. However since you describe yourself as one of the “slow” people, I’ll assume you’re good with that. I will also have to assume that reading comprehension isn’t one of the arrows in your quiver.

    Here’s the offending sentence:

    I was born the year the world nearly ended because a bunch of lunatics came within minutes of lobbing nuclear missiles at each other over a shitty worthless speck of an island in the Caribbean.

    Note the part about the world ending. Literally ending – at least in the northern hemisphere anyway, and likely most everywhere else too if it had gone to a full-blown nuclear exchange with high-yield radiological weapons and biologicals followed by sustained secondary strikes. When I wrote the post, I expected that readers would either know the particulars of the Cuban Missile Crisis, or go look it up, it is after all one of the most discussed, researched, and documented events in human history. I didn't think I needed to explain it.

    Here’s the thumbnail version of the important part: We were literally with minutes of destroying ourselves because asshole politicians on both sides were perfectly willing to kill everybody on the planet for all time in order to prove who had the bigger dick. The crisis was not about Cuba, or the Cuban people. It was about big dicks. Period. Neither the USA or the USSR pretended that it was anything else. It wasn’t about freedom or democracy or liberty or ideology or anything else. What it came down to was a few acres of shitty worthless land cleared from the jungle on an island on the Caribbean – it didn’t actually even matter where that island was or what nation it was part of at that point, it only mattered that it was a place to park nuclear missiles. A few men literally played chicken with the fate of the human race, every man, woman, and child alive at that point and every single one that would ever follow after, all over a fucking rock in the middle of the ocean – a place to park missiles and nothing more. Nobody involved gave a rat’s ass about the people who happened to be living on that island.

    In the end, it wasn’t reason that saved us. It was the simple fact that the level of technology of the Soviet missile systems could not ensure that they would totally kill us. Both the American and Soviet leaders were perfectly willing to commit murder/suicide so long as they could absolutely be sure of the murder part. The Soviet missile command couldn’t guarantee that a few American targets wouldn’t escape being vaporized. The Soviet leadership could not stand the idea that they would die and some Americans might live, and so they backed down – and eventually withdraw their missiles from Cuba in return for us pulling ours out of eastern Europe in a secret deal that allowed both sides to claim victory and save face while waving their dicks around.

    Note that no fucking where in the post did I call either Cuba the country nor Cubans the people shitty, worthless, or anything at all for that matter. And in fact I never mentioned any particular nation by name on purpose.

    No actual person was injured, insulted, or bullied in the making of this post

    I suppose you could argue now that I’ve insulted a jungle clearing, and you’re perfectly welcome to do so if you don’t mind what comes after that.

  130. I remember those smart, thoughtful conservatives from my boyhood also. Like my Dad. I really miss those guys.

  131. Good one Jim,
    I am another vet ( Army ) who has become a " liberal " because the line moved, not because i started smoking pot.
    It was strange , in the army I always took leave to see the world instead of going home .I never was exposed to the changes in America .
    When I left the Army in 96 it was straight to CU Boulder. Now i had been raised a air force brat, lived in Germany, Miami, Columbus, Boston, posted to Kentucky, Panama, deployed to Israel, Bosnia, but academia was like a Star Trek planet. Everybody spoke English, but they were... different they talked instead of issued or followed orders, the only place the analogy breaks down all of the away team lived, even the never before seen security guy.
    While I was there I reexamined my party affiliation the zealots had completed the hijacking of flight GOP, and realised I was two steps left of Pres. Clinton.
    I hadn't changed, I was still pro gun( to a point ) , I was still pro choice. The party had switched from Lincoln, and Ike to Newt, and the 700 club.
    I'm still a registered republican. Ohio requires you to be a democrat, or a republican to vote in the primaries, this way I get to vote the candidate I think will LOSE to the democrats.

  132. I figured you for Army right away, FNG, given your alias.

  133. No, it was your fault. The religious whackos are there because the candidates you liked meshed perfectly with them.

    And there you have it folks, sooner or later, it's all my fault.

