Escape your life for a little while — come play in mine.

A mindset is a difficult thing to change — but not for the reasons you think

Posted by Lissa on July 31, 2008

Neo-neocon wrote an intensely interesting account of how her mindset changed from a staunch Democrat liberal to a, well, neo-neocon.  She writes at length of how difficult it was to question all her assumptions, her frame of reference, and how she changed political parties.

I wish I had that much detail, and insight, of how I came around to my present mode of thinking.  I don’t.  I wish I’d kept a blog back in those days so that I could pull actual details, articles and websites that changed my worldview.  I don’t.  However, I’m going to try and explain it anyway.

Like Neo, I really believed in the left side of the political sphere as I grew up.  I have a very vivid memory of ranting in my diary about how “god-damned George Bush wanted to go to war the whole time, the false jade LIED to get elected and then just did what he wanted!”  Um, that was the first George Bush; I was ten.  Curses learned from company around me and “false jade” from The Chronicles of Narnia.  Shut up.

I truly believed in affirmative action.  Like all my friends, I made fun of Clarence Thomas and railed at his utter hypocrisy at wanting to ban a system that he freely used to get his current position.  “Like he’d even be on the Supreme Court if he wasn’t black, and NOW he says it’s wrong!”

I truly believed that Democrats cared about the poor, which is why they tried to help them, and that Republicans (and all conservatives) didn’t care about the poor, which is why they resisted helping them.  Rich white men ruled the United States, you could tell just by examining the Presidential rollcall and the Fortune 500 CEOs, Q.E.D.

So.  How did I get from there to here?  Truthfully, I’m damned if I know.  I think, like Neo, it started around the time of our war in Afghanistan.  I started having contradictory impulses — on the one hand, I *did* think our country had been attacked, and I sympathized with the need and desire to protect ourselves.  Also, the Taliban were hardly an endearing bunch.  But, on the other hand, one part of me darkly looked forward to the pounding that America would take, invading land that didn’t belong to her, being stupid enough to follow the Soviet Union’s footsteps, and wondering only whether we’d escape with the level of casualties that the USSR sustained, or if it would be worse.

Unlike Neo, I didn’t start checking blogs and alternative sources of news at that point.  I simply logged the inevitable defeat in my mind as a foregone conclusion and went about my business.  I continued doing so as Operation Iraqi Freedom came about and, instead of spending a weekend in France, I spent it sitting on a couch in London watching tanks roll towards Baghdad.

Again, Saddam Hussein was hardly an endearing opponent, so I didn’t feel any particular guilt about the invasion.  Also, due to copious reading of Tom Clancy growing up, I was generally admiring of and sympathetic to American soldiers.  I suppose at that point I was fifty-fifty; I wanted our soldiers to succeed, but I completely understood those who protested another imperialistic meddling foray by America-Who-Thinks-It-Runs-The-World.

So, when did it change?  I think it was late 2003 and early 2004, when I started reading blogs on a regular basis.  My father introduced me to Michelle Malkinand it was FASCINATING to see news and opinion presented in that way.  I didn’t agree with a lot of what she said — it went against everything I’d grown up believing — but, then again, she was a minority female, so I couldn’t dismiss her opinion out of hand.  I couldn’t stomach Daily Kos, but I tried to find left-hand blogs that would “cancel out” Michelle’s work.  I read The Moderate Voice, Think Progress and Oliver Willis, as well as my usual New York Times.

It didn’t work.  Perhaps I’d just picked the wrong left-wing blogs, but the writing just wasn’t as INTERESTING.  It couldn’t hold my attention.  I’d read them every day, but I’d race through the articles as quickly as I could before racing over to Michelle’s.  The left-leaning blogs were the vegetables I made myself eat before relishing the meat and dessert.

At this point I was severely uncomfortable.  As I’ve mentioned before and can’t emphasize enough, my family is very left-leaning.  (As I’ve also mentioned before, they are also intelligent, loving and caring, so think twice if you’re planning on dissing them in the comments.)  What if, God forbid, I became a conservative?  That would be unconscionable.  I’d gotten into enough passionate arguments over whether the United States had the *right* to invade Iraq; I could only imagine the difficulty it would create if I started advocating gun rights and the like.

I sent out a cry for help.  I emailed my liberal, politics-following friends (good, intelligent people all) and asked for assistance.  I explained that I was starting to lean toward the conservative side and asked for blogs, articles, arguments — anything that would help keep me firmly in the liberal camp.  I received back a few variations of “Bush is an idiot” and “Bush is a horse’s ass.”  Despite the lack of liberal counterbalance, I did vote (unenthusiastically) for John Kerry.  Yes, as Mike likes to tease me, I did vote for John Kerry before I was against him.  Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Around this time, I started backchecking how that Afghan war was going.  I’d followed it casually — I still do — without really analyzing details (a mile wide and an inch deep, remember?).  I was really shocked to realize, and remember, what I’d THOUGHT was going to happen in the invasion, versus what had actually happened . . . and that NO MEDIA HAD REPORTED THAT THEY GOT IT WRONG. 

