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Dear young conservative,
I hope you are reading this. My ideal reader for this piece is an actual person under thirty years old who self-identifies as conservative. I would like it very much if this letter found readers beyond my typical (and beloved) echo chamber of liberal comedians and comedy fans. If you’re reading this and you’re not a young conservative, I’ll bet you’re friends with one on Facebook and I would love it if you could pass this along to them.
First off: I in no way mean for this to be patronizing. I’m not mocking you, young conservative. I know what it is to be a young conservative. I was one.
When I was in high school, in the early part of the first George W. Bush presidency, it seemed kind of cool and punk to me to identify as conservative. I didn’t agree with their social policies, but that wasn’t the point. The point was, what if all my liberal high-school-kid friends were wrong? It was a ton of fun to think of myself as the sole voice of reason among a bunch of wrong-headed young people who hadn’t read the same blogs I had, and hadn’t been introduced to Ayn Rand by their girlfriend last summer the way I had.
Looking back on all that, on the times I argued with my History teacher in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other things, I am deeply ashamed. And this shame comes not from the fact that I now have different political beliefs, different political beliefs shared, in some form, by almost all of my colleagues and friends. I almost always relish having a minority opinion. It’s a stubborn, age-resistant part of my personality. I am still the guy who loves hating the thing everyone else likes, or liking the thing everyone else hates. I didn’t like the movie DRIVE very much. I know. Come at me. So I’d be the first person to want to have a political belief counter to the ones treasured by all my friends. I argue most frequently with people I’m actually in total agreement with. I’m just that asshole. So it’s not that I felt the need to join the herd and now that I have, I’m ashamed to have ever felt differently than I do now.
I am ashamed because I accepted into my heart and head a system of thought I now believe to be, to borrow a term from my old friend Ayn Rand, anti-life: that government should only exist to make it easy for businesses to do business, the idea that it is our civic duty to have no civic duty. I no longer believe that the way to make things better for everyone is to let people with money do whatever they want, whenever they want. I feel I’ve earned the crap out of this belief, given that I used to believe precisely the opposite, and I’ve taken a long journey to the side I stand on now.
And I urge you, before you dismiss me as a long-haired Hollywood goofball liberal, to read on, and to listen to me in every bit the earnest that I am writing to you. Please don’t pull the dismissive ripcord in your mind, the one labeled “You’re just saying that because you’re biased, etc…” that all of us use every day to reject the idea that someone who disagrees with us may have a point. This ripcord is cynicism, plain and simple, and it mars political discourse and if we continue to pull it every time someone starts to say something that doesn’t jibe with what we already think, life on this planet will soon be quite literally impossible.
“He always pictured himself a libertarian, which to my way of thinking means ‘I want the liberty to grow rich and you can have the liberty to starve’. It’s easy to believe that no one should depend on society for help when you yourself happen not to need such help.”
Isaac Asimov, I. Asimov: A Memoir (1994)
Many of my fellow Republicans have been saying we should roll back regulations, and let businesses make money so they can power our economy. I get that. But some regulations are necessary. Like that contractor who offered the lowest bid on the storm water drainage system. The government definitely should have regulated him. It should have regulated the hell out of him.
I still think we needed to make those budget cuts Paul Ryan wanted. We did that for our kids. But I’ve been doing some soul-searching after standing in my own urine for most of the night, and I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe raising some of those tax rates could have helped us cut a bit less of the important stuff, like funds for FEMA and equipment for first responders. It could be the hypothermia talking here, but maybe we should have let the Democrats have that one.
I guess I’m just rethinking my whole philosophy about the relationship between the individual and society as a whole. We don’t just create every opportunity for ourselves by hard work and sheer willpower. We exist as part of an interdependent network of people - real human beings whose basic needs should be our concern, if we want to be a part of a society. That’s why I truly believe we have to move beyond the selfishness of pure capitalism, and why I think you all should let me on your raft so I don’t die.”
Paul Bibeau, ”We’re All In This Together,” By A Republican Standing In Four Feet Of Floodwater (via middlemarching)