I once was a liberal, and now I’m a conservative, and a libertarian. I’ve seen the world through both lenses. Every word of this is true.
A Tale from Both Sides
I’ve decided to tell my story because it’s one which is so rarely told. In a world where we are so divided by political party, race, creed, gender and sexual orientation, we often hear what we already know, and argue with those we don’t understand. During this immensely important election season, it’s critical we try to understand the issues our nation faces from both sides. Any individual from any background who is so myopically blind will never find true happiness – or purpose in life. For true enlightenment, look to your enemy, and seek to understand them from the depths of your heart and mind. Whimsical, but our nation is entering a dangerous period. We are divided by more than just skin color, sex and creed. We are also divided by wealth, power, fame, ability, and by opinion.
I’ve only heard of those who switched sides in private discussions – and at that, most are embarrassed by their former beliefs. However, I am not embarrassed. I was a different person then, and I’m not necessarily a better person now. I have a different life experience now. More knowledge in some cases, and less knowledge in others. I’m happier, but sadder. I want to tell this story because I hope it can shed some light on why the other side thinks the way they do. Instead of calling each other “bible-thumpers,” or “radicals,” or “extremists,” or “hacks,” let’s try to understand each other better.
First of all, I’m 31 years old. Not 60, and not 20. I consider myself young still, but I’ll soon be entering middle age. I have a wife and two children, and I run a company I started myself. I’m also co-owner of a number of businesses. This person is entirely different from the person I was at 19 years old.
When I Was 19
When I was 19, I was fun. I had a great life. I lived alone, and I had no responsibilities. My parents sent me money every month for rent and food. It was easy to find friends, and even easier to meet girls. I was happy and healthy, and generally carefree. I lived on the beach, attended college, and received excellent grades. I didn’t care about student loans – it didn’t mean anything to me. I was confident – too confident. I was funny, and I loved a good sense of humor more than anything. I went to the gym. I surfed and snowboarded. I took acting classes. I went to Vegas and Mexico on a whim with friends. I had lots of friends (and we were very diverse), and a good relationship with my family (we were all liberal). I’m also not ashamed to admit I considered myself a bit of an east-coast elitist. Everyone I knew was like me, and we were having the time of our lives.
I secretly wanted to be a stand-up comedian, or a famous actor. I admired Hollywood, and was enamored with celebrities. My favorite comedian was Dane Cook, and my favorite TV show host was definitely Jon Stewart (and Craig Kilborn before him). My favorite actor was Jim Carrey. Bill Maher was cool too. I loved Sarah Silverman. I mean, I literally was in love with Sarah Silverman. SNL was my thing. Mad TV was also funny, but dumb, low-brow humor. I watched MSNBC for all my news, and I watched mostly comedies in theaters (Old School anyone?). I didn’t know who Bill O’Reilly was, but I occasionally glanced at his show when I saw Dennis Miller – I recognized him from SNL. His rants were boring and over my head – what happened to that guy? Later on I learned to hate Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. I loved the Oscars, and I loved movies and shows with witty dialogue. There was no bias in media, just people who “got it,” and dumb people.
My favorite movie that year, by far, was Fahrenheit 9/11. I loved Michael Moore, and I hated George Bush with a passion. I thought he was dumb, a liar, and dangerous. He lied about Iraq, and he stole the election from Al Gore using voter fraud. Needless to say, first chance I got, I headed to the local election booth and voted for John Kerry. My first time voting. I was devastated and angry when John Kerry lost. How could the American public be so stupid? If racist southerners didn’t exist, George Bush wouldn’t be president. George Bush couldn’t even make a speech without fumbling his words. Sometimes I hated America. I wanted desperately to be rich and powerful so I could run for office as a Democrat one day – I would make the country great again, and save us from the incompetence of racists and dumb Republicans. I even knew how I would do it. I would promise the world, and say whatever needed to be said in order to get elected (because that’s what smart people do) – then I would run the country the right way.
