How I Realized I’m A Conservative

How I Realized I’m A Conservative

Although I grew up in a union household and surrounded by progressive peers, I kept noticing liberal policies sound good but actually reinforce poor choices. It dawned on me: I’m a conservative.
Dana R. Casey
By

In the late 1970s, I went to an experimental high school. Most of the students were some form of nature-loving hippie. Not the raw, shocking, and rude kind of the true hippie era, more of the granola-eating, yogurt-making, calico-and-work-boot-wearing kind, but still dabbling in some risky sex and drugs.

These hippies were mostly the children of wealthy progressive parents who had purchased immense Roland Park mansions with their trust funds and who raised their children by the most progressive paradigms. Most of the rest were rock-n-roll drug addicts. A few of us, children of working-class parents attending the school on scholarship, were a little closer to normal. I came from an educated working-class family, and am daughter of a public-school teacher.

I remember some of the students sitting around one afternoon talking about the beauty of Native Americans and their respect for nature, recounting that, when the natives killed an animal, they first prayed to thank gods, ancestors, or perhaps the animal itself. My schoolmates talked about how the natives honored the animal they had killed by using every part, wasting none: the meat for food, the skin for clothes, the bones for tools and jewelry, the sinew for bindings and cords, and the hooves for rattles and bells. I could feel the awe this inspired in my fellow classmates. They felt enlightened, that a truth was revealed.

My First Encounter with Liberal Hypocrisy

The next morning, I brought a scrapple sandwich to school for breakfast. A friend, who was indeed wearing a calico skirt with long johns and work boots (although no deodorant) leaned over to me and asked, “What ’cha eating?”

“Scrapple,” I replied.

“Eww! That’s disgusting! Do you know what they put in that stuff?” Thus the Scrapple Theory was born to me at the tender age of 16.

For those of you who are not familiar with scrapple, it is corn meal, ground pork, and spices baked in a loaf pan, cooled, sliced, and fried in butter. It is often eaten with catsup, a nice sweet contrast to the peppery spiciness. It is a true American specialty of the Pennsylvania Dutch. It was originally made from “scraps” of pork (i.e., scrapple) left over from butchering that could not be sold or used elsewhere, in order to avoid waste!

Buddhist prayer beads are wonderfully spiritual, but a rosary is a symbol of fascist misogynist oppression.

Perhaps you can see where I am heading. According to my schoolmates, Native Americans who “honor” an animal by using all of its parts are noble human beings in touch with nature. However, a good German peasant (from whom the Pennsylvania Dutch originated) who makes use of the entire animal is abhorrent and disgusting. This scrapple sandwich epiphany was one of my first observations of ubiquitous liberal progressive hypocrisy.

I began to see that if an act, religion, or tradition comes out of Western European and American culture, it is something to ridicule, to looked down upon as backward or oppressive. If it comes from other world cultures like China, India, Africa, or even pre-Columbian America, it is admirable and deep, something to imitate. Buddhist prayer beads are wonderfully spiritual, but a rosary is a symbol of fascist misogynist oppression. It is a xenophilic rather than xenophobic intolerance, a hatred of your own culture. This has become such a part of the cultural norm that it has evolved into the white self-hatred becoming so pervasive today.

Not long after the scrapple theory was born, I got a ride from yet another trust-fund hippie in his mother’s hand-me-down Volvo station wagon to a concert at Goucher College. He told me that life would be so cool if we could have anarchy in the country. Then people could do whatever they wanted. The effing “pigs” and “the effing man” would have no control. Already knowing the real consequences of anarchy, I said, “Don’t you realize that you would be one of the first people slaughtered, that the people who were no longer controlled by ‘the pigs’ would steal your stuff?” He looked dumbfounded, and knew that I was no longer as cool as he had thought.

Sitting on the Fence

Now I was still young and new to serious political debate, but I was raised in a political family. The news was always on in the morning and evenings. My parents discussed the current issues of the day at the dinner table, but I was still learning. For the next 17 years through the late 1970s into the 1980s, I studied and worked in the arts and theater. There I was surrounded by the enlightened ones who knew that everything liberal was good and everything conservative was evil. After all, President Nixon was not that far in the past (although Nixon now looks junior varsity next to the scandal-ridden houses of Clinton and Obama).

Even though I didn’t think of myself as conservative, through the years I would get into arguments with liberal friends about big government.

I was sure that I was on the side of good, but I still had a feeling of unease. I would read books like J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye,” Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” and Carlos Castaneda’s “The Teachings of Don Juan,” expecting the illuminating awakenings my friends professed, but the books always fell flat. I just didn’t get it. I wondered what was wrong with me. It turns out that there was little to get. The books were crap.

But I also read the theology of C.S. Lewis and George McDonald, the fiction of Ayn Rand and Elizabeth Gouge, the classics like “The Histories” by Herodotus, “Confessions” by Augustine, and the philosophies and plays of the ancient Greeks and Shakespeare. And my faith was strong; it was a constant, and I went through bouts of church-going that irritated my liberal friends to no end. They actually said to me, “How can someone as intelligent as you believe in nonsense like that, especially Catholic dogma?” Ironically, they believed in runes, tarot cards, psychics, the supernatural, séances, auras, and every other idiot mystical fad that came around.

