Ideology Swings Like a Pendulum Do

OK. It's time to come clean. I feel the need to rap to you. The first Earth Day in 1970 was also my 18th birthday. Oh, the ignominy! It is also Lenin's birthday, which might or might not be a coincidence. Yes friends, it's true. I am a child of the 60's.

As a child of the 60's, and if you know anything about my generation you know that child is the operative word, I was a full bore (another operative word, there) participant in the generational temper tantrum that we called the counterculture. We were idealistic. We had demands. We wanted to change things and in order to get what we wanted we were willing to hold our collective (collectivist?) breath until we turned blue. Actually it would be more accurate to say until we turned Red but that would be splitting long hairs.

Of course, the things we wanted to change changed like we changed our underwear. About every two weeks. We wanted Big Brother off our backs. An end to the war in Vietnam. Racial equality. Free tuition. No one was telling us what to do! So many causes, so little spare time.

A funny thing happened on the way to the 21st Century. It seems I moved to the far right. I know this to be true because it is what my friends tell me. Especially my old friends. They have not changed, you see. Their geezer views are still in line with the progressive, liberal stance we all took back then. They say so.

Back during the 60's we were opposed to war. Or maybe we were opposed to getting drafted. It's all a bit hazy, you know? Anyway, my high school buddies and I would get on the subway on Saturday morning and head to Greenwich Village where we would stuff war ending envelopes or circulate peace bringing petitions for organizations with names like the War Resisters League and the Catholic Peace Fellowship. We were progressive.

My old friends are still progressive. Pretty much to a man they supported the Balkan bombing adventure because we had to save the people of the Balkans from the people of the Balkans. Sound familiar? And they support, in the most progressive way of course, the Iraqi sanctions because Saddam is a cruel dictator. Unlike Uncle Ho, of course. No cute nickname. But I have moved to the far right because I oppose these aggressions.

Like all our co-counterculturalists and most of America we were horrified when the government, in the form of an ill prepared National Guard unit, killed four people at Kent State. But my friends, who are still liberal, hardly blinked at Waco and the eighty people killed there by well trained federal police units. It barely registered on their radar screens. But because I have become such a right winger I took exception to that action. Just old right wing Ed defending weirdoes again.

We marched against senseless killing. We marched in Washington and we marched up Fifth Avenue into Central Park, we marched on Northern Boulevard in Queens and anywhere else we could because we believed that the killing should stop. And we believed we had to say so publicly. But when I joined the March For Life because I believe the 1.5 million abortions we perform every year have to stop they thought it kind of odd. It was taken for just one more sign of my having moved to the far right.

I still recall how deeply we were moved by Dr. King and his call that we judge a man by the content of his character rather than the color of his skin. The rightness of equal opportunity in a colorblind society where each person succeeded or failed by virtue of his own talent and initiative was a self evident truth. But today that fact that I consider affirmative action to be racist is proof of my move to the far right while their support of government enforced favoritism based on skin color or gender or sexual orientation or some other non-character content attribute is proof they have not changed. Is it me?

Big Brother was a major demon to us in the 60's. We were very conscious of the dangers of the Thought Police, which we were certain would come from the conservative right. Wrong again. No one was going to tell us what to think, what to do, what to say. What we did was our own business and we were more than willing to be rude about it in order to make the point. Discomfiting authority by speaking truth to power was a major civic virtue in the 60's.

Last year, when the man from the Census Bureau came around my progressive friends, who still believe in those 60's ideals they say so, dutifully answered every long form question about family members, finances, personal routines, and lifestyle. They are liberals, you see, and the Census Bureau only wants to help us. But because I have moved to the far right I told them to mind their own business and quit minding mine.

No longer being my old progressive, liberal self I look at the feminazis, the enviro-socialists, the radical gay libbers, Jesse Jackson and any number of other protected group spokespersons and see the Thought Police come to life in 3D, surround sound and living color. And not from the conservative right. Because I am a right wing extremist I prefer the South to the North, want a minimal state instead of the nanny state and think Al Gore looks and acts a lot more like Big Brother than does Allan Keyes.

As a member of the vast right wing conspiracy I say embarrassing things like you should own a gun to protect yourself from the rabble because the police won't and from the government because the government can't be trusted. Or that the War on Drugs is a government welfare boondoggle that destroys lives, wastes treasure and sucks liberty from our society. My liberal friends, who have not changed – they say so, do not like this kind of talk. It is embarrassing and extreme. It is, oh the horror, non-inclusive.

Because I am the one who has changed and not them, they believe that most of those politicians in DC really mean well at heart and are just looking out for us as best they can. They think a few more gun control laws sounds like a pretty good idea. Being true to their old individualistic ideals they use inclusive language and tut-tut those of us who won't. They believe they are free thinkers and I think that is the funniest thing I have heard in a long time. They recycle their Evian bottles (Evian spelled backwards is naïve. Coincidence?). They send their kids to the government schools where they read about Daddy's roommate, Heather's other Mommy, learn to put condoms on bananas and are protected from the effects of second hand prayer. And they think that's how it is supposed to be. They think sticking a fork in a baby's head is a choice and that pro-lifers are a danger to liberty. They call Al Sharpton a "leader" with a straight face.

But they say they still believe in the 60's and that I have moved to the far right. And I guess they might have something there because I sure don't believe in the 60's. Haven't for a long time because I have seen the results. Although it must be acknowledged that the soundtrack was outstanding. But I will admit to this vague sense of having gone through the looking glass, from left to right, without moving an inch. And I keep wanting to ask them, how can you be in two places at once when you're not anywhere at all? But that is probably just because I have moved the far right. Right?

    June 20, 2001