I wanted to graduate from the best college, and I wanted to study something creative or intellectual like psychology, drama, sociology, physics, international relations, film, political science or anthropology. I thought I would obtain a law degree after college. I could become a powerful attorney, and do good in the world. Lawyers made good politicians. I went pre-law. Maybe one day, if I worked hard enough, I would receive a PhD in the field of my choice. I didn’t care about the cost. I could impress my family and friends with my vast knowledge and acumen, and I could use that knowledge to make the world a better place. I was a classic intellectual wanna-be, I just didn’t know it yet.
I loved my anthropology class. It made me realize how ignorant Americans were. I loved sociology, and I especially loved how my liberal professors would attack Republicans in class, and tell me what I already knew – we were good people, and those who were not like us were bad. I participated in discussions frequently and with passion. I was surrounded by a diverse student-body.
We went to a rally against Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger because he was a Republican. It felt good to be so confident in myself, in my life’s goals, and in my immense knowledge of the world. I felt bad for those who didn’t attend college, and for those who didn’t study subjects like psychology, history, and anthropology. I thought they were “uneducated.” I felt especially bad for white southerners. I thought they were stupid, poor, and overly religious. I thought they were obsessed with guns, and I knew they were racist. While I felt bad for them – I mostly hated them. They weren’t like me. They would never be like me.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was a little racist too (who isn’t?), I grew up in a rich all white east-coast town, and we listened to rap music and hip-hop. We thought the way they spoke was cool, and I didn’t really understand that the n-word was a terrible racial slur. It’s hard when you hear it every day on the radio. I didn’t know any black people, or any minorities at all until I moved into a city at age 18. I did know everyone was equal, and I never felt any hatred or animosity toward any race or religion. However, I was ignorant to the plight of others, and I felt superior because of my upbringing. I assumed if someone was black or Hispanic, they were disadvantaged. I had a responsibility like everyone else to make it up to them. I would do it in the future when I became a politician.
I also felt terribly bad for homeless people – I gave them money and food at every opportunity. After all, I was a good person, and a good Catholic. I even befriended a homeless African American couple who lived out of their car near my apartment. I gave them money and food and shook their hands and spent time with them. I sometimes walked blocks to visit them. I wanted to do more. Helping them made me feel great. I performed immense amounts of community service under an elected position – I was a community organizer – particularly helping downtrodden communities mostly populated with minorities. Members of our charity group received community service awards from President George W. Bush. I hated him, but I was happy he did such a thing. It made me feel important to be a part of something like that. I was a good person.
I felt this way for years. My transformation did not happen overnight, and there was no real “ah-ha” moment. I slowly became a conservative from age 19-23, and it wasn’t until I was 24 before I realized I was a full blown conservative Republican, and eventually a right-leaning libertarian. I remember my younger years with fondness. I looked at the world with bright eyes back then. I cared for everyone, and I wanted the best for all. I was happy and healthy and satisfied.
I grew up in a liberal middle-class household. My mother was a 1960s hippie and staunch feminist, and my father was a war veteran with socialist/communist/authoritarian leanings. Before they had kids, they drove a VW Beetle and hung out with other hippies. Both were granola well before that was even a term. They owned a horse farm and raised chickens. My mother smoked pot and went on camping trips with her old hippie buddies. We didn’t talk politics in our house, mostly because we already knew everyone agreed. I was my mother’s child, groomed as an east-coast Irish Catholic liberal. Our family adored the Kennedys, and we even had a family connection. My relatives all lived in or around New York, and we looked down upon those who lived elsewhere – even the west coast. My mother once described me as, “the most compassionate and empathetic person she had ever met.”
I remember when I was little my parents saw Forrest Gump in the theater. When they returned, they said they enjoyed the film, but they were angry at some of the portrayals. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my mother felt the film made 1960s hippies appear lost and misguided, while making the film’s protagonist a conservative Vietnam war-hero. She had trouble identifying with that.
The first time I remember being confused about my political affiliation, I was very young, maybe twelve years old. I was talking with my mother, and the subject of abortion came up. I asked her what she thought about abortion and she paused. She looked at me and said, “I believe it is the woman’s choice.” As young as I was, I remember to this day being confused by her reply. I was sure she meant she was pro-life, but I had never heard the phrase “woman’s choice.” She explained what it meant, and I replied, “but doesn’t the Catholic church say abortion is wrong?” She told me the church was wrong, and that abortion was a choice. In that moment, I was horrified. I couldn’t understand how my mother thought it was okay to kill unborn children. As I grew older, I realized a lot of people felt that way, and I became more comfortable with the concept of abortion being legal. I never fully embraced it, but accepted that it was what smart-people thought. This was the first and only time I questioned my ideology for many years.
