Tuesday, May 17, 2011

From Marxism through Jerry Brown's Bedroom into Conservatism, Part One

What follows is an autobiography I recently contributed to a private forum.  I've wanted for a long time to explain how I got from passing out literature for Communism in college, to writing conservative and libertarian stuff in the 21st century.  Here are some of the highlights:

"How a Marxist Social Worker Walked Through Jerry Brown's Bedroom into Conservatism and Logic"

My dad and mom were both first generation Democrats, too young to vote for Kennedy but quite enamored of him . My own first forays into politics were deliberately left of my parents, in part because of that regular adolescent ritual of needing to make your parents hate you, and in part because I had never met a Republican. I boycotted everything the UAW told my dad to (usually my dad paid as little attention to the UAW as possible; he was at least smart enough to recognize organized crime when he saw it). I subscribed to Ms. In high school, I debated ERA with everyone who could listen to me blab about it for more than two minutes.  (Yeah, I knew the Republican Platform supported the ERA and the Democrat Platform didn't, but work with me here. It was a liberal idea.)

In college I started confusing a historical interest in Russia with a love for Communism. It helped that at least two of my German professors were vocal Marxists. I bought a German copy of the Manifest of the Communist Party. I hung around the CPUSA crowd and the Hall/Davis campaign people in 1984, and even put a poster up on my door in the co-op where I lived containing an envelope filled with “Join the Communist Party!” cards. (Thankfully because of some enlightened soul, it got torn down and trashed in the hallway less than 24 hours later. I followed that up by tacking a four page note on the co-op bulletin board filled with some kind of nonsense about harassment and “feeling victimized”. )

I got involved in causes at Michigan State University  to complain about every word uttered by President Reagan, worked on plays about feminist lesbians and Sandinistas, and championed socialist mores without an inkling of why, except that I thought people should share things with each other, and being conservative was bad because it meant you were greedy . I had gotten a short wave radio for Christmas and began listening to Radio Moscow on a daily basis. My favorite part was “Moscow Mailbag”, in which friendly sounding Joe Adamov read letters supposedly from Westerners about the Soviet Union and answered them in a more or less friendly way. I was seeing the “Smiling Face” side of Communism.

I worked in the mental health field, and about four years later, towards my next step as a psychotherapist, applied to and was accepted to UM, partly, I assume for my entrance essay which focused on the need to politicize the masses.

The School of Socialist Work
Strangely enough, it was at UM that my feelings about the current state of liberalism began to change. First of all, I noticed the way debate was handled in my classes: it wasn’t allowed.

Oh, you could certainly argue whether the inherent prejudices in all western societies was more devastating on black people or on gays, and you could argue whether Ohio State or Iowa played better football (you weren’t, of course, allowed to say they were better than University of Michigan football, but I don’t think Marxism really enters into that). But you couldn’t argue that health care shouldn’t be “free” to everyone, that gay people should be tolerant of those who think homosexuality is against God’s will, that taxpayers shouldn’t pay for abortions, or that greed was good.

One particular class with one of our leading professors was jarring.  I think the topic was divorce, and we were discussing the importance of easy divorce laws for women.

Or rather, the professor was telling us easy divorce laws are important for women, and we were raising our hands to tell her how much we agreed with her to receive her beatific smile. Some poor guy raised his hand to say, tentatively, “I’ve heard though that women are typically the ones who suffer more socioeconomic consequences after divorce….” She pounced on him like a hawk on a titmouse. “Don’t EVEN suggest that! “ she literally screamed. “That notion is put out by the Right, and it's pure propoganda!” I remember she followed that up with a rant that did not sound logical to me. Needless to say the guy never said a word in class again.

(Later, Jerry Brown's bedroom, 3 generations of cruel compassion, and a review of logical fallacies.)

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