Bringing the Next Generation Along

On the Right Path

I’m a middle-aged man, and so while I’ve not yet seen all the world has to offer, I’ve learned a little.  Back when I was a very young man, raised in a liberal Democrat household(at least by the balloting,) I entered adulthood with some pretty liberal ideas. Service in the Army started me out on my path to philosophical reconstruction, and subsequent marriage and fatherhood helped speed along the process, along with a healthy dose of life’s realities to teach me the hard way.  When I joined the service, I went in thinking that Ronald Reagan was the devil, but by the time I had seen the real world on the border between East and West, and witnessed his speech at Brandenburg Gate, I had changed.  We’ve all heard the saying that “a young conservative has no heart, and an old liberal has no brain,” meant to describe the transition many make as they age from the liberal leanings of youth(if for no other reason than rebellion,) to the wiser thinking of somebody who has learned a few lessons.  In considering this mid-life transformation that so many people go through, one of the things you note is that there are those who never make the transition.  More, there are those who change parties, because life’s realities show the way, but they never fully reconcile the two contradictory positions in their thinking.

As an example, I have one friend who is by all estimates conservative now, but when we talk about the political history of the last two decades, a strange thing happens: The further back along the time-line we go, the more liberal my friend sounds, because she begins to almost slide back into her earlier thinking when she was a rabid liberal.  In her youth, given her politics of the day, Newt Gingrich was the devil. For this reason, she has great difficulty looking at him now, some fifteen years later, and seeing him as anything but the devil her college professors, friends and family had described him as being.  It’s not even that she can say why he was the devil, so much as it is a sense about him, or an image, rather than any concretes.  At one point some months ago, she had made a remark about never being able to support him, and I asked why that was.  She hesitated, and started to make an argument from her politics of old against him, but tapered off as she realized it was no longer what she had once believed.

This presented her with a problem, and she finally said to me: “I may need to re-think Newt, not that I’d necessarily support him, but because my view of him was built…a long time ago.”  To a thirty-five year old, fifteen or twenty years is a long time in their past, indeed.  The important thing to notice, and the thing I tried to point out to her is that when people go through political and philosophical transformations in their twenties and thirties, or any time, really, what they frequently fail to do is to go back and re-evaluate the past in light of their current views.  This makes for a significant break, a sort of philosophical and historical discontinuity that leads to difficulties in one’s judgments.  I find this to be most common among people in their thirties, and I also think this is what begets many of our “independents” and “moderates,” because they never reconciled fully between their younger, liberal views, and their elder conservative realizations.

The fact may be that you probably know some number of people who fit this description, or may in fact be one yourself, although based on comments and emails I receive from readers here, I think most are somewhat more settled into a consistent view of the world.   You may want to keep this in mind when you’re listening to such people, and the way to “help” them through it is to reach back to historical touchstones and ask them what they think about some issue or person or event from the political past. If I’m talking to a thirty-five year old, I know the reference points will be in 1990s, because that would have been when they first started formulating views and making judgments.  Bill Clinton and the Lewinsky scandal, and Newt Gingrich and the Republican takeover of the Congress are two of the touchstone events, together with personalities that shape the thinking of many such people still.  Gently pointing them to reconsider those people and events in light of what they now know often helps make the difference between somebody of the squishy middle and a true conservative.

After all, when we evaluate these persons and political or social events, we do so with the lenses with which we were equipped at the time.  Often, we change lenses along the way, but we seldom go back to re-examine them with our better, well-focused glasses.  This explains in part why a character like Newt Gingrich still has such high negatives in the twenty-five to thirty-five year old group, because their views of Gingrich were formed when they held different views altogether.  If in 1995, you viewed Gingrich as a political demon, you would likely have problems some seventeen years later viewing him as anything else.  The mainstream media knows this too well, which is why they work so hard to demonize conservatives, and champion liberals. It’s not simply a matter of your political choices of today they wish to influence, but those of your distant future as well.

As people who have seen it all and firmed up our thinking, upon reaching middle age, we ought to cast a long glance back at the history we have known, and how it’s viewed by others, if only because sometimes, we need to go back and correct the record.  Nothing is harder for people to do than to point back to a time when they now believe they had been wrong, and this natural resistance to such an admission plays a role in shaping one’s views, but also one’s political choices.  I think it’s important for those of us who have obtained a little more wisdom by virtue of our own lengthy struggles to reach out to our younger brethren and help them realize where they may be stuck.  Of course, that’s always a touchy situation, but there’s nothing wrong with asking questions, and letting people draw their own conclusions.  In fact, that’s a larger part of what this site is all about.

