Monday, March 28, 2005

Condescension and leaving the political fold

In my "about me" description (see upper right), I mentioned that I've faced some ostracism within my circle of friends and colleagues for my political views. This was especially dramatic beginning with the buildup to the Iraqi war and ending with the 2004 Presidential election.

It hasn't been pretty, and I've lost some of them, perhaps forever--sometimes merely by dint of saying something as mild as, "I disagree." It's not as though I insulted them--at least not knowingly or intentionally--but many have nevertheless acted as though they'd been insulted.

The situation would usually arise in the context of a party or a dinner or some other get-together among friends. I'd be at the table, chatting, joking, having a good time, and someone would bring up politics, the war, Bush--something. Then the vitriol would start, with the assumption that of course all of us agreed on these things: Bush was an asshole and a liar, the war a disaster and a crime, and so on and so on and so forth.

I'd be faced with the choice of speaking up or keeping silent. Sometimes I chose the latter, depending on the company, how long the conversation went on (passing remark vs. lengthy gabfest), and how strong I might be feeling that day.

Whenever I did decide to speak up, I tried to be quiet and respectful, and above all simple. I'd start by saying that I'd been a liberal Democrat my whole life (I'm one of you, not one of them, so don't hate me, please!). I'd say I'd never voted for a Republican in my life (true). Then I'd say, in the mildest of voices, that nevertheless I happened to have come to agree with George Bush on quite a few aspects of his foreign policy.

First there was usually a stunned silence. At one party the person I was addressing asked me, "What did you say?" three times before she actually could process my answer and even understand the words I had said, much less react to them. Yes, every now and then people would be curious to hear what I had to say, and we would have a decent discussion. But far more often the anger would erupt, often instantaneously--and I mean rage, the like of which I had never before encountered with friends or acquaintances. A closed-mindedness, and a refusal to even listen to me. Most of these people had always seemed to respect my intelligence before, but now I was considered to be very very stupid--or evil. Gone over to the Dark Side.

Attacks. Name-calling: "imperialist," "colonialist"--and, in one rather memorable case, "Dan Quayle lover," although I certainly hadn't breathed a word about any passion for him. Many of my friends were noticeably cooler to me after these exchanges, and a couple of old friends actually severed our relationship (permanently, so far).

There are a host of reasons this happened, I suppose. But at the time I didn't see it coming, and it was extremely shocking and disturbing to me. But now that I've had some time to think about it, I think that I actually would have gotten a better response from them if I'd skipped the "I've always been a liberal Democrat" intro. Because there are few things more hated than an apostate, a turncoat, a traitor.

Someone who leaves the fold is much worse than someone who was never in it. There's a special rage reserved for those who have rejected the ideas that others hold dear. I don't think I ever said anything condescending to any of these people, but time and again I they told me I was being condescending.

But when I thought about it, I realized that this perception of condescension was inevitable and unavoidable. After all, I was saying "I used to believe 'A,' but now I believe 'B,'" and I was addressing people who continued to believe "A." Under the circumstances, how could they fail to see me as condescending, whether I was really conveying that attitude or not?

Inherent in the idea of anyone changing his/her mind from one position to another is that the person must think the second position is superior to the first--else why the change? So, whether or not the changer intends to be condescending, the reader/listener hears condescension because in fact it is implicit in the situation. No way out of it, I'm afraid.

38 Comments:

At 1:29 PM, March 28, 2005, Blogger Loyal Achates said...

Being involved in a very strong relationship with someone much more conservative than I am, I'm inclined to think that what happened between you and your friends is at least as much your fault as theirs.

If there's one thing I've noticed about conservatives placed in a group of leftists, it's that they like to cause trouble and antagnize people. 'Born again' rightists are especially bad in this regard. What makes you different? I don't want to call you a liar, but... well, there's no way to finish that sentence.

 
At 1:31 PM, March 28, 2005, Blogger jakita said...

My experience as well. Few people want to discuss issues. It's all about group bonding, or some such external factor. Right now in some circles I'm a freak--kind of like a circus dwarf.

Hang in there, neo neo-con. There are probably millions of us now, as the 2004 election seemed to prove.

 
At 1:33 PM, March 28, 2005, Blogger jakita said...

wow, loyal achates . . .

You posted two minutes before I did, and you look like one of those people I'm referring to. Why are you calling neo-neocon a liar? Are you compelled to insult her because you disagree with her?

 
At 3:18 PM, March 28, 2005, Anonymous meander said...

There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in any of your previous posting content that would lead me to believe that you were in any way rude or offensive when you attempted to express a different point of view from those in your once tight circle. You always seem to gentle your language with some rueful, self deprecating aside so as to soften up the listener and make them more receptive to your main point. You strike me as highly reasonable and rational so I'm sure this past year or so has been interesting, dismaying and all sorts of things.

 
At 3:26 PM, March 28, 2005, Blogger rshams said...

