Friday, January 27, 2006
Vintage ER: 1986
What's YOUR defining political moment, event or period of life?
The other night, I was going through boxes of old newspaper clips and undergrad stuff, looking for an editorial I thought I'd written for my college paper, headined "Bork the Dork."
Turns out I did not write it (it was bylined) -- although I do distinctly remember penning the head, since I was the opinion page editor in fall 1987.
(That's why I don't join the game of gotcha when people say they don't remember things like whether they were a member of such-and-such organization and such, like Alito and whatever suposedly offensive group he was supposed to have been a member at at Princeton. People forget stuff.)
What I did find was some yellowed, typewritten pages I'd written for the political science prof who was my adviser for the internship I had with a right-wing Repub congressman in 1986.
I was placed with the guy, a Reagan-coattailer from a former Confederate state, based on an essay and some questions I'd answered about my political leanings.
I had just read Barry Goldwater's "Conscience of a Conservative." I'm from rural OklaBaptistHoma. I was 21 and consciously seeking. No wonder they put me with a righty-right!
Anyway, here's some of what I wrote when I got back. It rings true to myself, lo, these 20 years later:
I came to Washington believing I was a Conservative Democrat. Now I'm not so sure, but I am by no means as conservative as (the congressman) and his staff. Conservative ideals, like most ideals, are honopable in principle, but I'm not so convinced they pan out in the Real World.
It all depends on your goals. If you believe in unqualifiedly free markets for the sake of free markets, I disagree. If you believe in free markets because they appear to allow the most equitable allocation of resources, let's talk.
I'm no longer convinced that the Soviet Union is the greatest threat to humanity's existence. I'm more inclined to believe the threat to be a reckless, hawkish Administration that pushes unrealistic, untested high-tech space weapons through a gutless Congress. (Sorry for that outburst). That and the acceptance of poverty, for whatever reason -- choice or circumstance -- as okay.
Admittedly, I've spent the past three months in the duirect line of fire of a very Reagan-like congressman. I usually react to extremes in a negative way. Give me a few months and I'll probably be more conciliatory toward this Administtration. Somehow, I doubt it though. My gut tells me something is very wrong here. (Gut was right. -ER)
Meanwhile, here are a few of the most memorial anecdotes from my experience:
One of the guys in the office, an otherwise very intelligent man of 22 years, has a button that proclaims, "I'm a Contra Too!"
In this office, House Speaker Jim Wright is The Great Satan.
The Strategic Defense Initiative threatens to replace Christianity as the salvation of the world. (Not really, but you get the idea.)
We end legislative staff meetings with prayer. ...
Also, one afternoon, I took a group of constituents over to the gallery of the House chamber. This was a group of students from a private school in (the congressman's state). The CIVICS TEACHER asked me why there was no one on the House floor! Geez!
Thus ends this trip down ER Memory Lane. How did you get where you are politically?
Raised as a traditional Baptist, I believed the conservative line I was taught. That the great sins were drinking, smoking, cussing and dancing (and all that implies). But I also was taught that Biblical truths should be taken quite literally.
As I grew and took the whole literal bible thang seriously, I found that the Bible says a great deal that I wasn’t being taught and, further, that what I was being taught was largely unbiblical.
For a long time, I remained self-identified as a conservative, although I was quite opposed to war-making and in support of programs to assist the poor (thus, when I was first able to vote, I found I could no longer embrace Reagan as I thought I could a few years earlier).
Eventually, I stumbled across the Anabaptist-themed writings of Art Gish and Wendell Berry and was able to embrace what is often termed liberal thought (although I don’t know that I truly identify with either label, or that I truly reject either label).
In short, because my traditional and conservative church teachers taught me to take the Bible seriously, I was able to embrace liberal notions as well as the good conservative ones.
More about Dan than anyone ever wanted to know...
"fooling himself" you sed.
"fooling him or herself" I sed. Very nit-picky, I know, but I have had a week that was heavy on the "mankind" and "in the history of man," and it's wearing me out. I know with certainty that you meant no exclusion, and I do not mean to be offensive. I apologize in advance if this seems overly critical.
Nuff of that. Thanks for this very cool post, and I agree with you that it was not at all too much info from Dan.
I got where I am on a long road that can really be summarized by saying "I opened my heart, and then my eyes and ears opened." Mostly, I just decided that I gave a damn about people. I gave a damn if they were poor. I gave a damn that everyone is far from equal in the good ole USA. SOme stuff just ain't right, and I give a damn.
At work, I automatically revert to plurals to avoid hims and hers. I 'lax a bit 'round here, partly 'cause the joint IS called erudite Redneck! ;-) Some folks threaten to strip me of my R from time to time. Little scraps like that throw 'e, off my trail.
Have I said lately that I'm glad you add yer voice to this place? I'm glad.
i would never be the same....
Other fiction that helped me make me who I am: "Alas Babylon." And I read it only because I had to.
But I was predisposed to hearing that anyway, since I grew up in a liberal household. My views on feminism did undergo a dramatic shift-- I blame them on encountering Alas, a blog.
come to think of it, pretty much the entire semester did me in. started with iocaste and oepdipus rex, but then it got heavy, with all's quite on the western front, brave new world, the catcher in the rye, then cat's cradle. some curriculum, huh? truly opened my mind. tore it asunder! had to back away for a bit, so i took world lit the next semester. but after hs, i became a regular vonnegut-head.