We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Like most well-educated Protestant families in New England at the time (and much less so, today), I was raised in a soft-Left-oriented home. You know: "Joe McCarthy was the devil, but Joe Stalin meant well and besides, the Russians have free medical care." (The only Socialist we were willing to hate was Hitler.) This was combined with a solicitous condescension towards blacks, the "poor" people who worked with their hands, and any other convenient "victim" group. We "cared" about them, or so we convinced ourselves in our self-admiring superiority - but we didn't really know any of them very well, and had no clue about how they ran, or planned, their lives.
What else did we take on faith? That the UN would bring an end to war, that higher taxes (on other people) were a very good idea, that pacifism usually made sense even in the face of an enemy ("Better Red than Dead"), that FDR was a great president, that the world of business - as compared to the "professions" - was tainted with "selfishness" and thus dishonorable, that patriotism was jingoism and nationalism a bad thing, that there was no real "evil" (other than Conservatives), and that DDT was a terrible thing. Socially "nice" stuff like that.
(Of course, we took many good, solid things on faith too, but that's another story and another blog post.)
We all felt smugly virtuous, I think, and quite superior to the ignorant and presumably unwashed masses who cast votes for "idiots" like Nixon and Barry Goldwater instead of for the enlightened ones who only wanted to "help them."
That was before I fully appreciated how much Americans - and I - appreciate our freedom from government power and intrusion. And what a sturdy, thrifty, resourceful, practical, independent, hard-working bunch we Americans really are. I will never forget my first lesson in this on a summer job during high school, but it took years of exposure to real life and to real people to cure me of my malady which was, at the bottom of it, I think, related to pride: the sickest form of pride - the notion that we - the fortunate and privileged "intelligentsia" - the bien-pensants - knew what was best for other folks and for the country. We were educated in everything except humility, common sense, and an adequate appreciation for freedom. Life's wisdom cannot be taught. Only learned.
So, to return to a quote from Thompson's essay, which is similar to, but better than, the one I would have written:
I grew up in a northwest Ohio town where conservative was a polite term for reactionary. When Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of Mississippi "sweltering in the heat of oppression," he could have been describing my community, where blacks knew to keep their heads down, and animosity toward Catholics and Jews was unapologetic. Liberal and conservative, like left and right, wouldn't be part of my lexicon for a while, but when King proclaimed, "I have a dream," I instinctively cast my lot with those I later found out were liberals (then synonymous with "the left" and "progressive thought").
The people on the other side were dedicated to preserving my hometown's backward-looking status quo. This was all that my 10-year-old psyche needed to know. The knowledge carried me for a long time. Mythologies are helpful that way.
Since we're sharing 10-year-old psyches, I've spent most of my adult life trying to get back to that common sense I had then. When I was 10, I knew different kinds of people were different. Bad people were bad. There wasn't much connection between the differences and the level of bad. There was a God, people just called their churches by different names and went on different days. Buddha, etc. were ways you said "God" in other languages. Jews were not much different than Presbyterians, they just went to Temple on Saturday and wore beanie hats. So what?
Then I went to fundamentalist BS parochial school for 3 years and I learned that Jews don't go to heaven, everyone in the 8th grade except me and two of my friends had been on the road to perdition before having an ontheroadtodamascusepiphanicconversion, the world was created in 7, oops, 6 24-hour days in 4004 BC and black people had unfortunately been cursed because Ham or Shem or Larry or Curley saw Noah or Moe drunk and naked (funny how they never spoke much of the virtuous Lot screwing his own daughters).
Fortunately I was saved by returning to public school and college where I learned that, in spite of what my father who actually fought in the war tried to tell me, Hirohito had nothing to do with the war at all, he was just a pawn, kamikaze pilots were drugged/intoxicated and the wheels fell off their planes anyway, so they never had much choice, McCarther returned to the Philippines amid gun fire ala Hillary, FDR saved us from the Commies (of course Socialism is the natural progression from Kapitalism, something that dummy Reagan just wont understand), and that the white man is the oppressor of all, even if he lives in a trash-filled trailer in West Virginy. Of course things got even worse after being held hostage in "Diversity" training classes once I started working.
Personally, I'm mighty damn sick of the whackos left and right. When I'm around "conservative" people, I find I enjoy them as individuals but in groups, they make me feel like a liberal. When I'm around liberals, who in groups are a lot more fun but when dealing with them individually I realize how much they they share the group-think mentality that makes many so-called conservatives such a pain in the a55. I don't see where either side has a monopoly on the let-me-run-your-life mentality, nor on the pitiful inability to run their own lives without falling apart. They just make different kinds of excuses.