"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Why I Became A Conservative

Ace of Spades asked this question in a post today.   Here was my comment:
As weird as it seems to look back on, I became a conservative while I was at Duke University getting a Ph.D. in English in the 1980s -- the time when Stanley Fish and Frank Lentricchia and Frederic Jameson were all over the place and Duke was "hot" in academia, mainly because its leftists were even further left than other schools' leftists.   I thought of myself as a left-liberal, although I didn't much know what that meant; mostly I just liked being thought of as someone who liked the cool books (Foucault, Derrida, the Frankfurt School, etc.), and someone who thought the same way as everyone else.  
Anyway, one day in the department office, a twenty-something grad student woman I knew asked me to sign a petition that would demand that the University Health Clinic provide free abortions to students.   I declined to sign; if I remember, my reaction was more toward the notion of university money going to pay for it, rather than a reaction against abortion per se.   But the withering, absolutely hateful reaction from the woman that I got really took be aback.   I had immediately become for her a pariah simply because I wouldn't subscribe to her little free abortion on demand petition.  It seemed so odd a reaction on her part, and it made me feel very uncomfortable and, frankly, mad.   I was a good guy, I thought the right thoughts -- how could she look at me like that?

It got me to thinking, though.  At the time I was single with a capital-S, and, looking back, I was behaving pretty badly with young women I knew.   I worked in a bar, and it gave me lots of opportunities, if you know what I mean.  When I honestly examined my own conduct (albeit not without a lot of backsliding), at some point I concluded that my attitude on abortion had a lot to do with empowering me to act badly.   I still think that's true about abortion-on-demand; it's basically been a disaster for women and a boon for irresponsible young men.   So I began re-thinking my own prejudices, which is what I had thought was supposed to be part of the liberal arts anyway.  (Surprise!  It wasn't.)   And I, over the course of a few months, suddenly found myself becoming Pro-Life, which I've been ever since.

The truth for me about becoming a conservative is that, once you've flipped on abortion, the rest follows, because once you start confronting the question of personal responsibility, a whole host of conservative positions  -- on marriage, children, work, taxes, etc. -- all flow from that original concept.   (It helped that, at about the same time, my friend Ira introduced me to National Review too.)

P.S.  I managed to get the Duke Ph.D. by, frankly, concealing my conservatism in my dissertation.    But it was a close run thing.   Luckily, I'm now far, far out of academia, and safely ensconced in the Real World.   Managed to become a Catholic too, or at least marry a Catholic and raise Catholic children.
P.P.S.  A lot of it too, as early Bruce Springsteen would say, was just "ooooh, ooooh, growing up."   Cheers. 

No comments:

Post a Comment