A Struggle with Conservatism
I never been comfortable being called conservative. I find myself struggling with my conservatism secretly; not telling anyone that I watch Fox News and find myself agreeing with people such as Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity.
Most people don’t start off as conservatives. You have to be broken down to become hardened and rocked-ribbed. You may know it is in you but you will resist it. Some people hide behind other names for it: neo-liberal, centrist or independent. Some fight the good fight believing they can persuade or reason with liberals. Very few will cut through the politically correct nonsense and declare themselves hard core.
Great conservative thinkers such as Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell and Friedrich Hayek didn’t start off railing against big government. They began their careers as idealistic leftists only to have a coming to Damascus moment rejecting false notions of abstract theory and liberal ideology.
I didn’t start life as a conservative either. I drank from the well of liberalism. My parents were products of the sixties and believed in the gospel of equality and social justice. My parents told me about slavery, Jim Crow and Martin Luther King. They also reminded me not to forget where I came from, explaining to me that I owed everything to the struggle.
Though my parents were middle class, I saw how the other half lived. Although I felt bad that many of my neighbors were living off of food stamps and getting their clothes from the Salvation Army, deep down I felt euphoric that I wasn’t in their predicament.
Because I was a black kid living in the suburbs, I thought it was my moral duty to enlighten and uplift poor inner city children. I would help them with their homework, share a sandwich, even loan them a few dollars. I was a bleeding heart, I couldn’t resist helping those in need.
If it wasn’t for a few life-changing events, I could see myself as a Martin Luther King, Jr., Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson. I truly believed racism was the cause of poverty and anything poor blacks did was because of slavery and exploitation. According to liberal dogma the reason blacks youths were cutting up was because of racial oppression. They were entitled to act out by skipping school, getting drunk and committing crimes. When someone, even a black leader suggested cracking down on bad children, mainstream liberals stood in the way.
My metamorphosis towards conservatism began at 15, when I got my first job working at a steakhouse. I worked long hours and manage to saved enough money to buy a motor scooter. I was proud of myself, I was living the American Dream. I discovered the concept of American exceptionalism. Only in America could a black man use his brains and brawn, to achieve his hearts and desires. I wasn’t feeling anti-American but patriotic.
Filled with patriotism and a sense of superiority, began my journey from being a bleeding heart to a hardened heart.
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was working the night shift tired, exhausted and ready to go home. As I walked out the door I saw my scooter was not where I parked it. As I looked out the corner of my eye I noticed two people, a black and a Puerto Rican rolling my scooter down the street.
My initial reaction wasn’t fear but rage. I couldn’t believe people I loved and defended were capable of stealing. I went from being angry to wanting justice.I thought that this was the right response to those who do evil. However, in the world of liberalism, no one saw it the way I saw it. The excuses and defenses came from all directions. Some people argued the thieves were from broken homes; that they had no opportunities. Others implied it was my own fault my scooter was stolen and told me I should have bought a bigger lock. I was interrogated and browbeaten and treated like I was the criminal. People told me my suggestions about long prison terms or getting a shotgun were uncivilized and crude reactions to the crime.
Although I lost a bike, I learned a lesson. I didn’t’ see African Americans as victims anymore but as humans. Today I believe the best way to have true equality is to treat everyone equally hold them up to a standard. I learned helping the poor doesn’t help the poor: it hinders them. If you want to help the poor just walk away from them and their survival instincts will kick in. It’s not cruel and barbaric. It is a recognition that every man has a God given ability to think for himself.