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Second Thoughts

This section of DiscoverTheNetworks chronicles the personal ideological journeys -- “transformations” is not too strong a word to describe what some of them experienced -- of individuals who at one time identified themselves as members of the political Left and who proudly allied themselves with the worldviews and crusades that defined it. In many of the accompanying articles, these former leftists recount their personal odysseys, discussing the nature of their former beliefs and detailing the pivotal events that first caused them to question the validity of all they had previously held politically sacred. They reflect upon the "dark nights of the soul" they endured as they struggled to decide whether to, and how to, renounce their former convictions -- and even more importantly, whether they would replace those articles of faith with the very notions they had spent a lifetime condemning. Further, they discuss the personal and professional price they paid as a result of their ideological shift, a cost that manifested itself in various ways -- lost friendships, strained family relations, and alienation from longtime political comrades. 

Some of the writers in this section trace the roots of their awakening to the events of 9/11. For example, Michael Lopez-Calderon, a Cuban-American teacher of social studies and economics, relates the following:

"From the moment the second plane struck the South Tower, the Left was falling over itself to rationalize this mass murder. Ventriloquists for, and mind readers of, Osama bin Laden came out of the woodwork. Anti-war protesters launched arguably history's first 'preemptive' peace march, with demonstrations from Seattle to Washington, D.C. … Not one bomb had been dropped on the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, but already the American Left was ready to obstruct and demoralize. … I was so disappointed, indeed stunned, by the meek reaction of so many on the Left to an act of mass murder that demanded more than the no-brainer 'I'm against the terrorism of the WTC attack.' …  War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. … That slight, tingling sound you hear is the final shard of glass from my Leftist House of Mirrors hitting the ground.  For the first time in nearly two decades, I see the world no longer distorted by the reflections of Leftist illusions."

In a similar spirit, Cinnamon Stillwell, a San Francisco Bay-area writer who authors a biweekly column for the online arm of the San Francisco Chronicle, writes the following:

"Having been indoctrinated in the postcolonialist, self-loathing school of multiculturalism, I thought America was the root of all evil in the world. Its democratic form of government and capitalist economic system was nothing more than a machine in which citizens were forced to be cogs. … So, what happened to change all that? In a nutshell, 9/11. … The day after the attacks, I dragged myself into work, still in a state of shock, and the first thing I heard was one of my co-workers bellowing triumphantly, 'Bush got his war!' There was little sympathy for the victims of this horrific attack, only an irrational hatred for their own country. As I spent months grieving the losses, others around me wrapped themselves in the comfortable shell of cynicism and acted as if nothing had changed. I soon began to recognize in them an inability to view America or its people as victims, born of years of indoctrination in which we were always presented as the bad guys. … America was singled out as the sole guilty party on the globe. …  Thoroughly disgusted by the behavior of those on the left, I began to look elsewhere for support. To my astonishment, I found that the only voices that seemed to me to be intellectually and morally honest were on the right. … Although my initial agreement with voices on the right centered on the war on terrorism, I began to find myself in concurrence with other aspects of conservative political philosophy as well. Smaller government, traditional societal structures, respect and reverence for life, the importance of family, personal responsibility, national unity over identity politics and the benefits of living in a meritocracy all became important to me. In truth, it turns out I was already conservative on many of these subjects but had never been willing to admit as much. … But more than anything, it was the left's hypocrisy when it came to the war on terrorism that made me turn rightward after 9/11. … If there's one thing I've learned since 9/11, it's that it's never too late to alter one's place in the great scheme of things."

Others, like author and recording artist Seth Swirsky, explain that they did not have a particular moment of epiphany that led them to abandon the Left. Rather, they believe that the Left, in a sense, incrementally abandoned them. They recount the disillusionment they felt, for instance, in watching the far Left fringe of Democrats gradually take control of the Party. Writes Swirsky:

"I approached the 2004 primaries with an open mind. I was still a Democrat, still hoping that leaders like Sam Nunn and Scoop Jackson would emerge, still fantasizing that Democrats could constitute a party of truly progressive social thinkers with tough backbones who would reappear after 9/11. I was wrong. The Left got nuttier, more extreme, less contributory to the public debate, more obsessed with their nemesis Bush -- and it drove me further away. What Democrat could support Al Gore's '04 choice for President, Howard Dean, when Dean didn't dismiss the suggestion that George W. Bush had something to do with the 9/11 attacks? Or when the second most powerful Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin, thought our behavior at the detention center in Guantanamo was equivalent to Bergen Belsen and the Soviet gulags? Or when Senator Kennedy equated the unfortunate but small incident at Abu Ghraib with Saddam's 40-year record of mass murder, rape rooms, and mass graves saying, 'Saddam's torture chambers have reopened under new management, U.S. management'? … I just don't trust Democrats when it comes to our national security. … I now fully understand Ronald Reagan's statement, when he described why he switched from being a liberal to a conservative: 'I didn't leave the party -- It left me!'"

The foregoing are just a few excerpts from the many narratives of political transformation that are contained in this section of DiscoverTheNetworks.


IN DEPTH

BOOKS

* For recommended books on this topic, click here.


                                 SEE ALSO

Environmentalists: Reconsidering Radical Positions

* Leaving Jihad and Islam





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