    I'm kinda confused as to how Nixon can be your fault, if you didn't even become of voting age until after he AND HIS SUCCESSOR were out of office.

    I mean, Nixon resigned on my first birthday. I'm pretty sure Nixon isn't MY fault...

    *scratches head*

  134. As much I'd like to chant ONE. OF. US... being the same place you were before is a good spot, and gives the "left" a solid and enriched perspective.

    Somewhere there is a much more eloquent Buddhist quote about enlightenment that suffering brings which I am too lazy to look up... while I'm sorry for your hardship with the bullying,I am grateful it led you to your experiences and brought this writing to us.

  135. I'm about 10 years younger than you and I actually did change my viewpoint when going from being a Republican supporter through high school to leaning Democratic once I hit college.

    I grew up strongly Catholic - to the extent of going to Catholic schools through the end of high school. I was heavily influenced by the social justice aspect of the faith - feed the hungry, heal the sick, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger and ask nothing in return.

    I left the church when I was in college, but I kept that belief and expanded upon it. I used to donate pennies to make sure that starving kids in Africa have food to eat and can go to a one room schoolhouse for a couple of hours a week, but it was now that I realized that there were millions of Americans who need help too. They may not be starving in the streets, but they are going to bed hungry. They may have a school to go to, but if all it is doing is warehousing them for 6 hours a day, it is not preparing them for a life that is any better than what they have now. Working hard at a job is important, but driving yourself to exhaustion on a daily basis just to be able to afford to keep the heat on is more than we should ask of anyone. I started to lean Democratic, because they were at least paying lip service to concept that we as a county could do more about this.

    Ironically, the values that my mom worked so hard to instill in me were the cause of the last great fight we had - the one that created the split between us that we were never able to heal before she died. I have the very clear memory of standing in her kitchen while she yelled at me that my beliefs were "just a phase" and that voting Democratic was "evil" because "Democrats kill babies". And things went downhill from there.

    Oh fuck. I was concerned that when she died, I did not cry - not then, not at the funeral, not afterwards. Apparently, I never came across the right trigger before today. I'll write more later.

  136. I guess I'm not imagining a different time, when Democrats and Republicans were the same people with opposing views, both human, both caring. I attribute the current situation to an increasingly sinister and greedy elite, needing more than ever to use hot button issues to keep us in a oppositional frame of mind. The more we are at each other the less time and energy we have to examine what who is really wielding the power, and what they are really up to. The change you describe is real, but I fear more orchestrated than casual in occurrence. The increased influence of religion on the political scene appears to be a major factor, and at the very least a pawn in power broker's games. Nothing divides like religion.

  137. I guess I'm not imagining a different time, when Democrats and Republicans were the same people with opposing views, both human, both caring. I attribute the current situation to an increasingly sinister and greedy elite, needing more than ever to use hot button issues to keep us in a oppositional frame of mind. The more we are at each other the less time and energy we have to examine what who is really wielding the power, and what they are really up to. The change you describe is real, but I fear more orchestrated than casual in occurrence. The increased influence of religion on the political scene appears to be a major factor, and at the very least a pawn in power broker's games. Nothing divides like religion.

  138. Jim, should you happen to see the douche nozzle driving that car in the picture again, you should ask him what his convictions were for.

  139. I went back and reviewed your graph and it was an interesting trip when I added me to the equation.
    Nixon-----I'm a Democrat
    Johnson---I'm a Democrat
    Kennedy---to young to vote, but active Navy and Democrat.
    No "left wing" "right wing" crap.
    There were liberal republicans and conservative democrats. Leftist were radicals and rightwingers were Birchers.
    No elected official was even close to being a communist; we all hated or feared communist; except the members of the American Communist Party and all of us were secretly proud that our country allowed such a thing.
    I have a relative who is a member of the TeaParty. He asked me what happened to me?
    "You're a conservative and you voted to put a F------ Ni----- in the White House."
    I haven't changed and he ansered his own question.
    He just doesn't know it.

