I to I – The Idea Takes Shape

I’ve had this idea kicking around my head for awhile now.  Ever since the election, really, although I suspect the seeds of it took root long before that.  One of the clear take-aways from this past November and all the subsequent navel-gazing and handwringing was that there is a significant problem on the right with “messaging.”  Whatever the root causes — and no matter how complicit the “Mainstream Media” may be in ignoring or, in some cases, outright distorting, the message — it’s a serious issue which must be addressed if one holds out any hope for conservative ideology’s embrace by more than just a core group of steadfast right-thinkers.
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As someone whose life revolves, in large part, around communication, I find this an especially frustrating issue.  Frustrating to see so many opportunities for productive dialogue missed; frustrating to see so much get lost in translation.  I suspect this is further amplified for me because of having spent roughly 75% of my life on “the other side” of The Great Divide. I am walking, breathing, living and — on good days — coherent proof that messaging, when handled properly, can be extraordinarily effective.  I suppose that is why this idea has been alternately tugging at my sleeve and kicking me in the pants.  I am hardly unique, but it is possible that, given my history and given the modest platform I’ve been permitted to perch upon, I might just have something to offer the cause here.  Might.
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In order to set the stage for this, I think a brief account of how I came to be where I am might be in order.  I’ve alluded to my “conversion” here and in various radio appearances.  I was raised in a liberal Democrat family, where FDR and JFK were venerated and Walter Cronkite regularly assured us “that’s the way it is.”  I was a product of public (albeit, quality) schooling and obtained a liberal arts education and degree from college.  It wasn’t until I reached law school that I truly faced much challenge to my worldview.  And even then, it was only on occasion, from a conservative friend or acquaintance.   My standard response to any such challenge was to become increasingly agitated and combative until ultimately declaring the conversation over, and taking some measure of comfort in the challenger not having gotten the better of me.  Or so I told myself.
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Still, there were times when, despite my smug self-(re)assurances, a small voice deep down inside me whispered, “What if?” and “Have you considered?” and, worst of all, “But is that really logically consistent?”  Oh, do I loathe logical inconsistencies.  I have a great love for things — and ideas — which are orderly, efficient and logically sound.
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There is no one thing or moment to which I can point as being IT — THE dividing line between left and right for me.  It was an evolutionary process.  Some of it, I have to attribute to Rush Limbaugh.  And my laziness.  His show followed the morning show I used to listen to on my office radio and, my radio being across the office from my desk, I was frequently too lazy to get up and turn it off or change the station when his broadcast began.  He’d hold forth and I’d half tune him out/half listen and hiss back at him and his right wing idiocy.  But every once in awhile, he struck a chord.
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Eventually, I decided to engage in a little thought experiment which involved me reading a book Rush had authored, but then cleansing my intellectual palate by following it with a book written by a well-known liberal.  I engaged in this process for some time, with several different books, and, perhaps had I chosen different authors, it would not have had the same effect.  But I wound up reading a Noam Chomsky book “Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance” — which was, without question, the most tedious endeavor I have ever undertaken — followed by Bernie Goldberg’s “Bias.” While Noam’s incessant droning (it was an audio book) turned me violently against him, Bernie’s frank acknowledgment of the pervasive bias in most mainstream media shook me to my core.  For the first time in…ever…it dawned on me that every piece of information I consume is being fed to me through someone else’s filter.   And not all filters are equal.  Or agendaless.
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I have to back up a bit and add that 9/11 had an undeniable impact on my worldview.  Traumatic and horrifying in an immediate fashion.  But it had a long-lasting and more subtle effect on the way I viewed our geo-political realities.  Additionally, a good friend and co-worker with whom I frequently lunched (and argued about politics, he being one of those obnoxious conservative sorts), pointed me to a conservative political website late in the fall of 2003.  I began frequenting it with an eye toward trolling (in light-hearted fashion) and schooling those silly wingnuts on an issue or two.  What I found, over time, though, was that some of the folks I encountered there were actually interested in thoughtful, civil dialogue.  And the more I allowed for that, the more I allowed for ideas I’d previously dismissed outright, to creep in and rattle about my brain.  That same friend once stunned me over lunch while we argued about abortion.  I tried to take the “reasonable” stance — noting that it wasn’t a choice I’d personally make and that I didn’t consider it a good thing, but I objected to restrictions being placed on the practice because an entire generation had grown up with it being legal and had relied on that expectation and….He stopped me in my tracks with one very short, pointed comment: “Slavery was legal in America for over 100 years.”  Wow.  Ow.
 
