Saturday, April 30, 2005

Caroline or Change

Last weekend on Michael J. Totten's blog, there was a discussion about a series of posts by Neo-Neocon, a woman in her fifties who had been a longtime anti-war liberal, but had become a conservative because of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Her posts resonated with Caroline, a commenter in her forties who was doing the same sort of self-examination in the wake of 9/11. She felt that people her age had been thrust into the counterculture, and that it was all they knew. In fact, she stated that she would be shocked to learn that anyone born around 1960 was not a liberal in their 20's and 30's, and that unless one was a political junkie, there had been no reason for them to challenge their political assumptions until 9/11.

I replied that although I was in the cohort immediately before hers--mid to late nineteen fifties--that I could relate to what she was saying about being thrust into the counterculture. But also, I thought that she was:

getting the counterculture and the youth movement confused with the kind of genuine liberalism that moved this country forward from WWII to the late '60s.

My sister, who was born the same year you were, registered as a Republican and voted for Reagan. Only the issue then wasn't terrorism, it was urban crime, and liberals had been positioned by the conservatives as being soft on crime the way they're now being positioned as being soft on terrorism, and before that, soft on Communism.

I'd been disillusioned with the corruption of liberalism into political correctness by 1980 but never bought Reagan or the Right, either. It just looked to me like a different flavor of Kool Ade. I switched from Democrat to Independent.

The commenter replied that my sister and I must have been political junkies.

To me, a political junkie is somebody who's into politics all the time just for the love of the game itself. My interest in politics has been peripatetic, flaring up when a national, social or local situation hits home.

The latest outbreak began with the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, when I started hearing the kind of wildly irrational and polarized arguments in my house and among my friends in Real Life and online that I hadn't heard since 1970--and the music had been a lot better then.

As one side or the other tried to drag me into their camp, I thought, did I miss something while I was busy obsessing about finding a job during the longest period of unemployment I'd ever experienced? I looked for information online on blogs, in books, and in discussions. I looked for answers that made sense to me.

But this wasn't the first time I had done this, so my big question is: How can otherwise intelligent people in their 40's or 50's not have examined their political and social beliefs in the three decades between Vietnam and 9/11?

And will they now be unexamined conservatives for the next three decades?

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