Through the years of childhood and for some time as a young adult, when asked if I were conservative or liberal the answer was automatic and without hesitation. I replied that I was liberal.
Of course, the declaration of an ideology did not come on the heels of exhaustive comparative studies; rather, it was based on a definition provided by one of my teachers. It remains the simplest and perhaps, the most accurate description to date.
Liberal vs. Conservative: If you do not like it when other people tell you what you must or must-not do, you are liberal.
Show me bright-eyed youngsters that yearn to hear NO from parents. Where is that young man, who believes mandatory school attendance (with no say by the mandated attendee) is a joyous life circumstance? Who appointed great gaggles of fuddy-duddy church ladies to sit in judgment of prim and proper behavior for me and my peers?
With an endless future in which not even the sky is a limiting factor, the fear-be-damned indestructibility of youth cannot tolerate such stupid, self-limiting antique thinking. Throw in the idea that liberal means more and conservative means less (…more is always better than less, is it not?) and the insanity of conservative thinking rings clear as a bell.
In 1976, my political attention span was barely measurable. I liked Jimmy Carter's friendly smile and when he spoke, the "feelings" were optimistic and hopeful. Compared to the dull tones of Gerald Ford, it seemed that the choice for President was easy.
The Presidential election came a few months too soon for me to vote for Jimmy Carter, but I certainly would have. Looking back now, I shudder to recall the consequences of that election. America needed a steady, firm hand at the helm. America needed a bold, confident voice.
What America got was nearly a rationing of gasoline, sky-scraping economy-crippling interest rates, and the hand-over of a strategically critical asset (the Panama Canal), purchased with blood, sweat, and tears of a past generation. The American people witnessed the birth of Muslim terrorism in Iran. Our citizens were imprisoned in our own embassy, and the lunatics had their way without the burden of fear or trepidation.
The smile-encrusted, happy sounding words from Jimmy Carter did not lead to Bliss-on-Earth as my "feelings" had suggested would be the case. Instead, my entry to young adulthood came as our nation reeled from one sucker punch after another.
In the transformation to my current perspective, an advantage for me was to have witnessed a world in which peoples were held prisoner within their country's borders. Individuals and families risked death or imprisonment to escape. Epic tales of secret planning and preparation, sometimes over the course of years, culminated in a final desperate run for freedom.
The real-life dramas were inspirational and hair-raising, considering the fact that the stories I read were current events; not abstract recitations of a darker time in history.
For all who succeeded, many more failed, finding death or prison at the end of the attempt rather than a happy new life in the land of freedom. Families were destroyed in the name of the collective good. The iron fist of enforced socialism could not tolerate members of the collective that yearned to live elsewhere.
In the member states of the Soviet Union, the scourge of free-will, free-expression, and especially the very idea of religion had to be crushed no matter the cost. The authorities were on the lookout for smuggled Bibles; a stark contrast to the cross-border drug and illegal immigrant problem that bedevils our nation.
Life has been anything but sheltered for me. My early years were hinged on what I wanted and expected; regard for the consequences of my choices and attitudes did not strike me as relevant beyond my own sphere of awareness. Aside from a general attitude about society summarized for the most part in the "just live and let live" vein, the idea that a deeper, historical wisdom might exist for the good of all and for good reason was beyond me.
My transformation was a process. Marriage in and of itself did not do this for me, and judging from the scourge of short-term marriages today, it does not do it for many. So often, it seems, married couples just become two peas in a pod, rather than allowing themselves to become fully transformed.
Few take to heart, the part of the marriage ceremony, where a man and a woman are to leave their former existence and become one. Two peas in a pod must be combined into a thoughtfully prepared pea soup. If this work is not done, the pod will dry up and crack open. One day, the peas will fall out and roll their separate ways.
Fatherhood did not instantaneously change me either, but I think it was the catalyst that began a process. In the microcosm of society that is the family, consequences beyond self become evident. I began to think in terms beyond self-interest, or more accurately, beyond an inclination to demand my personal rights and liberties.
In a rare instance where circular logic makes sense, society is the macrocosm of family. The liberal believes, in essence, that the individual is the center of the universe and that interference by society is repulsive; a belief that springs from adolescent desires to be free of parental direction and control.
It is the not-well-thought-out belief that the child should benefit from the security and identity provided by parents, without the corresponding adherence of the child to the rules of the family. It is sort of a Peter Pan idealistic existence where food and fun are aplenty, without ever needing to grow up.
The liberal takes this attitude a step further, and projects that idealism onto government. Given the opportunity, the liberal will create governments in the Peter Pan image. A government that becomes that super parent, handing out the necessities of life without demanding any responsibility in exchange. It is the essence of socialism, the utopian dream that has proven time and time again to fail in the fulfillment of the promises made.
The liberal's socialist dream ignores the incredible legacy handed down to us by our forefathers. The Constitutional government of this nation was designed, not by adolescent malcontents, but by brilliant thinkers who pooled their collective wisdom and devised the greatest, fairest, most mature system the world has ever known.
So it is with some level of empathy, recalling my own liberal attitudes that I am watching. The attention of our sons and daughters has been grabbed by tumultuous events in the world, and I can understand how this has come to pass. The liberals were there with their socialist agenda neatly camouflaged behind words that inspired "feelings" of hope and optimism.
But to our sons and daughters I say, you know not what you have done. The socialists of the Obama Presidency, along with like-minded socialists who now hold power in the halls of Congress have been unleashed. The inspired brilliance of those who created this nation, those who crafted the constitution and its carefully balanced provisions of rights and responsibilities may be in danger of irreparable damage.
After more than two centuries, the damage to the greatest system of government the world has ever known may be wrought in the space of two short years. I hope in this time, you will find your wisdom. I hope that you will have time to correct the course and set America back on the foundation she was built upon. If you do not, the circumstances that caught your attention for this election will seem mild, and I shudder to think that I may ever need to say, I told you so.