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There were other points along the way — moments that further ushered me rightward — but suffice it to say I now find myself in a place I fondly refer to as “Fiscally Conservative, Socially Moderate with Libertarian Leanings.”  Not to mention extraordinarily disenchanted with the current state of affairs.  And, no, that isn’t limited to just the past four years.  I have plenty of beefs with the previous President, and with Congress Critters of all stripe, past and present.  Basically, I’m at a point where I’m fed up with any and all who, instead of leading and focusing on rational, workable solutions designed to improving our lot as a nation, direct all or most of their energies toward gaining and retaining political advantage — power for power’s sake.  Paying not the slightest heed to the fact that they work for us.
 
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Then again, why should they pay that minor detail any heed?  We certainly seem to have forgotten it.  Sure, many of us show up to perform our civic duty and vote.  But then we tuck our heads back down and get on about our daily lives without giving much thought to the fact that our responsibility as citizens doesn’t end when we exit the polling place.  We “hired” these people.  We have a duty to hold them accountable.  And the only way to do that is to pay attention to what they’re doing, and bark at them when they’re doing it wrong.  And then vote their sorry butts out if they don’t fix that.  The tricky part of that is it requires us to actually pay attention — to do the work required to be informed, to ponder the issues, to weigh the merits of proposed legislation, and to let our various elected representatives know where we stand.  That’s hard work.  And there are days when I can barely find the time to brush my hair, much less monitor what this elected official is doing or that one is proposing.
 
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Point being, I get it.  I get why so many people are disinterested in politics.  Or worse — turned off by them because it seems all those who do take an interest in them ever do is bicker with one another about this politician or that idea.  It’s become a never-ending grudge match between left and right, with a win-at-all-costs mentality.  The problem is, no one’s actually “winning” much of anything.  And…to butcher a metaphor…Rome continues to burn.
 
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So…to the point of all of this:  One year ago, the conservative movement lost a hero, a leader, a friend in Andrew Breitbart.  He was fearless in his willingness to engage “the other side,” to challenge the standard narrative, and to mix things up with his opponents and detractors in an oddly loving way.  He’s been referred to countless times as a “Happy Warrior.”  Many have focused on the “warrior” part of that description and taken it upon themselves to “do battle” in the name of conservatism.  That’s fine.  But it’s not really me.  I’m opting to focus on the “happy” part of that description, and take inspiration from that, and from the beautiful tribute my friend, Rick Hornsby, put together in the wake of Andrew’s death.  It showed the power of One Voice.  I have one of those.  And here’s how I propose to use it…(God, I hope this works….)
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We’ve all seen those political compass-type quizzes.  The surveys you take which plot out where you fall on the political axis.  They cover a whole host of issues.  I’m going to use one of the better known ones as my starting point, and roll down the list of issues, one by one, one blog entry per week.  For each issue, I’ll present the liberal or left-leaning argument on it, followed by the conservative or right-leaning argument of it.  In a sense, it will be me arguing against myself — I to I, though not eye to eye.  Now, even though I still recall my left-leaning views well, and am well-versed enough at playing devil’s advocate that I can present them in suitable fashion, I will readily acknowledge that because of where I stand now, the right-leaning counter-argument will have a weighted advantage on any given issue.  So, to take a more balanced approach, after posting each blog entry, I’ll invite any of my more liberal-minded friends or acquaintances to guest blog a rebuttal.  My only rules: Keep it civil and under 800 words.  I don’t aim to be writing novels here, and am not inviting others to, either.  The point is to present a given issue through the lens of both left and right, and then let the reader(s) — I so hope there’s more than one — decide what position he finds most persuasive.
 
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No, I’m not trying to be cute here.  Of course I believe the rightward view will be moreso.  I wouldn’t be standing over here if I didn’t find it so.  And it’s entirely possible, though my goal in doing this is to persuade (that’s persuade, not clobber), it will be an exercise in utter futility.  But the way I look at it is if I manage to give even one person pause, and prompt them to look at an issue from a slightly different perspective, then maybe, maybe my one voice can make a difference of the positive sort.  I aim to try, anyway.
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