As a "neocon" growing up in a "liberal" family with "liberal" acquaintances, and currently involved with someone who is...not a neocon, my experience has been that leftists perceive any disagreement with their paradigm as antagonism. Basically, they, within their circles, define what is liberal or conservative or moderate, and anyone who challenges those definitions is "causing trouble"

It seems that we neocons, and I'm heartened to know that there are so many out there, are upsetting members of the Left who refuse to engage in dialogue.

 
At 6:45 PM, March 28, 2005, Blogger The Unbeliever said...

I think the problem goes beyond just garnering the stigma of "traitor". My experience has been that liberals find it easy to write off always-been conservatives as idiots, or blind ideolouges, or religious fanatics, or meddling facists, etc. But when they're faced with a former liberal who has (quite understandably) switched sides, it's not as easy to write off the other side. Who is it easier to sneer at: the enemy you've never met and refuse to engage, or the friend you've partied with? If they truly did respect your intelligence while you were liberal, and yet the person posessing that intelligence saw cause to oppose their views, what does that say about liberal beliefs?

The standard liberal intelligentsia mindset runs into a serious logical flaw in these situations. If you assume that only liberals are intelligent, then it follows that no conservatives can be. However, if a known intelligent person becomes a conservative, you can no longer say "all conservatives are stupid"; you're forced to acknowledge that at the very least, they're as smart as the liberals. You're wrecking a deeply ingrained mindset, you're turning an entire worldview upside down, you're forcing previously unchallenged assumptions to be re-thought.

The rage you're seeing is the rage of betrayal, but it's not you who have betrayed your friends--their own beliefs and assumptions betrayed them. And it's easier for liberals to reject the anomaly, pretend you don't exist, than to re-examine every article of faith they've built up over the years. Dropping your friendship is their manifestation of deep denial.

 
At 7:29 PM, March 28, 2005, Anonymous Bill Barnes said...

The anti-liberal commentators are fantasizing, and I'll bet on the basis of a very small n. In fact many people, if not most, at all points on the political spectrum, behave more or less in the manner you critisize in times when politics are bitterly polarized. And some people, at almost all points on the political spectrum (except real crazies at both ends), behave otherwise. My own experience is that most NeoCons and Liberal Hawks won't debate except with straw men. But Norm Geras and I had a perfectly civil series of exchanges (though Norm's argumentation was conclusory rather than on the merits - for my side see Small Precautions archives for Feb 13). One of the most interesting aspects of this historical moment is how much intense disagreement there is among different elements of the right over Bush administration policy. The paleocons are every bit as outraged by the neocons as most liberals, if not more so. Take a look at their websites. As to the angry reactions of your liberal friends in response to you "changing sides," remember, you're throwing your lot in with people who, at the extreme, believe that all liberals (by which they mean anyone to the left of Bob Dole)are literally traitors whose summary execution may not out of the question in the near future.

 
At 8:18 PM, March 28, 2005, Anonymous neo-neocon said...

Loyal Achates: If you had read my post carefully, you'd see that I said that many people had negative reactions to my merely stating I am a lifelong liberal Democrat who agrees on some points of foreign policy with Bush. Just that simple declarative sentence. Can't imagine how that could cause trouble and antagonize anyone, but it did, it did. And your response (to not exactly call, but to clearly insinuate, that I am lying) merely illustrates my point, I believe. If you didn't already exist, I might have to invent you.

To those of you who've had similar experiences to mine (and I know there are many of you--probably millions, as jakita said), I would imagine you understand what a painful surprise it was. I had no idea I was so naive, but I was.

To Mr. Barnes, I have no doubt that there is polarization on both sides. I am merely describing the reaction I experienced from one side, the side I know best. Remember, I'm neither a conservative, nor identifying myself as one. I am still a liberal on many matters, and a moderate on many others. What makes you think that "throwing your lot" in with a certain group means you embrace all the tenets of that group (your hyperbole about "summary executions" aside)? That's way too much "dancing in a ring" to suit my tastes.

 
At 9:27 PM, March 28, 2005, Blogger Judith said...

"My own experience is that most NeoCons and Liberal Hawks won't debate except with straw men."

Funny, my experience is that most antiwar and lefty types only debate with straw men. Wading through the thicket of unexamined assumptions and simple wrong information is an exercise in patience many of us fail.

I agree with "unbeliever"'s analysis. I personally experienced this back in the day when a couple I always assumed were as liberal as I told me they were voting for Bush in 2000 and didn't believe abortion should be legal. I hit the roof, I am ashamed to say, and "betrayal" describes how I felt.

"One of the most interesting aspects of this historical moment is how much intense disagreement there is among different elements of the right over Bush administration policy. The paleocons are every bit as outraged by the neocons as most liberals, if not more so."

Well, sure. The paleo-cons, Chomkyites, antisemites, identity politickers, and nascent totalitarians are on one side, and the promoters of representative government, individual rights and responsibility, universal standards of behavior, globalization, are on the other side. "Left" and "right" are becoming increasingly useless terms.

 
At 10:51 PM, March 28, 2005, Anonymous E See said...

