No, partially, and no and no. And in any event, this isn’t a “sudden” thing, it’s been a process, and it’s been occurring for a few years. It’s ultimately the reason I lost my column back in PA – I could no longer be counted on to present a reliably liberal viewpoint, week in and week out, so I had to go. (And I did!)
But anyway; I posted the bit below (loooong!) in response to a thread at Rod Dreher’s blog on fed-up secular liberals, and it explains my evolution, for those who might be interested.
The one thing I don’t get into here is the extent to which the writers I read have helped shape my thinking. Frankly, some of the more conservative voices are just more intellectually stimulating than the daily fare at Slate or Salon, which invents endless new ways to bemoan American racism, sexism and misogyny. I’ve heard that all before; hell, I PREACHED it for well over a decade.
For years, I basically believed conservatives were stupid. Too dumb to know what was good for them; hateful in their hearts; a dangerous rabble to be mocked and controlled. As my views evolved, I began to see this for what it was. I noticed all my liberal friends virtually high-fiving one another every time Jon Stewart got in another sick burn. As if that was a sufficient substitute for an actual argument.
I haven’t given up all of my liberal ways. I now live in Florida, which will be Ground Zero for climate change – and plenty of my neighbors “don’t believe” in it. I’m still manifestly anti-war – at a time when my liberal friends are becoming more pro-war.
But in general, events caused me to take a step back and reassess. And that led to here, but “here” is a pretty interesting place because I was so outspoken when I was over “there” for so long.
In other words, I can see both sides – for the first time.
Anyway: Below is what I wrote on Dreher’s blog; make of it what you will.
As recently as two years ago I was a very outspoken agnostic liberal. I hope I wasn’t as obnoxious as the SJWs are today but maybe I was, in retrospect. I did a lot of sneering.
I’d become a liberal as a young man in the city (Pittsburgh), living on my own making a pittance as a newspaper reporter and working nights as a waiter. Some months I had trouble paying the electric bill, even though I’d go 3 or 4 weeks straight without a day off. And I distinctly remember covering one of those “yellow ribbon” rallies for the first Gulf War, where one speaker got up on stage and basically said that if you don’t support the war, you’re hurting the troops. In effect, they were dying for your freedom, so you should refrain from exercising too much freedom of speech.
And there really was a sneering coming from the ascendent religious right at the time. A holier-than-thou attitude, that they were somehow superior citizens, superior Americans, as a result of their faith, which obviously made them more moral than the rest of us. I detested that attitude.
Call these signposts or mile markers on my way to liberalism.
But in more recent years, there have been many signposts on my way back to conservatism, signposts that I didn’t really recognize as such at first, though I do now.
The first came when my wife was pregnant with our youngest son, in 2009. At six months, a routine ultrasound turned up something that looked like a significant deformity; it appeared as if his spinal cord was split around a piece of bone in his back, then “tethered” to another piece of bone. On the basis of this we went for more testing a major metro children’s hospital; the worst-case scenario was that he might not walk and could have neurological damage.
One of the doctors we saw, an orthopedist, I think, said something along the lines of – “Well, you’ll be having an abortion then.” Not so much a question, but a statement; virtually all middle-class parents in our situation get an abortion.
I was offended, even angry. I’d always been pro-choice, but all I could think at that moment was, this isn’t some clump of cells, this isn’t some mere deformity – this is my son. And I wondered who could or would abort in that situation.
For as it turned out, the initial scans were wrong. More intensive testing revealed our son simply had a curvature of the spine, scoliosis, and at age 6 he’s happy and fine.
The whole situation rocked my view on abortion.
Then gay marriage. I argued strenuously in favor of it, saying – and believing – that if families are the essential building block of society, why would we want to prohibit people who love one another from making a legal commitment to one another? But shortly after the court rules, I saw this article in the Daily Beast which in effect admitted that gay marriage had been a Trojan horse all along:
“According to a 2013 study, about half of gay marriages surveyed (admittedly, the study was conducted in San Francisco) were not strictly monogamous.
“This fact is well-known in the gay community—indeed, we assume it’s more like three-quarters. But it’s been fascinating to see how my straight friends react to it. Some feel they’ve been duped: They were fighting for marriage equality, not marriage redefinition. Others feel downright envious, as if gays are getting a better deal, one that wouldn’t work for straight couples. …
“What would happen if gay non-monogamy—and I’ll include writer Dan Savage’s “monogamish” model, which involves extramarital sex once a year or so—actually starts to spread to straight people? Would open marriages, ’70s swinger parties, and perhaps even another era’s “arrangements” and “understandings” become more prevalent? Is non-monogamy one of the things same-sex marriage can teach straight ones, along with egalitarian chores and matching towel sets?
“And what about those post-racial and post-gender millennials? What happens when a queer-identified, mostly-heterosexual woman with plenty of LGBT friends gets married? Do we really think that because she is “from Venus,” she will be interested in a heteronormative, sex-negative, patriarchal system of partnership?…”
The title of the piece was “Were conservative Christians right about gay marriage all along?” And the writer’s answer is clearly “yes” – in your face, all you people who thought the issue was about equality.
I did indeed feel duped – and angry. It was another signpost on the road to conservatism.
Then social justice warriors became a thing. I saw my liberal Facebook friends trying to outdo one another with their virtue signaling. Long-time (white) friends posting about how all white people need to check their privilege and examine their souls, because all of us were guilty of the sin of racism on some level, and we must atone for it.
Give me a break. This wasn’t just a signpost, it was the exit sign.
But, it occurred to me they were preaching – this is the new fundamentalism; they sneer, they flaunt a smarmy self-proclaimed sense of moral superiority just as the fundamentalists of the Bush era did. I detested it then – and I detest it now.
And it occurred to me at some point that as a 23-year married father of three, I have far, far more in common with religious conservatives than I realized. It benefits my kids to live in neighborhoods amongst people who value stable family relationships as we do, who teach their kids prudence and self-control and the value of deferred gratification. It benefits my kids to believe in something greater than themselves and their own pleasure.
The one place I haven’t gotten to is belief itself. I can’t shake my agnosticism. But I have come to realize how bad an idea it is for my agnosticism to be an organizing force in society, because frankly it isn’t that. The ethos of “do whatever you like” means no community consensus. Radical individuality destroys any sense of shared purpose.
Liberalism as it’s currently practiced yields only divisiveness and moral preening. And like your writer, I want something better for my kids – and for myself.
Originally posted on January 4, 2017 and can be found here.