  140. I was subject to the same migration from Republican to liberal by the labels changing their meanings, but at the same time I changed some of my own values, too.

    I became less of an unintentional racist, and also pulled myself into the humanist faction. My racism wasn't much directed at blacks, because I didn't have much experience with them at an early age. I grew up in El Paso, and it was the Mexicans who were the targets of discrimination. My experience in college (very little), the Army, and life since, has shown me that people come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and while shape, size, or color can influence who you are, they don't keep you from being human. That is a lesson I still have to re-learn constantly. That I occasionally forget that lesson is my shame. That I can re-learn it is my credit.

    And I used to regard welfare as a way to perpetuate poverty. A way to keep people second-class, and hinder them from joining society. But poverty sucks the life from people. It's hard to concentrate in school when you're starving. Jobs are hard to get or keep when you can't afford bathing, or clean clothes. When children grow up not knowing the world without poverty, there's less chance they can escape. There is a certain minimum level of civilization needed to allow people to be able to provide for themselves and their children, and I see it as society's job to provide that minimum. That's the humanist position I referred to. It's true that there may be people who will try to take advantage of such a welfare program, but providing for those who need it is so much more important than keeping "undeserving" people from utilizing such a program. And I'm not much of a fan of the "undeserving" label, because, I mean, we're all people. Are we "undeserving", any of us?

    I've also moved a bit away from the "small government" idea. I want a bit of government intrusion in my life. I want the government to intrude in my life by regulating the people who sell me food, to keep them from taking shortcuts which could kill me or my family. I want government intrusion to make sure drug companies have to test their drugs before they put them on the market. I want government intrusion in my life to make sure our National Parks are kept in trust for future generations, instead of being bought up by billionaires who will close them off from public use. I want government intrusion to make sure my life savings are protected if my bank goes under. There are a lot of ways I see "government intrusion" as a good thing.

    So, did I move more than the labels did, or is it all part of the same game?

  141. Jim, while you get the ball rolling, I also enjoy the comments posted in response to your thought provoking comments. After reading the comments, I realize that I am not alone - which is quite a relief!!

    I find it interesting that those who promote smaller government also seem very intent on government intrusion into my physical body as well as control over privacy in my home, what I read or watch or even think.

    The key for promoters of small government is NO government control over companies/businesses. Like companies will self regulate and not harm people. In my 50+ years, I do not remember a single company that acted for the good of its customers when a product was shown to be defective or harmful. Not one, but I do remember Ford deciding that it would be cheaper to pay off wrongful death cases rather than do a recall to install a $10 piece of equipment in its cars to prevent people from burning to death. Since then it has been company after company -

  142. I was a small 'c' conservative in my youth (I'm the same age you are), but in terms of party alignment - I switched to the Democratic Party in 1980 when some of the names I recalled from Watergate started appearing around Reagan's campaign. I felt these people needed to be purged from the Republican Party, and decided to punish the party by voting against them. I thought this would only need to be a temporary position - these miscreants would be discharged, and I could go back to supporting the party I felt was mine. Sadly, that turned out to just be the beginning of the drift as I watched "Conservatism" drift further and further away from me, finally dipping below the horizon completely in 1995 when Gingrich became speaker.

  143. Zola 11:51

    I got this far before finding someone noting the Fear problem and how it relates to contemporary crazed conservatives.

    What I've seen constantly in the online posts to blogs, newspapers, etc is a prevailing sense of loss of power. Fear of falling. Which makes perfect sense, looking at the figures now available about the economic stagnation of our middle class and the incomprehensible wealth of the 1%. When you're confused, ignorant, and sensible of loss, who do you ally yourself with? Those who seem masterful and in power [not those wimpy liberal college hippies, nossiree]. And if those you've psychologically, if not realistically, aligned yourself with are threatened with loss of power [omigod! a black Democrat President!], you piss yourself in fear.