Group bonding, circle dances, etc. happen across the political (or any other) spectrum, but more than that is needed to explain the intensity of the left-liberal hostility to any kind of opposition from the right. The sad fact is that, under the stress of historical challenges, liberal politics for many have hardened into a kind of secular faith, and such people perceive any who fail to accept that faith not as intellectually mistaken but rather as morally flawed if not evil. And for this increasingly worried faithful, what's worse even than heresy is apostasy.

 
At 5:58 AM, March 29, 2005, Anonymous Paul said...

You are entitled to your opinion and so be it if eople don't like it. In this country we still have the right to express our opinions and say what we feel. I am a NeoCon too. Stand firm ! :)

 
At 6:32 AM, March 29, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi neo-neocon

Last Friday I read your normblog profile and subsequently—among others—your post titled “So why ‘neo-neocon’?” and found that your story is quite similar to mine (this is also why last Monday I took the liberty of quoting and linking to your above mentioned post). But today this post seems to be taking the words right out of my mouth! If this can be of any comfort to you, here in Italy things are no better. Keep up the good work!

Wind Rose Hotel

P.S.: My own normblog profile is
here

 
At 10:30 AM, March 29, 2005, Anonymous Bill Barnes said...

Sorry, I misunderstood you, having only looked at the last week or so of your blog. I thought that the fact that you called yourself a NeoCon rather than a "liberal hawk" meant something, that you had become a Republican, and that you were serious about political theory rather than simply writing personal memoir. Two last points and then I'll leave you alone.
As to hyperbole, rabid Bush supporters have in fact called for Sy Hersh to be charged with treason and given the death penalty. Some have simply said "He should be shot." I'm sure some have said the same about Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, etc. Savage and Limbaugh have both called for the elimination of liberals from the United States (Limbaugh says a few should be kept around to "remind us of what the enemey looks like"). Coulter has said she would welcome the bombing of the New York Times. They may not mean to be taken literally, but still... Bush and Chaney and Ashcroft may not take this line themselves but they effectively encourage know-nothing political and religious fundamentalism ("the jury is still out on evolution"; global warming doesn't exist; abortion is murder). If you sharply disagree with these aspects of the Bush package, it's incumbent on you to make that clear.
Finally, the comments here seem quite like what you're accusing liberals of, quite like group-think. Have those of you who automatically put Noam Chomsky in the "totalitarian" category ever actually read anything he's written? And it's a shame that you are unwilling to take seriously the anti-Bush elements of the right, or people from the right who have moved to difficult-to-categorize positions, like Michael Lind and the crowd at the New America Foundation. I strongly disagree with the paleocons on most things (as I do with Chomsky) but calling them totalitarians (particularly when you've never read them)is simply ridiculous. Take a look at the Cato Institute website. And take a look at the writings of the conservative "realists" -- and the current argument between Krauthammer and Fukuyama. Fukuyama is the leading neocon political scientist - How do you respond to his strong critique of the Bush administration policy in Iraq? From your comments, and your seeming unwillingness to take other points of view seriosly, I would say you are fooling yourselves if you think you're forming anything other than a closed circle.

 
At 10:32 AM, March 29, 2005, Anonymous Bill Barnes said...

Sorry, I misunderstood you, having only looked at the last week or so of your blog. I thought that the fact that you called yourself a NeoCon rather than a "liberal hawk" meant something, that you had become a Republican, and that you were serious about political theory rather than simply writing personal memoir. Two last points and then I'll leave you alone.
As to hyperbole, rabid Bush supporters have in fact called for Sy Hersh to be charged with treason and given the death penalty. Some have simply said "He should be shot." I'm sure some have said the same about Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, etc. Savage and Limbaugh have both called for the elimination of liberals from the United States (Limbaugh says a few should be kept around to "remind us of what the enemey looks like"). Coulter has said she would welcome the bombing of the New York Times. They may not mean to be taken literally, but still... Bush and Chaney and Ashcroft may not take this line themselves but they effectively encourage know-nothing political and religious fundamentalism ("the jury is still out on evolution"; global warming doesn't exist; abortion is murder). If you sharply disagree with these aspects of the Bush package, it's incumbent on you to make that clear.
Finally, the comments here seem quite like what you're accusing liberals of, quite like group-think. Have those of you who automatically put Noam Chomsky in the "totalitarian" category ever actually read anything he's written? And it's a shame that you are unwilling to take seriously the anti-Bush elements of the right, or people from the right who have moved to difficult-to-categorize positions, like Michael Lind and the crowd at the New America Foundation. I strongly disagree with the paleocons on most things (as I do with Chomsky) but calling them totalitarians (particularly when you've never read them)is simply ridiculous. Take a look at the Cato Institute website. And take a look at the writings of the conservative "realists" -- and the current argument between Krauthammer and Fukuyama. Fukuyama is the leading neocon political scientist - How do you respond to his strong critique of the Bush administration policy in Iraq? From your comments, and your seeming unwillingness to take other points of view seriosly, I would say you are fooling yourselves if you think you're forming anything other than a closed circle.