I couldn’t believe it.  All through college, I thought I’d been very diligent and responsible in following the news — I read the New York Times as well as the Economist, and occasionally the Wall Street Journal.  Now I discovered that the media had darkly — almost spitefully — predicted the worst in Afghanistan, had gotten it wrong, and had not acknowledged that they got it wrong.  This, to me, was the real problem.  It’s understandable to make an incorrect prediction; we all know that hindsight is 20/20.  But you have to acknowledge that you got it wrong, or you lose credibility.  That’s a very basic rule for human interaction; why didn’t it apply to the media?

So I started looking for news sources that either got it right, or were willing to admit and analyze where they’d been right and where they’d been wrong.  I started reading more blogs that were honest, and unapologetic, about their conservative leanings.  Once I did that, I realized how the mainstream media also was unapologetic about its liberal leanings . . . without being honest about it.

It sounds extremely trite, folks, I know . . . but I felt betrayed.  I’d been diligent, and conscientious, about keeping myself informed about the world . . . only to find that the media had been filtering the world to show me only one side.  And with that, I dove headlong into the opposition.

To be continued . . .

P.S.  I’ve got one, maybe two more posts on the subject, then that should be it.  This is not set up to be a super-serious blog, so fret not.  I just want to record my journey so that *I* remember it, and then I’m going back to cats, food and fun.

UPDATE: Linked by ShoothouseBarbie, thanks!

UPDATE 2: Linked by Bookworm (and second-hand by Flopping Aces), thanks!  Also, Neo linked Part II.

23 Responses to “A mindset is a difficult thing to change — but not for the reasons you think”

  1. Sailorcurt said

    Thanks for your insights. I’m looking forward to the next installment.

    I don’t think there are many conservatives that truly believe liberals are evil or have bad intentions. I’m sure your family is wonderful. My father-in-law is a PHD in linguistics, former college professor, atheist and just about as liberal as you can get. He’s not a bad person. In fact, I like him a lot. He’s very kind, caring and considerate. He’s very intelligent and wise in many ways and I seek his advice often. His worldview is just a bit…off.

    I would like to think that knowing me (he has no choice, I married his daughter), has challenged his stereotypical view of conservatives. I’ve challenged his worldview in many ways. He sees me rail against welfare and wealth redistribution, while at the same time, donating a hefty percentage of my time, talents and treasures (as my pastor likes to put it) to charity work. How can I be the evil, uncaring person that he’s always assumed of conservatives when I give my own money and efforts to the needy so readily?

    He knows that I carry a firearm on a daily basis but sees how considerate and polite and non-confrontational I am. How can I be the crazed, bloodthirsty gun-toting redneck that he’s always assumed us to be?

    I could go on, but you get the point. I’m not trying to toot my horn. I’m not atypical by any stretch of the imagination and there are plenty out there who are nicer people and do more good things than I’d ever be able to claim. My point is only that we are not the ogres that many liberals assume us to be (at least not all of us). We see the same problems that they do and we want solutions just as badly as they. We just strongly disagree as to the proper path and methods to address those problems.

  2. Jay G. said

    I think liberals are evil.

    (Nah, just kiddin’).

    Lissa, you’re head-and-shoulders above many on both the left *and* the right – you are open to discussion on politics, and that’s a rare, rare feature these days.

    Keep these segments coming. You’ve got a talent for this stuff, kiddo… 🙂

  3. secretlivesofscientists said

    I remember your “help, I think I’m turing into a conservative” pleas quite well! I have also wondered what is it that caused the same thing to happen to me shortly after I graduated college. I always thought the Churchill quote summed it up nicely:
    “If you’re not liberal when you’re young, then you don’t have a heart. If you’re not conservative when you’re old, you don’t have a brain.”

    I’m linking….

  4. JD said

    I will second Jay G – you do seem to have a talent for writing. And keep it up, I found this very interesting never having been on the left myself. It is interesting to see inside the left.

    I agree with Sailorcurt, I never thought of liberals as intentionally being bad or wanting to hurt the country, I always figured they just didn’t have all the facts. Unfortunately politics is a religion for both sides and some folks don’t want the fact either. . . .

  5. lookingforlissa said

    Oh, thank you, everyone. This one took a LOT of deep breaths to write, no joke.

  6. […] Weblog {July 31, 2008}   Conservatives from Amherst, Anon. Please read Lissa’s post, I think we go to the same self-help […]

  7. Ted said

    Lissa, what really jumped out of your post is the Eureka moment, when you realize “I’ve been lied to.” I think that many of us who started out on the left had that moment – I sure did.