It wasn’t until I was nearly 20 years old before I had my second incident. I saw a disheveled and sickly homeless woman outside a restaurant I frequented. She seemed frail. She had a cart filled with items and stopped me as I was exiting the parking lot in my car – she asked me if I had any money. I apologized and told her I did not have any money at the time (if I did I always gave abundantly to the homeless – even seeking them out), but I did have an untouched to-go order from the restaurant I was exiting – I planned on eating it at home. I felt terrible for her. I smiled and offered her my meal instead – I told her it was ordered to-go and untouched, and I held it out the car window for her. I was astonished when she smacked the food hard. It landed inside and on my car and on the ground, ketchup and all. She then screamed in my face, “I don’t want food you idiot, I want money so I can buy alcohol you [explective].” My face dropped. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I apologized, raised my window and drove away. I looked at her in the rear-view mirror. I wasn’t angry, just sad. Clearly a one-off event, I thought. Plus, she was no danger to me. There are all types of people in this world.
Unfortunately, not a week later my girlfriend was visiting, and we were walking back to my apartment one afternoon. A homeless man (but not frail) approached us and asked me for money. As I had done so many times before, I handed him a $5 bill, and said, “have a good day,” with a smile. He took the money and said nothing. I turned and walked away with my girlfriend. A few moments later I realized he was following us. I cringed before he bellowed, “Hey, you got any more?” I turned around and apologized politely, “Sorry that’s all I have. I wish I had more for you.” We turned back and headed for home, but he picked up his pace, “I know you have more, I want more!” he screamed as we began to walk faster and faster. Before I knew it, we were in a full sprint running back to our apartment with the homeless man chasing us and screaming profanities at the top of his lungs. He threatened my girlfriend and ran towards us as fast as he could. He was not a weak individual – otherwise I would have confronted him. I was concerned for the safety of my girlfriend. When we finally arrived at my apartment – we were petrified. How would we get inside without him catching us? Luckily, one of my neighbors ran outside with a baseball bat just in time, and chased the man away. He probably saved our lives.
Needless to say, this was the last time I ever blindly gave money to a homeless person. I’m ashamed to admit this, but I hardly even look at them anymore – for safety reasons. I have a wife and children now, and my first responsibility is to protect them. I feel terrible about this, but the experience has changed me forever. Not a day goes by where I don’t feel guilty about this. I see them everywhere, but I’ve learned from my experiences. I now understand that many homeless people suffer from severe mental disabilities, or drug and alcohol addiction, and simply giving them money and food does little to help them. I’ve made a few exceptions over the years, but only when I am alone and confident the individual does not pose a threat and seems genuinely needy. I quickly made the connection between those homeless who need guidance, and those on welfare who needed the same. Resources can help, but they can also hurt. Primarily guidance, strong culture, non-dependency inducing safety nets, and a strong economy can help those who cannot help themselves.
Shortly after this experience, a dump truck slammed into the side of my apartment building – nearly killing a young couple and their baby, and destroying most of the vehicles in the parking lot. Apparently, the truck was moving well in excess of the speed limit, and the operator had been intoxicated. It was later discovered the man was an illegal immigrant, and I believe he was arrested at the scene. Just a few weeks later, an illegal immigrant held a knife to my throat after I asked for a refund on a fraudulent parking charge. He threatened to kill me. The police were called, but they did not arrest the man – they let him go free despite having several witnesses – and despite the fact that he was clearly an illegal immigrant.