    Corey Robin's The Reactionary Mind explores this - how conservatism is NOT about a stolid traditionalist mindset [all those middle class engineers], but a reaction to the loss of power. This is a novel concept to most of us, I suspect, but it gives insight into Republican attitudes breath-taking in their irrationality and hate.

  144. This is not the first post of yours that I have read, nor will it be the last. I just wanted to say thank you for having chosen to be, and remaining, a public servant. Your years in the military were one kind of service I have always respected. But your current brand of service really shines for me. My dad was a journalist, and he always believed that it was an important valuable form of public service. Would that that were still true. Yours is the new brand of public-service journalism. Thank you.

  145. For the most part I can agree with the authors prose. But then I am also a Libertarian and will continue to cling to my guns... but no god for me, guess I am too logical for that nonsense.

    While I understand the desire for a truly egalitarian society, the reality is it's not going to happen for a very, very long time. So I will continue to own my firearms so I can defend my rights and the rights of others as well as my family.

    You're correct, war is a necessary evil that should only be entered when all else fails. The problem is the military industrial complex (the one we were warned about by Eisenhower) is now driving our nation into conflicts. The problem is we the people are complacent and apathy is eating away at the foundations of the Republic.

    In my own random way of posting... I agree with you on human rights and the labels people apply. As a young man growing up I was the defender of the weak, the one that would step up to the bullies and fight back. And I took that a step further and I too joined the Navy. Only to find that I was no longer defending the weak but supporting the bully.

    Keep up your posts and may Fair Winds and Following Seas be your days ahead.

  146. Something I didn't follow up on in the text: I'm a gun owner myself. I own both long guns and handguns. More, I've been a professional weapons instructor for more than 20 years. I'm a graduate of numerous handgun, armorer, and weapons schools, both in and out of the military. And I have extensive experience with small arms, in combat, on the range, and in the field. I have a CCP and an FFL (though I probably won't renew the FFL this year).

    I have no issue with gun ownership per se. HOWEVER, I believe that with rights comes responsibilities - and the obligations of responsible gun ownership and usage are manifold. I don't believe any idiot should be allowed to own a gun. I believe that you should have to have training before purchasing a gun, and be able to prove it. I believe that the penalties for irresponsible gun ownership should be severe and immediate and without parole. I think background checks and waiting periods should be mandatory. And I think, from personal experience, that the frothy lunatics who patrol gun shows are the very people who shouldn't be allowed to own so much as a slingshot. And finally, I think that you're gravely mistaken if you think that you and your beer buddies are going to hold off the US Army if they really, really want you.

    I think Americans are by and large bang bang crazy when it comes to guns. A gun is a tool, nothing more.

  147. And finally, I think that you're gravely mistaken if you think that you and your beer buddies are going to hold off the US Army if they really, really want you.

    US Army crap, any well-trained SWAT team is well experienced, thanks to the War On (Some) Drugs, in taking down heavily armed goons *way* more dangerous in a fundamental way than the morons who talk about "overthrowing a tyrannical government" with their personal arms. Talkin' bout, SWAT teams regularly take down made men, heavily armed murderers, people who've had guns pointed at them before and who have used guns to kill people before, and usually the perp doesn't even get his hands on a gun before he has six black M-16 barrels pointed at his face. 3AM, flashbangs, surprise, surprise, surprise...

    It's basic FM-3 sections 4-32 to 4-39, itself a summary of Clauswitz and Sun Tzu, the cops have the advantage of concentration, surprise, unity of command, intelligence, and mobility. The cops know where the person they're taking down is going to be -- that dude's gonna be at home, sleeping, duh. That person, on the other hand, has no idea that the cops have chosen that night to take him out. The outcome is never in doubt.

    And this is what the legends in their own mind think they're going to take on with their lack of unity, lack of command and control, lack of training, lack of skill, lack of having done that most basic of things, training to kill people? Dude. No contest. Just sayin'. No army required, any big city police department can take out these legends in their own mind without even breathing hard.

