I met my new friend for lunch today, and talking to her made me remember how I stopped being a liberal.
Those first moments of opening a book by a conservative author, my hands shaking because I was so sure I was going to find some terrible bigotry there. Turning on Fox News for the first time and feeling deep shame that I was about to hear some horrid racist, anti-semitic, bigoted garbage. I actually locked the door to my room in a house where I was alone because I was so scared of what I was doing. Twenty years of conditioning and one-sided propaganda weighing on me and making me fear that I was doing something akin to visiting a get-together of the Klan.
And then the confusion and the befuddlement of not hearing or reading any bigotry. And instead finding calm, reasonable arguments that – oh, the horror of horrors – actually made sense.
I had begun this journey to prop up the faith in the liberal dogmas that were taking a beating every day from observing the cancel culture, the growing fanaticism on the left, and the barrage of obvious lies in the media. I had this hope that “the other side” would prove to be so unapologetically horrid that I could justify continuing to be on the left.
I went farther and farther in, seeking authors I knew – because everybody around me always said so – were the scum of the Earth. I wanted reassurance that they were, indeed, horrid scum. And the more I read and heard, the clearer it became to me that “the other side’s” narrative was more grounded in reason and logic. A lot more.
It was a feeling akin to finding out that the family you grew up in wasn’t your real family and had actually kidnapped you in infancy and lied to you your whole life. It was one of the most profound intellectual and emotional experiences I ever had. And the worst part was that I was completely alone. There wasn’t a single person I could talk about this.
Yes, I told this story here before but I still haven’t fully processed what happened. I now have completely new friends and a very different sense of self, which is hard to embrace when you are past forty. But I think the value of my story is that it shows what an impenetrable bubble exists in intellectual circles. In twenty years in different parts of the continent, different schools, continents, age groups, etc I never heard even a hint of a possibility that you can vote Republican and not be a hateful person that wants people to die. Or that the concept of “a conservative intellectual” isn’t an oxymoron. That should be very disturbing to everyone.