Shortly thereafter, two illegal immigrants slammed into my vehicle as I was making a turn – destroying my car. Since they were uninsured, I had to donate the wreck to a charity and buy a new car. Some time later, my car was struck by two more illegal immigrants in a large truck, and I had to cover the cost again as they were also uninsured. I was told by the police that there was nothing they could do. I became aware of how money and insurance worked, and concerned with state laws which allow illegal immigrants to remain uninsured and free from deportation. I felt bad for the illegal immigrants. They’re trying to make a new life for themselves and for their families. People have done that in America since its inception. Still, I resented the fact that they weren’t here legally while others were waiting in line for years. I resented that they weren’t paying taxes, yet sending their children to our public schools. I resented that they held so many jobs which could go to struggling American families. I resented that they didn’t have car insurance, and I resented that they filled our emergency rooms, but often didn’t make payments. I thought to myself, “Don’t condemn others, this nation was built by immigrants,” but I couldn’t help but remind myself they were breaking the law, every day, while millions of other immigrants did it the right way all throughout our history. It took me a while to realize the fault was not with the illegal immigrants, but entirely with our government. Without borders, and without enforcing laws on the books, we have no nation at all.
It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that everything started to change. I became concerned with the student loans my parents had taken out for my education, and I realized that I would need to make a lot of money after graduation in order to help them pay it off. I started to notice the cost of tuition, the cost of housing, the cost of food, and the cost of books. I couldn’t believe how expensive they were. I felt I was wasting my time taking random classes when I could be studying something useful. I felt guilty and silly for choosing such an expensive private school. I began researching lucrative careers. After realizing I would need to incur significant additional debt in order to become a practicing lawyer – I decided to switch my major to accounting. Accounting offered the best bang for my buck. No additional schooling required. Unfortunately, my love for math was limited, and after a short while I switched from accounting to finance. Being admitted to the business school was one of my proudest accomplishments.
Immediately, I began taking business classes. I was completely enamored with the applications. I now understood that business was everywhere, and that our entire society as we know it was built by amazing business men and women. Over the next two years, I learned that business is not evil, it’s the backbone of every society. In fact, many business owners care a great deal about ethics and morality. Without business, we would be like North Korea, or the USSR. My love for business eventually turned into a love for America, and for capitalism. I began to admire and appreciate the founding fathers and the power of the free market, and I developed a deep respect for businesses that did extra good for the world. I realized that business and capitalism helps those who need it most. I also learned that the government doesn’t create jobs or wealth, it only redistributes and misappropriates it. I learned that politicians don’t know much about anything except politics, and I learned that they lie – especially the Democrats. I know this, because I was a Democrat, and I was willing to lie “for the greater good.” I also know this, because I wasn’t well informed on economics and business before I became well informed. I thought I knew – but I didn’t know anything. I learned that increasing the minimum wage hurts the people it’s supposed to help. I learned that taxes and regulation can destroy the economy and hurt people from all walks of life, and I learned that all welfare states eventually fail. I learned that the media has a liberal bias – a heavy one. All media, even movies and newspapers. Even network news. Even morning news and daytime talk. Even television shows. Even polling is biased. All run by journalism majors and drama majors and English majors. All the things I wanted to study when I was still liberal. I learned the only bastions for people like me were Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, the internet and talk radio. I learned that the vast majority of people are bigoted against these bastions because they do not share their beliefs.
I learned there is nothing democratic about the DNC. I learned about the really bad things too, like corporatism and special interests. I discovered that corporatism can only exist with a powerful government, and therefore, having a limited government is essential for a democracy in order to protect liberty and freedom for all. I learned that there is no good socialism – socialism leads to fascism and/or communism – or, at the very least, poverty for all. It stifles competition, incentive and innovation, and creates artificial surpluses and shortages. Eventually, we run out of other people’s money – and we’re left with bloated and powerful government, corporatism, and then fascism. I heard all the arguments: Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, and Norway. These countries are small, and benefit from natural resources, culture, and other factors which make up for their socialist programs. They are also capitalist at their core. Denmark is not a socialist nation, says its prime minister. “Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy,” he said in response to Bernie Sanders. These countries are like large companies with nice perks. Most liberals who sing their praises have never even visited them – but I have. I own companies there.