    Like you say, guns ain't magic. No number of guns are going to overcome those handicaps I listed above. No way, no how.

  148. I have had the same sort of experience that you've evidently have encountered as well. As I was growing up, I watched my political party move slowly and inexorably away from the policies and viewpoints that I had developed while growing up. It's something that is frustrating, you desperately want to do something but you don't know what exactly you can do. Your party is no longer the same, the people in charge want to deny you your right to speak or to even be a party member, simply because you have the audacity to question the current party orthodoxy.

    The true frustration is when you try to point out how much things have changed, and how the path the party has taken leads to a dead end only gets you plastered with those labels you mentioned, and worse. It has gotten so bad in areas of the country that you'd think that being called a communist is actually a compliment, considering how much the party has seemingly adopted communistic thought and behavior. Any hint of independent thought gets you exiled to Siberia, or here in the US to New Jersey.

    And yet I still feel a loyalty to the party, as completely irrational a thought that might be. Perhaps it's the old concept of doing your civic duty, no matter how distasteful it might be in pointing out the failings and fallacies in the current party groupthink, or that bit of anarchism that likes to spite the powers that be simply because it's our right to. Eventually the party has to swing back to where it started from, at which time people like us will be accepted once again instead of treated like unpersons.

  149. Eight years your senior, and about three years ago I decided the changes you describe with such precision had grown beyond my tolerance. Thirteen months ago I moved to the country that had the burning bodies and the body counts. I live in Vietnam.

    And I see a few survivors of "bear any burden, pay any price," on crutches, wheeling around on hand-powered conveyance, a leg gone, or both legs gone, and think "my country dd that." The difference is that nobody is going to assault me in a parking garage, because people here aren't Conservative.

    I'm not going back.

  150. I'm currently reading "My Life" (Bill Clinton's autobiography) and Clinton talks a lot about this phenomenon in it. He kinda literarily (I think I just made up that word-meaning in a literary way)scratches his head about it, too. He comes off as a little bitter toward Conservatives of today (and of the 90s) but I figure he has some pretty legitimate reasons.
    Personally, I was just considering something similar. I've had people guess a few times lately that I'm a Republican. I'm pretty Pinko-Commie-Socialist-Hippie-Liberal. I buy organic, use a clothesline, used cloth diapers for a while, make my own deodorant, dye my hair with all natural plant dye (henna), etc. And I've done some stuff that would probably make some of my friends and family have to pick their jaw off the floor. But on a daily basis, I appear pretty conservative-as in, I appear not like a socialist and I have a normal haircut and wear modest clothing. I think maybe some of the locals (I'm in Texas...which may explain a lot)have conservative as in right-wing and conservative as in cautious, moderate in general. I'm not extreme for the most part in the outward life people see (for example, most people don't know I make my own deodorant) so I am conservative in the non-political sense. And people have a hard time understanding then how I am liberal in my politics. *sigh*

  151. Thank you. I found you because of the Jon Swift awards and I'll come back to your site after reading this. I appreciate your explanation of the past thirty years. What a long strange trip, and it's good to have thinkers who can make some sense of it.

  152. Ok, so apparently we have a number of like minded people/readers....so what can we do with that to start making changes to the status quo? Are there any existing groups attempting to organize anything along these lines yet? And if so where?

  153. I've been reading your blog for hours (just discovered it!) and this post I need to respond to because by reading it I've actually discovered something about myself.

    I'm a white Irish decent catholic Canadian and as long as I can remember I've been vehemently anti-racist. But, aside from having read "Black like me" at a young age, I've always wondered why.

    I mean, sure it makes sense from an enlightened point of view, but is that it? Am I just somehow smarter, more aware, than the peers I grew up with, not to mention my own family.

    But I see now it was the bullying I endured growing up. I learned, through the torment I endured as a child, to hate people who preyed on the weak and defenseless. Weird, I mean it's not like I FORGOT about the bullying, but for some reason I never connected the two things.

    So let that be a warning to all bullies! With every blow you create Liberal Champion of Social Justice!