 
At 11:01 AM, March 29, 2005, Anonymous Bill Barnes said...

Sorry, I misunderstood you, having only looked at the last week or so of your blog. I thought that the fact that you called yourself a NeoCon rather than a "liberal hawk" meant something, that you had become a Republican, and that you were serious about political theory rather than simply writing personal memoir. Two last points and then I'll leave you alone.
As to hyperbole, rabid Bush supporters have in fact called for Sy Hersh to be charged with treason and given the death penalty. Some have simply said "He should be shot." I'm sure some have said the same about Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, etc. Savage and Limbaugh have both called for the elimination of liberals from the United States (Limbaugh says a few should be kept around to "remind us of what the enemy looks like"). Coulter has said she would welcome the bombing of the New York Times. They may not mean to be taken literally, but still... Bush and Chaney and Ashcroft may not say such things themselves, but neither do they publicly condemn them, in fact they wink and nod at them when it serves their political purposes. In general, they effectively encourage know-nothing political and religious fundamentalism ("the jury is still out on evolution"; global warming doesn't exist; abortion is murder). If you sharply disagree with these aspects of the Bush package, it's incumbent on you to make that clear. Andrew Sullivan's strong initiatives on the torture issue are exemplary in this respect.
Finally, the comments here seem quite like what you're accusing liberals of, quite like group-think. Have those of you who automatically put Noam Chomsky in the "totalitarian" category ever actually read anything he's written? And it's a shame that you are unwilling to take seriously the anti-Bush elements of the right, or people from the right who have moved to difficult-to-categorize positions, like Michael Lind and the crowd at the New America Foundation. I strongly disagree with the paleocons on most things (as I do with Chomsky) but calling them totalitarians (particularly when you've never read them)is simply ridiculous. Take a look at the Cato Institute website. And take a look at the writings of the conservative "realists" -- and the current argument between Krauthammer and Fukuyama. Fukuyama is the leading neocon political scientist - How do you respond to his strong critique of the Bush administration policy in Iraq? From your comments, and your seeming unwillingness to take other points of view seriously, I would say you are fooling yourselves if you think you're forming anything other than a closed circle.

 
At 11:05 AM, March 29, 2005, Anonymous Bill Barnes said...

I apologize. The first two times I was given the response that it couldn't post.

 
At 1:28 PM, March 29, 2005, Anonymous neo-neocon said...

Bill Barnes: I tried to delete the duplicate comments, but blogger refused to cooperate. It does that every now and then; it can be quite ornery at times. Sometimes blogger says something isn't posting when it actually is, and so you get those duplicates.

But, to respond to the substance of your comment:

The beauty of a blog is that the blogger writes about what he/she wishes to write about. If I wanted to dissect political theory here I suppose I would; right now it's not what interests me to write about, although some day it might. The fact that I'm not writing about it doesn't mean it's something in which I have no interest at all, however.

I am sure if you want to read such dissections there are no end of blogs you could go to in order to do so. I could spend hours arguing with you, or doing research linking you to very fine criticiques of Chomsky, et. al., but it's also not the way I choose to spend my time. I actually have slogged through quite a few hours of reading Chomsky's work and I must say I have rarely read something so full of errors, so meandering in its logic, and so sophistic in its argument. Again, there are people who have devoted much of their lives to countering Mr. Chomsky, and they're doing an excellent job--I don't happen to choose to be one of them. I'm also happy to say I'm no longer a student (except in the general sense of still wanting to learn), and you are not my professor, so fortunately I don't have to take on your assignments in order to get a grade in the course.

I always find it curious when people act as though, by dint of supporting some of Bush's foreign policies (which I most definitely do), a person is therefore responsible for, and needs to account for and differentiate him/herself from, every utterance made by every person on the entire spectrum of the right. I have no doubt Ann Coulter and Michael Savage, for example, have made some very stupid and intemperate remarks, but unless I've written a piece here praising them to the skies I see no reason to spend time differentiating myself from them. Nor would I ask you to explain that you don't agree with Ward Churchill about his "little Eichmanns," unless you'd written a piece defending his statements, which I assume you have not. Your feeling that I need to do this might be an indication, I believe, that you feel that each movement is a monolithic whole, and that anyone who espouses some sort of agreement with someone on a certain "side" is therefore responsible for what everyone who supports that person has said, as though we all march in lockstep.

As far as this post goes--I, and others here, are remarking on our personal experiences with some (not all!) liberals we know. This type of experience seems commonplace enough that it represents a very real phenomenon and trend. To me, it is all the more disturbing because one of the thing liberals have always prided themselves on is respect for and tolerance of the opinions of others.

 
At 4:08 PM, March 29, 2005, Anonymous Blueberry said...

WHO are you're friends?

Most of my friends are liberals, or lets say "agnostics", but I don't think I've been disowned by any of them because of my politics.