I learned that political correctness is threatening our liberty. The founding fathers taught us this. I learned that the income tax is a new thing – and it’s oppressive. I learned that liberals want big government, and conservatives want small government. I learned that I am a libertarian. I read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I read Ayn Rand. I read Milton Friedman. I read Thomas Sowell. I read about Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and Abraham Lincoln. I also read numerous books on the markets, business, management and finance. Around this time, I visited some old friends, and discovered that they were mostly ignorant, and generally very bigoted. They were all liberal. The day I graduated, the support from my parents stopped. Thankfully, I made good money at my job. I also worked over 100 hours per week, nearly every day, even on Christmas. I never received any inheritance or loans. My parents didn’t have enough for themselves let alone me. The bills racked up, and the responsibilities started. I had $75,000 in student loans to repay, and the government was taxing me at an effective rate of 60%.
I became a Republican because the Libertarian party needs some work, and I got new friends.
Around this time, I was the victim of a robbery in my home. An African American man had broken in and stolen thousands of dollars of property from me and my girlfriend. Additionally, he stole my computer which contained years of work and countless weeks and months of assignments and school materials. We discovered he was casing the apartment for weeks, literally waiting outside while we were sleeping, even entering the unit while we slept. The next week, my girlfriend and I broke up. I blamed this person for my bad luck, and was so angry that someone would steal something from me which had so much more value to me. The insurance would never pay for my lost work, or repair my relationship with my girlfriend. I never felt so down, but I also felt bad for the man. I wondered if his upbringing had caused him to commit such a senseless crime. I pondered his childhood and his surroundings. I realized he must have had a very different experience from my own. I no longer felt guilty, but I felt more determined than ever to help him. Part of me realized, this man might have had a job if he wasn’t competing with under-paid illegal immigrants. Part of me realized he was suffering from a disintegration of the black family. The out-of-wedlock birthrate among African American women is 72%.
After graduation, I took a job working on Wall Street (if you can call it that). I learned about the markets, finance, and wealth management. Early on in my career, and even during my final months of schooling, I became aware of a pending financial collapse originating in the housing sector. I recognized that the government was directly responsible for creating the bubble, and I watched as it burst. I was involved with calculating the losses on Wall Street. I was astounded to see the politicians call the bankers out while assuming no responsibility for themselves. I watched as the politicians handed out massive bailouts with taxpayer dollars with their right hand – while wagging their finger at the financiers with their left. I learned that financiers are just regular people – most of whom are really good people. They are a product of their environment – just like everyone else.
I watched as those same politicians racked up trillions in national debt, made our problems worse, introduced QE 1, 2 and 3, and lowered interest rates to an unprecedented zero percent for 7 years – directly transferring trillions in wealth from poor to rich, saver to borrower, and young to old. I watched as self-proclaimed socialist politicians blamed the “billionaires” for all our problems while taking no responsibility for themselves. I watched as the American public blindly voted for these politicians, oblivious to the real cause of their plight, and oblivious to the much larger government-induced bubble looming in the financial markets today. One that threatens their savings, and their children’s future. I watched as African Americans voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in the primaries (essentially wanting four more years of Barack Obama), oblivious to the job losses, net worth losses and income losses the black community has suffered under Obama and other Democrats. Oblivious to the degradation in race relations that has occurred. Oblivious to the history of the Republican Party – the party that freed the slaves. The party that passed the Civil Rights Act in the face of massive opposition from Senate and House Democrats. The party that rejected racism and bigotry. The party that embraced liberty and freedom for all above all else. The party that respects property and individuals and our rights. The party that really can help the poor and disadvantaged. The party that has a branding problem, and an electorate problem. The party that was libertarian before it wasn’t as much. The party that wishes it could give the racists back to the Democrats, but can’t seem to shake them (ever since Barry Goldwater).
Today, I am a business owner, and an entrepreneur. I voted for John McCain and Mitt Romney. I’ve created real jobs for other people. It’s very stressful writing checks. I have a family I am proud of – and I am struggling like everyone else to make it in this increasingly complex and unfair world. Today I am jaded, even sad. I look at the world with different eyes. I no longer see brightness, I see problems and bad actors. I pay way too much in tax, and there is too much regulation affecting my business and all businesses. Our entitlement system is unsustainable, and my family is suffering under generational theft and CPI inflation. I’m worried about our liberty and my family’s safety.