  154. Stay in the same place for long enough, and you'll be a hero and a villain. Just ask Simon Wiesenthal.

  155. This is possibly the most well thought-out and clear description of the political madness in our country today, and probably my favorite blog post that I've read in the last year. I've cited this numerous times. Really, thank you very much for sharing this, it's absolutely beautiful.

  156. I have just discovered your blog today, and cannot stop reading. You articulate in wonderful ways the thoughts I have been trying to explain to others for years. If you ever find yourself "kidnapped by sparkly gay environmentalists and spirited away to their lair beneath an abortion clinic in San Francisco", please send me a note beforehand, because I live in the bay area, and would love to shake your hand.

  157. I utterly love this. This is it exactly. I joked for a while that I was a Republican in remission, because in my youth, I was conservative. My fundamental positions didn't change. Conservatism warped out of all recognizability, and is collapsing like a flan in a cupboard.

  158. I'm in about the same boat as you. I was "conservative" as a child, learned a few things about the world, and became a rather annoyed moderate. Nowdays, being an annoyed moderate puts me about halfway between socialist and communist, according to the new world order of the Republican party. Sadly, I'm not a Democrat, stupid is only marginally better than evil.

    I wish we had Barry Goldwater and Millicent Fenwick to run for the presidency and VP. They would, of course, have to run as Democrats (the IRONY).

  159. The Republican party is not conservative, it is authoritarian. This scholarly work puts it into perspective http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/ and I recommend it to all.

    Your article's perspective is so obviously correct, to me, that I didn't even realise it needed to be said. It does, and you said it very well.

  160. I come here from Facebook and your Inheritance post which I saw yesterday. Thank you so so so much for this and your other writing. I'm a deeply liberal progressive raised by an army vet and a registered nurse. And I have friends of all political stripes and I find myself, as I always have, often turning away from my political peers because of flakiness issues and finding a lot of comfort in folks like you and your regulars, who are the serious types of people who spend their lives making sure everyone else, despite our foolishness, is safe.

    In my wildest dreams I would also be remembered for this too when I die. We've yet to see if that'll happen, but I do try. And thank you so much for being an inspiration in that regard.

  161. We are different in age (and the details of our lives), and that is all the more reason that seeing someone else with the same perspective who comes from a very different background is so very reassuring.

    I have a profile description that says, "Not easily fit into any one box." Your point about that resonated with me the most--and I'd like to think that everyone likes being an individual who doesn't fit into a neat little box. The world works better when we are free to be ourselves. Ironically, I think the best 'group' is one who doesn't think as a group, but still feels they are together as a group.

  162. But seriously, what's your position on the restoration of the French Monarchy?

  163. Sheesh, it's over 2 years since you posted this one, and I'm still thoroughly enjoyin' the comments as well as the blog. Way to engage, folks! ツ

  164. I love this article. I love how you describe "HUMAN rights" so well. "I’m a passionate and unrelenting advocate for human rights, regardless of race, creed, color, sex, age, origin, station in life, or any of the other bullshit categories people use to exclude others from full participation in our society". Well said! Wish everyone could read this.

    It scares me to see what this country is becoming. I hate feeling like I may have to go live somewhere else because the Tea Party has taken over. I remember a time when Republicans and Democrats could actually debate on issues, rather than one side just spewing hate and saying "you're wrong because my bible says so." Sad.

  165. Jim Wright, you and I are of similar backgrounds: Born in the Midwest, a career in the military (me, 28 yrs Army), close in age (I'm a bit older.) For most of my life, I voted Republican and considered myself a conservative.

    Then, about a decade or so ago, I realized that I no longer subscribed to many of the things the Republican party believed in. I also realized that the middle-class life my parents, who were members of the Greatest Generation, had bequeathed to me was rapidly slipping away. As I further examined my beliefs on topics as diverse as the EPA, Civil Rights, Abortion Rights, Separation of Church and State, Income Inequality, etc., I realized that I was a Nixon Republican. Which, of course, today puts me smack dab in the Progressive camp.