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5 Responses to Bringing the Next Generation Along

  1. I know I am not the same person I was 40, 30, or even 10 years ago. All of us change, our dreams, what we want, who we want to be. I am 61 now. Man, was I really a silly boy when I grew up.. haha. I have become much more conservative, much more realistic and practica in my thinking, behavior and dreams. When we have more time looking back than forward, it seems it changes who you are.. (smile)

    Still very active, work hard (65 hrs a week or so) inside and outside I do like working outside. But, my dreams of conquering the world, doing and saying what ever I wanted seem to have dimished into consideration for others, willingness to help and question…not take things for granted. Do you think that learned? Perhaps..

    I know and still recognize the feelings of patriotism when I was in the service.. Made PFC out of Marine Boot Camp.. Though I still have difficulty being a dreamer.. out times now will take all this freedom, all this willingness to get ahead.. and dream of a better life, a better time, away from our future-our children and grandchildren. I could just live and forget.. I believe still be comfy in my little world I have made for myself. But, when my grandchildren ask me what I did when things changed.. I want to tell them my story, proud and stand tall for them. Never do I want to hide what I did, who i was during this crazy time. I can not ignore this election, these people trying to change our country. I can only hope I am not alone.. But, I will stand by myself if I must..

    Who will you be to yours?

  2. j.a.agibinik says:

    I am Alaskan Native and usually natives up here only vote for democrates. I have always voted republican because I want the chance, even though I may never, I want the chance that I might one day have a great idea to become rich…..like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. I have seen that democrates just want people to be on food stamps or whatever so that they become wards of the state. There are problems in both parties, don't get me wrong, but I have always felt that in the republican party, I am responsible for my own success and for my own failure. Although, now I have been thinking about becoming an independant, maybe even libertarian…..the gop establishment and all the rino's make me SICK! I might be wrong, or I might be right…..honestly, I don't know. Peace and live well.
    Palin/West 2012

    • Thomas Dixon says:

      l@ a.g.agibinik

      Yes, you're an Alaskan native; but remember, we're also native Americans, born on American soil of parents who were the same. We both love our country for its heritage and beliefs. We admire native Alaskans for your heartiness and selfless capability. And, I imagine you admire your brothers of the lower 48 for our inclusiveness for liberty. We're the same. Our enemy are those who want to separate us (any state or income level) so that we see each other as adversaries ~ we're not; we're brothers (and sisters) with the same love of country.

      Only in America can we have the dreams that you describe. Since the mid-1700's people of the world have longed for our opportunity. That's why so many immigrants have risked everything to come here. Why do Progressives want so much to give up our exceptional opportunity? I'm afraid neither you nor I can even comprehend that line of thinking. And, neither will any of them even engage in a logical conversation on the subject for reasons I cannot understand. Bottom line is ~ they wish to destroy this system to repace it with some perceived utopia that has never and will never exist in this world.

      What we're learning through this election cycle (I've voted 11 times for Presidential candidates and double that number in Congressional and local races) is that the national institution (DNC and RNC) are entrenched to elitist viewpoints and use their power to entice/persuade/push mere voters to follow their lead to accomplish their ends. In other words, Progressives (the aristocrats who believe they know better than the electorate how to live their lives) must control the United States Government in order to effect a new world order (NWO) so they can, in time, control the weath of the world.

      We are a Republic and CANNOT allow them to succeed. We are the last bastion of freedom in the world and if we allow them to dimunize what we inherited, then we will be responsible for squandering all that was won in 235 years by our forebears. Is that how we wish to be remembered? Not I, sir! We must go down 'swinging' and at least be known that we were 'Minutemen' who were overwhelmed on Christmas Day as we crossed the Potomac River.

      • j.a.agibinik says:

        Wow! I feel honored with what you have written, makes me want to stand up and "go down swinging"! I just want my chance, if I fail or succeed, that is God's will, at least I tried. The GOP elite and all the RINO's make me ill, we have senator begich and senator murkowski in Alaska…..terrible, awful, deceitful politicians. Anyway, I must say, I am fired up ta do what I can. Freedom is worth fighting for and I thank all Veterans and all who serve in the military! Peace and live well.
        Palin/West 2012
        Tea!

  3. Frank May says:

    Most folk who post here appear to be patriots. In that regard I offer the following rembrance to honor past-middle-age military veterans, particularly those who served in the Republic of Viet Nam.

    For those of you who were in-country on 30 January 1968, recall that day was the beginning of the 1968 Tet Offensive. As I write this on 30 Jan 2012 at 12:30AM central time in St. Louis, it's 1:30PM Hotel time in Nha Trang . It is less than 12 hours since the offensive began about 1:00AM those 44 years ago.

    WELCOME HOME, BROTHERS!

    SP6 Frank May
    518th Signal Company (RRUHF) – "Can Do"
    APO 96240