One girl did go off on a rant about "Bush Being Hitler...blah, blah, blah" and she is no longer a friend. But then, I think there were other circumstances that drove us apart. I'm sure such a simplistic world view was only a symptom of the problem.

 
At 8:54 PM, March 29, 2005, Blogger TmjUtah said...

Mr. Barnes -

"As to the angry reactions of your liberal friends in response to you "changing sides," remember, you're throwing your lot in with people who, at the extreme, believe that all liberals (by which they mean anyone to the left of Bob Dole)are literally traitors whose summary execution may not out of the question in the near future."

I'm a conservative. I've been one all my life.

My dad was an oilfield chemist. He was mildly dyslexic and spent his college career getting a business degree and ended up driving a truck in southeastern New Mexico in the late fifties before he stumbled into an assisant lab tech position with an oilfield services company. He ended up running the southwestern states labs for that company, and worked there for thirtyeight years.

He also read prodigiously, albeit slowly. Mostly history, biography, and a fair chunk of American western lore, usually journals or memoirs.

The wisdom my dad imparted was simple. I was fourteen in 1975 and was learning a lot of government and history in high school. I asked him what the difference was between Republican and Democrat. He thought a second and said, 'A Republican wants you to have a job and pay taxes. A Democrat wants you to pay taxes and give the money to somebody who doesn't have a job".

The only time my dad ever hit me with a closed hand was when I referred to four ranchhands waiting in the rain for a ride as 'greasers'. That was sometime in the seventh grade. I remember the year because I was wearing a red football jersey at the time and explained to mom that the bruise was a football injury.

"People are people. Don't ever forget that". Simple stuff, like I said. He got me a job hoeing cotton that summer, too - side by side with the illegals, and for the same pay.

Mr. Barnes, there are bomb throwers in any demographic. There's fame, or money, or simply noteriety for its own sake at play. What pundits, politicians, or editors put out for consumption is their affair. The process by which we actually manage the conduct of our community has generated a thirty- plus year decline in public support for liberal agendas.

You may choose to frame the discussion with snippets of hyperbole presented as datum. That's your right, and more power to you. neo dissects her personal experiences regarding how her choices have changed her relationships; not unexpected for a professional therapist.

I may reach here, but I think that neo is as "conservative" as I've always been. She doesn't see her politics as making her superior, or even a "winning" proposition.

She sees the need for certain outcomes, and recognises what must happen for those goals to be met.

Opinion, comment, and public relations are important, but decision and outcome is what reality is measured by. Over the past few generations western liberals have failed more often than not to bring solutions to the causes they championed, and as a result our system has worked well enough to marginalize them . When they come up with better ideas, they'll come back to power.

It's not about winning, Mr. Barnes. It's about working.

They need to soak up that "people are just people" thing first, though. They really do.

 
At 11:37 PM, March 29, 2005, Blogger TmjUtah said...

Editorial note -

My name is A.R. Jones, and I live in Orem, Utah. I try to post under my own name instead of the nick when commenting directly on remarks made over a signature, but sometimes I forget.

Please accept my apology for the oversight.

 
At 4:27 AM, March 30, 2005, Anonymous Paul said...

I do not like Michael Moore or Rush Limbaugh at all. What does that make me ?

 
At 2:40 PM, March 30, 2005, Blogger James said...

I can't help feeling that the nasty vehemence on display by those of a leftish persuasion toward Bush and toward Bush's foreign policy supporters is very similar to the supporters of Newt Gingrich and co. going after Bill Clinton and his supporters in the early to mid-nineties.

Having been on the receiving end of discussions with people holding both of those views, there is almost an inability of the true believer to handle facts that might be inconvenient to their arguments.

Not sure what that means, but it's just a thought...I had a few similar experiences recently.

Ms. Neo-Neocon, once again, thank you for another thoughtful posting.

 
At 11:21 PM, April 08, 2005, Anonymous hg wells said...

neo-neocon's experiences sound similar to mine. I live in the SF Bay area and all my social circles are overwhelmingly Democrat/liberal/progressive. So was I--I had read just about all of Chomsky's political books--until 9-11 set me off on a different path. One of my best and most longstanding friends was so dismayed that she threatened to end our friendship, which shocked me. Such a response would never occur to me. I don't expect my friends to believe as I do about politics, religion or anything.

Like neo-neocon I also had the expectation that liberals were better than conservatives when it came to tolerance, but that's not been my experience. I'm sure there are abuses in the reverse situation but it's just not what I expected from my liberal friends and associates.

 
At 4:03 AM, April 09, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is exactly what happened to me, Ms. neo-neocon. I understand that I am still liberal but I think the Democratic end of the spectrum herded left into a totalitarian deep end.

Your experiences are identical to mine: the foundation in liberal thinking, the fundamental commitment to freedom that turned me around when freedom was threatened on 9-11, the fire and rain from my friends when it became apparent that I disagreed, torn friendships.

Democrats have to tear it all down and rebuild. And we who would be considered apostates are actually the best hope for a renewed liberalism.

Thanks for your blog.