    Unfortunately, it appears we are firmly on a path from a Republic to an Oligarchy and I don't see any way to stop it.

    -Old Cowboy

  166. Another fine Warrent Officer I can respect! (former short timer GMG3 here)

  167. Jim, this is an absolute Hall of Fame Essay. It's one of the very best political/sociological observations that I have read.

    I believe that you have clearly described what I and many others have experienced, yet haven't been able to put into words. I've been sending [a link to] this essay to acquaintances for a couple of years now and most of them reply that they understand. Many reply "THAT hit the nail on the head."

  168. I have been having this conversation with other friends who grew up in old-school conservative places, left, and returned to find something crazy going on. When I lived in a very 'backwater' place (and loved it) growing up, it was a haven for individualists. Cowboys, artists, hippies, farmers. Everyone pretty much got along because everyone pretty much believed in being left alone to live life as one saw fit. Now - good grief, they sure have drawn the lines and they are not in the same place. The conservatives mostly turned out not to have actual beliefs, but instead, an allegiance to a team. When the team shifted, they simply assumed they had also without much self examination. They must have always believed that, they think. It's so scary to watch.

  169. Great read up until you blame God for what man is doing to the children of the world!

  170. Thank you. You covered a lot of ground and say many of the things I would be inclined to say if not for my selfconscious sense of inexperience. I do not have the military experience and I have never identified as Conservative so I often feel that if I speak strongly about certain things, I will be dismissed outright as just another know-nothing softy Liberal (I dislike being put in that box even though it comes closer to describing my views than the "opposite"). I do find that as I get older though, I am increasingly unconcerned with whether or not I appear to be valid in other people's eyes. It is through open discourse that ideas can grow and take shape into something more refined. People like to quip sometimes that some people (those they disagree with) should be quiet and be thought a fool rather than open their mouths and remove all doubt. I would rather be shown to be the fool that I am so it can be addressed as directly as possible. Thank you again for sharing your insights and experiences.
    Take care,

  171. Oh, my! You captured exactly what I have been telling my husband. I am where I was when we met 26 years ago, a just-left-of-center progressive/liberal/moderate/whatever. He has truly moved to the far right now, and yet he accuses me of becoming radical!! It's all one's perspective, eh? You write so eloquently. Thank you.

  172. I only found this article today, five years after you wrote it. But it feels like I could have written it. I was born in 1961. I am also a veteran. I voted for Reagan in '80 and '84, but for Obama in the last two elections. I grew up in the midwest, and was bullied.

    There are some differences. I was enlisted in the Army, and got out after 4 years on active duty. And I'm from Ohio not Michigan. But you wrote it just like I live and feel it. Thank you.

  173. I've often described myself as an independent or a moderate. But I'm actually nervous about being a moderate or a centrist because ideologically, it makes me closer to the right. An independent means I can support a multitude of positions across the spectrum. fiscal solvency, human rights, tolerance for the opinions of others unless they're being a bully. My dad was one of the guys with a slide rule, a white shirt and a lack of tolerance for bullies. He taught me the same values that you espoused. I haven't change my core values but I find its difficult to discuss some of these things without the name calling and lack of tolerance.
    Thanks for sharing your views so elequently.

  174. This is new to me, I just started on the Jim Wright road to eternal enlightenment last year. I would like to see you as a US Senator from our home state of Florida next election, why not give it a try?

  175. I have never really identified as a Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Liberal, but by default/association I guess I was more of a Republican. Except I'm not. The people that I always considered friends are now rabid gun loving, bible thumping, generally angry people who ask me when "I went to the dark side" - as if being a Democrat is inherently evil. This article sums up my own progression...I don't think I've changed so much as I just realized lately how close minded these people are. As I get older I am much more selective of the company I keep and the relationships I cultivate. Life is better now. Glad I stumbled across your work (through one of my newer friends :)

  176. Another good one, Jim. When you put it in the book, correct the spelling of Hemingway.

  177. I was introduced to your writing by Bill Foster (great photographer, excellent instructor of political science, and former Navy dude), and I have been grateful ever since. You do incredible work, and I'm buying a copy of your book for most of my family when it comes out.