    I keep hoping that the media simply collapses, and with the ideological lockstep gone, most of the plain old decent people on the left can start listening to the rest of us. At least when we make sense.

  8. Lissa-

    We’ve all been through the transformation, I believe; there are very few Alex P. Keatons out there.

    My folks were dyed in the wool Republicans, voting for Nixon, Goldwater, etc. I was (as was the wife) a liberal hippie back in the day, & it wasn’t until the Reagan era that I began to see things differently. The first Clinton term REALLY opened my eyes- what a long, strange trip it’s been.

    Secret Scientist beat me to it, but my take on the quote (whoever said it) is:

    “If you’re not a liberal when you’re 20, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative when you’re 40, you have no brain.” And Col. Jeff Cooper’s addendum that I always include, “If you’re not a card carrying curmudgeon by the time you’re 50 you haven’t been paying attention.”

    Good post, well said. Keep ‘em coming…

  9. […] A mindset is a difficult thing to change — but not for the reasons you think […]

  10. lookingforlissa said

    Thanks, Ted, and Doubletrouble — you ask, I deliver!

  11. Sevesteen said

    I grew up in a pretty liberal family–when I was a child, I worked with my parents on the McGovern campaign. As I grew older, I had doubts about liberal views, but still wasn’t happy with conservative social beliefs. I finally figured out that libertarian best matches my beliefs.

  12. “Lissa, what really jumped out of your post is the Eureka moment, when you realize “I’ve been lied to.” I think that many of us who started out on the left had that moment – I sure did.”

    I think that describes it best for me too, Ted.

    Wait, I thought that was true? I thought that worked… It didn’t???

  13. lookingforlissa said

    Definitely. And I went overboard making my views known, because I figured that everyone else should know they’d been duped too. Um . . . that didn’t work out so well 🙂

  14. […] with one word (”Republican”) to turn these friendships upside down and inside out.  (I’m not the only one with this problem.)  I don’t want to be on the receiving end of some hideous Jekyll to Hyde transformation, so […]

  15. […] want with one word (”Republican”) to turn these friendships upside down and inside out. (I’m not the only one with this problem.) I don’t want to be on the receiving end of some hideous Jekyll to Hyde transformation, so I just […]

  16. […] want with one word (”Republican”) to turn these friendships upside down and inside out.  (I’m not the only one with this problem.)  I don’t want to be on the receiving end of some hideous Jekyll to Hyde transformation, so I […]

  17. […] Part 1 is here. […]

  18. ravenshrike said

    It does apply to the media. Or rather, in the modern age it applies to the media. The reason it applies now when it didn’t before is because information has become fantastically easy to share, and so there is a widespread percolation of the viewpoints that the MSM is unwilling to cover/endorse. See the generally declining marketshare of the NYT or Chicago Tribune for examples of how their intransigence is harming them. The reason it doesn’t apply instantly is because they are still THE AUTHORITY, however much people are dissatisfied with them.

  19. […] is possible to win people over with good arguments, and reasonable discourse.  See this over at LookingforLissa, and also the second part.  There’s an old saying that you can get a lot farther with honey, […]

  20. kaveman said

    Good read lissa.

    If there’s is one thing in this world that I can not stand, it’s being lied to.

    Left, right, middle makes no difference.

  21. You’d been lied too. This is called feeling betrayed. I got that sense of betrayal sometime after Viet Nam. I had known that even during that debacle the news media had gotten the Tet Offensive wrong (America and South Vietnam won that one). I also knew that a majority of Americans who became disillusioned with that war did so not because they felt the same way about “AmeriKKKa” as the demonstrators, but because it was frustrating to see a war going on with no apparent conclusion.

    My sense of betrayal came when South Vietnam was abandoned by our Democratic Party. The Democrats lost Viet Nam for us when they cut off funding for military assistance to the South Vietnamese forces. The subsequent offensive by North Viet Nam was done without them having to deal with American air cover, and with S. Vietnamese soldiers running out of ammo. The South had beaten back a previous Northern assault with plenty of supplies at hand and American air cover, but no American ground troops (who had left the previous year). Had we continued our assistance, the exhausted Communists would have decided to give it a rest, and tried different tactics, but would not have swallowed up the South. Had that been the case, there would have been no Khmer Rouge-led Cambodian genocide, and Laos would likely have formed a coalition government with their Communists.

    It was sickening to see what unfolded because of primarily Democratic duplicity and cowardice. And this was the party that led in WWII. I’ve had contempt for them ever since, but it took me another decade to stop voting their way, and to abandon their phony parody of “liberalism.”

  22. […] you’ve read some of Lissa’s earlier posts (esp “A mindset is a terrible thing to change“), that’s where I’m coming from also. It’s no coincidence, really; Lissa […]

  23. […] politics and economics and life in general have changed a lot in the last ten years.  (Two of my most popular posts deal with this very subject.)  I try not to take things TOO seriously; after all, I […]

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