A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Friday, March 11, 2005

My assimilation by the Dark Side

Hey! I got a comment! So, at least one person is reading this stuff. Of course, he's an old acquaintance, but at this point, I'll take it. Here's part of his comment:

I always imagined you to be a screaming liberal, so as a frothing conservative, your self-identification as 'right of center' warms the cockles of my heart.

To which, I can only say, 'Heh.' Yes, I used to be a screaming liberal (well, I don't know that I ever actually screamed, but I was a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat from a long line of dyed-in-the-wool Democrats. My parents are liberal. My brother and sister are liberal. My cousins are liberal. And I work with liberals. There was serious mourning amongst most of the people I know who aren't my immediate family or friends (and even a decent chunk of my friends are liberal). So, how did I get to where I am? Which in my mind means I am an independent and not really a Republican or a Democrat. I suspect though that most folks would peg me right of center, and I don't know that I can really dispute that persception.

Was it the Karl Rove mind beam? Do I own stock in Halliburton? Did the digital brown shirts come knocking on my virtual door demanding obedience?

No, it all crystallized for me on a quiet Tuesday morning, three and a half years ago. I was getting for work-- I was working the evening shift, so I had the morning off-- and playing with my son, who had just turned 1 five days earlier. The news was on in the background, but I wasn't paying much attention to it. There was a breaking news bulletin. Somewhat confused reports, but apparently a plane had accidentally crashed into the World Trade Center. That was the first report-- everyone assumed it had to be an accident. The pilot had a seizure or something. It never occurred to me, or to the news people, that this was anything other than a terrible, terrible accident.

The video feed comes through a few minutes later. Lord! Not a two-seat prop plane-- what I initially envisioned-- but a big plane. A jet. Oh man. This is bad. Really, really bad. I continued pushing the trains around with my son, but the news was no longer just background noise. Thank God he had no idea what was happening, then or later that day.

Then the second plane hits the other tower on live TV. And it starts to sink in. This was not an accident. No, had to be. Nobody would intentionally fly a plane into a building. No, it can't be.

Oh Lord it is.

Both towers are burning and now nearly everyone has concluded that it is, in fact, a terrorist attack. Shortly thereafter, Bush speaks and confirms the WTC was apparently targeted by terrorists.

Another plane hits the Pentagon. No, no, this can't really be happening can it? My son laughs as I make one of the trains go backwards.

The south tower collapses and I feel like someone just punched me in the gut. Really, really hard. I'm pretty sure I'm mumbling "No, no, no, no." It was like a very, very bad movie-- you just want to turn it off. But you can't. Because it's real. The commentators are talking body bags. Thousands of them. Six, eight, maybe ten thousand.

How could the building collapse? Who would do this? Why?

It was my generation's Pearl Harbor. Or at least it should be. For many it was and is. Somehow for others, it was more like Vietnam. Somehow for others, we were to blame for this. It wasn't the terrorists fault. It was Ward Churchill's chickens coming home to roost.

I could not and can not fully wrap my head around that viewpoint, nor do I wish to. It is twisted and sad and I would not want to walk around with that much assumed guilt weighing on me. Unearned and unwarranted guilt.

And I started to question. I started to see things in the media that I hadn't before. I read different things then I had before-- blogs were just coming into their own, and there were other sources of information than the local newspaper and the local TV news. I watched the sentiment turn in Europe as we went to war in Afghanistan, and I began to dread the next reference to Vietnam or quagmire or exit strategy.

Don't get me wrong-- I retained many of my social perspectives. I have no problem with gay marriage, and the prospect of writing discrimination into the Constitution makes me furious. I was and am appalled by the torture at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq by our troops, and I still can't believe that W. actually gave George Tenet a medal for his "sterling" work with the Iraq intelligence.

But despite that, my eyes were now open to concepts I hadn't considered before. I became a proponent of smaller government (another bone picking area with Mr. Bush-- are we sure he isn't Johnson reincarnated?), a fan of the Choice Programs for schools, and a supporter of reforming Social Security via some form of privatization.

So it goes. I am pleased and proud to say that my family has not disowned me, and in fact will occassionally engage in discussing politics with me-- though they tend to take it too personally, and they have trouble getting past their almost visceral hatred of George W. Bush. I try to be fair and courteous, and I am always pleased to have a rational and reasoned discussion with those who disagree with me.

But I will never see the world the same again. 9/11/2001 did that to me. And it was a high price to pay for a new perspective. Only I didn't pay it. Which is why I value it quite dearly-- to do otherwise would seem a shameful betrayal of the memory and the honor of those that did.


Howdy Nick. I am disappointed that it wasn't our old arguments that turned you to the 'dark side'. :->

Actually, I agree with you about the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. How could you not be changed after that? My conversion from apolitical to conservative was thanks to Molly Ivans.

Yes, that's right, liberal windbag Molly Ivans set me on the conservative path. In the 80's, I read her columns in the Texas A&M student newspaper. My friends and I would read them in the library, and we noticed a real "it's all Reagan's fault" trend to her every single column. Well, any thinking person can only take so much of that. I knew I couldn't be associated with that sort of thinking. (Although in the 90's I would be guilty of the same thing, in my incessant Clinton bashing.)

I don't know if I'll ever feel totally safe again, when terrorism is such a powerful tool in the hands of madmen. But I do thank God every night that George Bush is president, rather than Al Gore or John Kerry.
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