 
At 9:41 PM, May 05, 2005, Blogger David Blue said...

Ouch! That must really hurt, neo-neocon. You got it worse than me, and that's not good.

It's the same in Australia as in America, in my experience.

Things started to get bad immediately after 11 September, 2001.

When my friends were protesting against the possible and then actual invasion of Afghanistan, they got worse.

I dropped out of some situations where I met my friends, till things blew over. They didn't blow over.

Bali - the Bali terror blast in 2003 - may have brought some people together. Not me and my friends. Not at all. I went to the public ceremonies for the victims alone.

Iraq was worse than everything before it. The hate was continuous and intense.

I had always had one point of disagreement with my liberal friends: I am pro-life (anti-abortion). It was possible to isolate that, set it aside, not discuss it. So I preferred to do that.

But it wasn't possible to bracket this out. Everything seemed to be about this big conflict: about hate for Bush, hate for Howard for supporting Bush, hate for Tony Blair for supporting the war on terror and thus Bush, and so on. And constant sneering. Every topic from cricket to the latest movies seemed to call for references and analogies to the real cheats, the real liars, the real villains and so on.

The real villains were always our leaders, our corporations (Haliburton!) and so on, never the terrorists, never people like Mohammed Atta or Imam Samudra, or Amrozi bin Nurhasyim the smiling bomber.

For me, Beslan School Number One, the school massacre, was the ultimate end. Because my friends, people I'd known and stuck with most of my life, were still on the wrong side, and now it was about the sadistic mass-murder of children.

I can think of being wicked on a bigger scale, but compared to the protracted, cold-blooded killing, rape, torment - the total, genocidal jihad fury unleashed on those hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of children, parents, teachers, day after day - I can't think of anything more wicked, ever.

That changed me. That's unforgivable. It's unforgettable.

And it can't be set aside. Nobody has the right to be on the wrong side over that. If you want to deal with that by quickly hand-waving and resuming the recitation of excuses for jihad terror, "root causes", anti-American cliches, and digs about "Zionists", just adding a new (temporary, expedient) interest in the crimes and faults of Russia - you are not a proper person. You are lined up with Shamil Basayev and the likes of Amon Goeth.

For years, I'd been a freak and increasingly a social outcast to my friends. I experienced almost the same as you did.

But after Beslan, my friends became morally unacceptable to me. That was the end.

There seems no cure for this conflict. It destroys what were supposed to be lifelong friendships and social networks inexorably, irrevocably, comprehensively.

And that sucks.

 
At 11:33 PM, September 15, 2005, Blogger ron said...

I linked to your blog through Betsy's Blog tonight out of curiosity. I was intrigued enough to read some, well most of the responses to your explaination of why you are you. I get it, most of them get, and I can only imagine the frustation of your friends not getting it. I had a similar situation when a friend from high school whom I had got back in touch with over the last 2 years or so. It had been awhile since I'm 51. Anyway, last summer sometime I forwarded him something from a conservative web site. He didn't appreciate it (I had no idea of what his leanings were except I suspected he was conservative because he claimed to be Christian and we grew up in the same small town in Eastern Oregon). We wrote back and forth a couple of times and it was obvious that he was radical liberal. Hated GW because he visited some of his weathiest supporters in the Seattle area. I mean, c'mon, like Kerry didn't do, and even act, the same way and thing?? The last email I got from him was that we better not email each other anymore or we'd have to meet in Vantage, WA and put the gloves on!!
I guess my point is that most liberals are neither tolerant, or compassionate. They DO NOT want to be confused with the FACTS!! Always willing to give up the shirt off someone else's back.
Hang in there. This post is pretty old compared to when the thread started but I wanted to say something.
All the neo cons I know are open minded, never publicly stated or wrote books about assassinating the previous Perjuror, er, Commander in Chief, never cried he would bring about the end of civilization, know what they believe, and don't try to push their agenda (haven't got one) on others, and support the government and their efforts on most things. Just are plainly more balanced.

 
At 2:31 PM, September 23, 2005, Anonymous Ignatz said...

Hi, Neo-Neocon,

I heartily sympathize. I've had the exact same experience as you've had. Many of my friends suspect I'm an iconoclast, but they carefully avoid asking me if I voted for *, as they like to style him. I not only voted for him this last go, I wept tears of relief when he won over the unspeakable Kerry.

But their venom is amazing. It's been five years since I've talked with a couple I used to be friends with--she was born in Vancouver and moved to the US when she was 2, but still calls herself a Canuck (she's 54 and has lived here all her life), priding herself on not being an American, and her husband is just as rabid a lefty.

I'm a registered Democrat, feminist, greenie, who demonstrated against Bush in 2001's inauguration (yeah, I drank the Koolaid). Wake-up call #1: when the major newspapers admitted sometime that spring that Bush hadn't actually "stolen" the election after all. I was angry that they'd fed me a line.

Wake-up call #2: the Islamofascists attacked the country (and city) I love, butchering thousands of innocent Americans. Within two months, the Left's Usual Suspects were already wringing their hands and saying we had to understand the mass murderers. Instant split...