  178. I am a recent fan of your writings, but what I've read so far parallels my political progression also. My mom asked me once what happened to her "nice Republican daughter." I replied that I opened my eyes and took note at what was happening around me. I'll definitely be getting a copy of your book when it comes out. Luck to you.

  179. I can relate. That's all. Nothing pithy to add. I can relate.

  180. A-fucking-men (and I'm an atheist).

    The only thing I disagree with is this part:
    "You think that odd for someone who spent their entire adult life in the profession of War? Willingly? Heh, you don’t know many professional military folks then."

    I'm only a couple of years younger than you, Jim, and I didn't serve, but I grew up in the service (my dad retired in '87). Even as far back as the mid 80s, the 'my way or the highway' branch of service was starting to come out in force. I think it was mostly due to Reagan and his administration courting the religious right so hard.

    Now, many ex-military are the worst of the rabid right wingers. They have forgotten the principles that were (and in same cases, are) sworn to uphold. Part of this I would blame on the right wing noise machine and constant propaganda of hyper patriotism, nationalism, really. A big part I blame on the schools, which have been so gutted by those same right wing policies in many states, that the principles of our founding, and what civil rights actually mean (why do so many court cases ignore the 9th and 10th amendments?) that their idea of patriotism is already skewed from a young age.


  181. I'm not that good with words, but it's like you live, or at least vacation, in my head.

  182. Your post just resurfaced and I hadn't seen it.

    I've pretty much always been a liberal, but used to strive to stay more Middle of the Road, especially in my public voice. I always "got" parts of the other side's views, and that there were a lot of good conservative concepts, or at least there used to be. Now MoR scares me.

    While your labels got changed, mine became something I no longer try to dilute.

  183. I read your essay if that's what it is called and found it interesting. I think what I found most interesting is that when it was all said and done, I couldn't help but feel you were as guilty of labeling people as you were of supposedly being labeled. I have noticed a similar tone in many of the responses, also. Labeling and intolerance, all cloaked in the name of tolerance!? Confusing on the surface for sure. I could turn this into an essay of my own but would rather just state a few things rather than preach. I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt while reading but when you wrapped up what you had to say, I couldn't help but feel a considerable degree of hypocrisy in it all. Everybody's so different, I haven't changed? Life is a journey for us all. I never discount others experiences as inferior to my own. I feel like you did. I don't like to lump people into categories which I feel you did. I'm as pro civil rights as you state you are. I'm very liberal. So liberal that I don't feel a need to single out Christianity as being evil compared to other religions of the world. I'm not afraid to say that I want to believe in a God but I'm not without my doubts. It's a very confusing subject. Are all republicans ultra right wing intolerant bible thumpers? Are all democrats tree hugging bleeding heart liberals? I think not on both fronts. I'm not afraid either to say I'm a republican. Did I say I was pro civil rights and extremely liberal on social issues? How can that be? The truth Is, most republicans I know believe similarly. I don't feel a need to hate people who call themselves democrats either. Most republicans I know feel stmilarly. I am a veteran. That is I served my country. I don't hate people who think that serving in the military is a bad thing. Everyone has a right to their opinion and I feel so strongly about it that I was willing to fight to protect that right. I could go on forever. But I guess I just wanted to state that what I observed in the author and many of the replies is straight up stereotyping, ignorant rhetoric, and outright intolerance, all in the name of so called tolerance and understanding. My views, certain beliefs and understanding of things have been evolving my whole life. I guess if I were to write an opinion piece such as the author it would read, everybody's so different and I have changed!

  184. They live in the simple, binary world of right or wrong, as in "If I'm right (and I am) then you must be wrong." Left or right, black or white, male or female, no rrom for the middle ground where many of us live long and prosper.


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