My profession and my political party are vilified in the media every day. I want to move away. I have less friends, and I am less fun. I don’t go to the gym enough. Apparently I’m not funny anymore, and all I care about is money (not true). I hate Hollywood, and can hardly stand the liberal elite. I watched Jon Stewart until he retired only in jest. Films make me angry when they are liberally biased. SNL is funny but biased. I despise MSNBC. I hate Michael Moore, Bill Maher and my old crush Sarah Silverman. I miss George Bush and regret hating him. I enjoy Fox News and Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, the Wall Street Journal and Rush Limbaugh. I like all the Republican candidates although Donald Trump scares me with his nationalism and his statist approach. My liberal friends and family think I’m lame, and my own mother has said I’ve “gone to the dark side.” It’s frustrating when my own sibling tells me my political ideology is tantamount to condoning mass murder (this actually happened). During this time I realized the most oppressed group of people in the United States today are conservatives and libertarians.
I’ve seen LGBT libertarians and conservatives attacked and physically threatened for their political beliefs – despite being a “protected class” otherwise. I’ve seen wealthy people vilified, mocked and ridiculed – not unlike the jews in Nazi Germany. I’ve seen white people being told to “get to the back of the line,” and, “blacks and people of color only. No whites allowed.” I’ve seen white kids get rejected from schools and jobs solely because of their skin color. I’ve seen hate mobs violently attack and brutally beat libertarians, conservatives, and particularly those LGBT members who shock the system with their rejection of progressive thought. I’ve seen bloodied and beaten Trump supporters, and I’ve seen Black Lives Matter members assault non-conforming people in restaurants, libraries, campuses and other public and private places. I’ve seen the vitriol slung at members of the media who choose not to represent liberal ideology. I’ve seen conservative reporters attacked, mocked, pushed and humiliated in public. I saw a whole group of white reporters being forced to “stand behind the black reporters.” Yes, there is still racism and bigotry among typically poor whites, but the tables have clearly turned. I’ve seen massive corruption and fraud, scapegoating, corporatism at its worst, and statism in a system run by Democrats – the party of the KKK then, and Black Lives Matter now. Not coincidentally perhaps the two most prominent supremacy hate groups of the last two centuries. Democrats who simultaneously pander to and manipulate the masses – ruining millions of lives in the process. I’ve seen a rise in nationalism, socialism, fascism and more statism through the likes of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
I learned that men are oppressed – and modern feminists are sexist. Feminists today are not the same as feminists of the 60s and 70s – just like Black Lives Matter has nothing in common with the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks. I’ve learned that it’s not enough for women to attend college more often, and to run the biggest companies, and to get the jobs they want, and to win a nomination for President of the United States – I learned that feminist women today want men to feel like apes and rapists-in-waiting. I learned that they want to force the private marketplace to pay women more for equal work, and more than men – not the same – despite their different career choices and family choices. I’ve seen them completely, and utterly emasculate men from all walks of life. I’ve seen state laws basically requiring men to get a signature before kissing a girl – and courts and media treating them as guilty until proven innocent when accused of practically anything. I’ve seen men treated like garbage by women who think it’s empowering to degrade them – and equally empowering to take them for everything they’re worth, including their children, with the full support of the “justice” system.
Much worse than all of this, I’ve seen millions and millions of unborn children killed in the womb by a society which actively and aggressively supports mass murder – pure unadulterated genocide.
I can’t hold back my frustration about how things are, and where we are going. I’m less confident. I am less healthy, more stressed, and generally worried about our future. I’ve forgotten how to feel good about myself, and I no longer receive joy from helping others. I find it to be selfish. I still surf sometimes. I like being funny. I miss being creative. I miss my liberal friends – they all seem to dislike me now as if I am no longer “one of them.” I miss being a liberal and fitting in with my family and old friends. A lot.
However, with all that said. I would never go back. Never. Ever. Ever. Not in a hundred million years.
I’ve discovered a whole world of people who think like me, and who know what I know. I’d rather be sad then wrong. Now, I just need to work on being happy again.
Today, I am a very different person.
Today, I am a conservative, and a libertarian.