I used to work for nonprofits in Third World countries, for women's rights, and have had my eye on these boyos for years. The muslims are the most misogynist group on the planet. And the most homophobic. And they're as totalitarian and imperialist as they come. The Left, claiming they oppose such things, nevertheless has in effect thrown its lot in with the enemies of freedom, of women, of religious freedom and tolerance, of gay rights, of democracy. They've gone quite round the twist, and no longer stand for anything but hatred of the Right.

I've had it with them. And yes, it has affected my social life. Also my work life (the publishing business). But I most related to David Blue's post, that his friends who make excuses for the child-murderers of Beslan are no longer morally acceptable to him--amen, brother. And that hurts. It's like seeing your buddies march off to join the German-American Bund in the 1930s. Brrrr!

I pick my battles carefully, and will point out a factoid or two to my Bush-deranged friends. Metaphor: grass can grow through concrete, given time. But I can't respect their ideas any more, and that's bad: especially for them and for our country.

Hang tough.

 
At 5:25 PM, October 02, 2005, Blogger Mark said...

This post could have been written by me!

Having the courage of one's convictions hurts at times. Those who fail to continue a friendship in light of differing viewpoints probably weren't worth keeping as friends in the first place. At least that hjas been my experience.

 
At 9:34 PM, November 07, 2005, Blogger The Matrix said...

Love your blog. I too was once a liberal, turned conservative, but I flipped much earlier than you. I was in my late twenties, earliy thirties (around 1990). I have never looked back. I lost many friends but found new ones. My blog is www.neoconexpress.blogspot.com, hope you find it interesting, it is less personal than yours, and in many ways I find yours more compelling. In any event, welcome over to the good side. Hopfully many will follow. Best,
Joe Gelman

 
At 12:47 AM, November 16, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neo neocon,
I hear ya, sister. Been there. Was raised in a liberal/labor house hold, spent all my formative in L.A., New York and San Francisco. Finally got off the boat because I just couldn't stand to stiffling political group-think from people claiming to be so open-minded. Seriously. It became ridiculous.

And then I ruined a lot of dinner-parties.

(A friend of mine was complaining about this lack of intellectual rigor at his own dinner-parties, of which he had many. I told him that it was simple: Dinner-parties are about FEELING sophisticated, not actually BEING sophisicated. Complex, sophisticated thought is actually hard work. By definition, it nessecitates that you leave your intellectual comfort-zone and go out into uncharted territory. Where it's scary. And you're not sure that you're right. Or that people will like you and think you're smart.

Who the hell goes to parties for that kinda headache?!

Pass the Merlot and shut up.)

But that's not why I'm writting. I was just gonna say something stupid. And that is that if you lost friends over this, then you've lost nothing, since those people were obviously not your friends.
I know it sounds overly simplistic, but sometimes things are simple. The sky is blue. Fire is hot. Friends can disagree about freakin' politics and still be friends.
And as for creeps who acted like your friends but turned out not to be; well, your well rid of them, aren't you?

Jesus, I sound like my mother.

Anyway, that's really what I wanted to say. You're better off. Don't sweat it.

And I really like your blog.

 
At 7:11 AM, November 24, 2005, Blogger sTupy said...

Here's another one, from an expat living on the former Iron Curtain. I, too, know just how neo-neocon feels post down to the last word - I've had the same experience, with both Americans and Europeans. "But I like Bush". That's usually enough to set some people off. No problem. Just go out and get some new friends, that's all.

 
At 2:54 PM, January 02, 2006, Anonymous Ken said...

Interesting phenomena, this switching of sides. Generally speaking it's a good thing to re-evaluate ones political posture from time to time. It shows that the mental muscles are not atrophied from lack of use or from a tired reliance on dogma. I'm not sure that I like the term, though. Neocon. It sounds as though I just got out of prison - and that most people would prefer that I stayed locked up.

Having these run-ins with other opinions is unavoidable, but you can't let it shut you up. I mean what's the delicate way of saying to a Cub fan that you are now a White Sox fan? It can't be done, you just have to take your lumps. Anyway, you sound a lot more tactful than me.

I made the mistake of saying this to an old friend: "Whadda ya mean? This IS a Christian country..." To which he replied, "No, it isn't." You see I neglected to qualify it with "predominantly" Christian.

 
At 2:29 PM, January 19, 2006, Anonymous eddie t said...

I grew up in the Boston area and I tell people that I was "raised leftist". In my memories of my life I am retrospectively mortified when I realize how many thousands of people that I have known have wasted MOST of their whole lives in an acidbath rage at Nixon, Reagan, and now Bush. (particularly ironic in Nixon's case, when I realize with the advantage of calm hindsight what a huge-government flaming liberal he actually was on most policies) In a previous comment I mentioned that discovering that a person from my past is still a far leftist is similar to finding out that they still walk around in a marijuana haze, and that often these two things overlap. I am strongly suspecting, if many people's reactions to my becoming conservative are any indication, that many leftists ARE leftists because it is part some basic mental problem that they have, whether it is drug damage or one of many other things. I say this mostly because I have sat and listened to diatribes of the verbal, email, and print publication variety that are mostly a string of f words or incredibly childish insults of religion. And many of these are written or spoken by "mainstream" democrats such as chairpersons of democratic party town commitees. So much of what I hear from the left sounds like the guffawing of a very stoned 14 year old. (yes, I was one of those at one time in my life)

 
At 2:11 AM, January 27, 2006, Blogger Poltak said...

Gather round, kids, it's cliche time!

I am beginning to think that Dr. Michael Savage is right: Liberalism is a mental disorder. While I don't agree with him on everything, on this I think he is right.

What was it that Churchill said? "If you're not a liberal by 20, you have no heart. If you're still a liberal by 30, you have no brains". He may just have been correct.

Those or my undocumented assertions.

I am new to this blog thing. My feelings and experiences unfortunately don't corrispond to my writing abilities so far. they will.

Visit my blog so i will feel welcome. Yes it's shameless self promotion, but what isn't?

Poltak

 
At 3:39 PM, April 22, 2007, Blogger bgamall said...

How come you cut me off of your new blog? You are not intellectually honest, Ms Neocon, when you site flimsy evidence to show that we were not in Iraq for oil. The overwhelming evidence shows that we were. You are intellectually as dishonest as they come for blocking me with your weak argument. You are "not Gary" right?

 
At 3:55 PM, April 26, 2007, Blogger Howie said...

The inability for us to come together as a nation and defeat the Islamists is why they will win.

al-Qaeda predicted as much. Teh idea behind the invasion of Iraq is not any of the sturr repeated in the media or much on blogs.

One of the chief complaints of the Islamists is that we support despotic regimes. Iraq is an attempt to correct that and take that plank of al-Qaeda's platform away from them.

I'm conservative mainly for fiscal poilcy reasons. I'm socially liberal. I don't agree with a lot of what social liberals do but most of those issues I consider to be outside the realm of government or NUNYADB.

Islamist ideals are the opposite of liberalism and democracy. They are incompatible to say the least.

Unfortunately the liberals see this. But they are more worried about who leads they figt. They will let the ememy win as long as it is politcally advanageous.

They put party before country. Country should be before party.

They put their party before the lives of our Soldiers and the people of Iraq and Afhanistan.

 
At 9:45 AM, May 01, 2007, Blogger Randy said...

Great Blog!!! What a refreshing breath of honesty. As a recent convert myself to Neoconism...I want to encourage you. The more you dig in with an open mind, the more you will realize just how silly the arguments on the left have become. What caused my conversion? Over a period of years I reviewed what I thought were all of the most important issues in the world. World hunger & poverty. Education. Quality of life. Individual rights. (Which are only valuable when they translate into quality of life). Who wants to be free and starving?) Etc, etc, etc. What I found is that when it comes to hunger, American foriegn policy feeds more people world wide than any civilization in history. When it comes to education, even though we have seen a slight drop in quality, (because of relaxed standards to accomodate low performers) there are more low cost or free educational opportunities in America than anywhere in the world. America clothes more people, houses more people and America heals more people. As far as unbiased political empowerment, America forgives more debt than any other country, (which translates into empowerment to the forgiven country) regardless of political ideology. Only when a country completely rejects freedom and radically imposes communism on a people does America turn it's back. And even then America is the shining beacon in their world. The perfect example of that is Cuba. The preferred currency is US Dollars. Even Canadians, when traveling to Cuba convert their currency to US Dollars. The self loathing America haters break my heart because I know they mean well and really think they are compassionate. Tragically the culture of compassion 1st morphed into the culture of complaint and has now morphed into a culture of closed mindedness that threatens to remove forever the hope we have of remaining an example of a free & prosperous society.

 
At 12:55 PM, June 06, 2007, Blogger thepoetryman said...

Neocon or Republican?

There is a vast difference.

Republican voters have always held a dim view of nation building, democracy implanting, and any expenditure of blood or treasure that seems to have some charitable motivation. They can be roused to belligerency by wars of revenge or against communists of any sort, but they retain a deep-seated isolationist impulse.

Those Republican voters, though, are a fairly pliable lot. George W. Bush (a neocon) ran in 2000 as a committed enemy of nation building who promised a more "humble" foreign policy. He railed against what he saw as an overstretched military and promised to treat our friends overseas as "allies, not satellites." A good number of Republicans lapped it up, yet the neocons were silent. George is one of them. George of course has done the opposite of all those things, and the Republicans (from fear) are still lapping it up.

I know, I know--"9/11 changed everything." That's the pro-Bush explanation for his total ideological reversal.

I'm not buying that one.

I know many a good Republican who do not consider themselves a neocon. so as George says, you're either with us (neocons) or your against us (Democrats, true Republicans, independents, Green, etc)...

ARe you truly a neocon, and if so you should ask yourself why?

 

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