I waffled between being conservative and liberal. My first presidential votes were for Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984, followed by a series of votes for independents and libertarians, because I could stand none of the choices the two main parties offered. Even though I didn’t think of myself as conservative, through the years I would get into arguments with liberal friends about taxes and big government, welfare and food stamps, double standards and affirmative action. Usually, they completely disagreed with me.

Liberal Policies Reward Bad Choices

In one instance, I discussed abortion with a fellow waitress and the bookkeeper at a very hip restaurant where I worked. I said that I was not sure how I felt, that I saw why people wanted to keep it legal, but that it also made me very uneasy that it might be taking a life. My fellow waitress reverted to the now-familiar liberal outraged and offended scream, which is something like the body snatchers from the 1978 sci-fi classic. “WhaaaAATTT!!! Are you in-SANE!!!! You’re a WO-MAN!!!!” There was no further use in continuing the conversation after that. I shut up.

My fellow waitress reverted to the now-familiar liberal outraged and offended scream, which is something like the body snatchers from the 1978 sci-fi classic.

In another instance, one liberal friend earned a teaching degree on scholarship, but found teaching just too taxing. She had received the scholarship because she was a single divorced mother living on welfare. She quit teaching and went back on welfare instead. While on welfare, she owned multiple properties she rented out and a bank account into which she funneled thousands. She spent most of her days playing with her children.

Another friend had three children with a man she didn’t marry until after the third. He was abusive, which she knew quite well before she had her second and third child, and she eventually had to leave him. She lived in her mother’s house for free. She also received welfare and food stamps. Then she also went to university for nothing, while I was going on student loans and working full time to support myself.

I stayed with her for a short period when I was going through a particularly hard stretch. I was grateful for her generosity of a free room. One day, she came back from the grocery store irate. The store had a sale on hot, freshly steamed shrimp. She ordered two pounds and went to the checkout line, where she was told that she could not buy hot food with food stamps. She was welcome to get some fresh uncooked shrimp and steam them herself, but free fresh shrimp paid for by the working people of America was not good enough for her. She told me, “People on food stamps deserve luxuries, too.”

Much to her chagrin, I responded, “No, they don’t. They deserve to eat, and they should be grateful for that.” My friend was not very happy with me.

I was starting to see that liberalism was hypocritical and destructive while conservatism actually promoted individual freedom.

Later, while I was struggling to support myself and finish my undergraduate degree, she went on to get her master’s, also for free. We both started teaching at around the same time, but she got paid much more because she already had a master’s degree, a degree that I could not afford, and she had no student loans to pay off.

I started to see that liberal policies rewarded poor choices, while penalizing those who worked hard, didn’t get pregnant as a teen, and were responsible for taking care of oneself. It really ticked me off. Little by little, I was starting to see that liberalism was hypocritical and destructive while conservatism actually promoted individual freedom, self-reliance, laws applied equally and fairly to each individual, and limited government. These were ideas I thought liberals, particularly hippie-type liberals, actually believed. I was mistaken.

Public Schools Reinforce Rather than Correct Poor Behavior

Then I started teaching in a Baltimore City Public High School, one of the worst. It was shut down not long after I began teaching there. Low expectations, both academic and behavioral, shocked me at first. There was no structure in place to assist teachers with disruptive students. Students were rarely held to basic etiquette standards, so raising a hand before talking or not using foul language regularly in the classroom were not norms and difficult to establish.

Parents whom I called about their misbehaving children told me that they hadn’t been able to control their children since the kids were 12 or 13.

Homework was obsolete. Parents whom I called about their misbehaving children told me that they hadn’t been able to control their children since the kids were 12 or 13. They often told me not to bother them anymore. Some parents cared very much, but the hectic atmosphere of the school worked against anyone learning. Daily attendance was around 50 percent. The freshman class was 400, and the senior class was around 100 with only 75 graduating at the end of the year.

At the end of my first year teaching, I failed one of my seniors. She had done little of the work, she had a fourth-grade reading level, and she did not truly know the difference between a dedication page in “Island of the Blue Dolphins” and a character list in a play. I had tried to work with her all year, but she was absent more than present.

The entire administration and college advisor begged me to pass her. Their reasoning was that if I did not pass her, she would refuse to go to summer school and then she would never graduate. I had to pass her, or I would ruin her whole life. Did she deserve to have her life ruined, I was asked? I told them that they could do what they wanted, but I would have nothing to do with it. She graduated; she still wasn’t functionally literate.

The Truths I Can Never Un-See

My understanding of liberal versus conservative slowly started to shift. Like one of those optical illusions where there are two images in one, once I started to see the second image, I could not un-see it. Sometimes the second image becomes primary and the first is no longer visible. In the article “Things You Cannot Un-see (and What They Say about Your Brain),” Alexis C. Madrigal writes, “People report this kind of thing all the time, and they use this same phrase: cannot un-see. Someone points out something and suddenly a secondary interpretation of an image appears. There’s something a little scary about this process, even when the images are harmless. We have a flash of insight and a new pattern is revealed hiding within the world we thought we knew. It surprises us.” That’s a duck. NO—it’s a rabbit!

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For me, it was “that’s a compassionate and good liberal policy” becomes “that’s a policy of destructive collectivism and government overreach.” Nothing brought this more clearly to light for me than observing the destructive practices and policies implemented at our public schools and in our inner cities. Policies that claim to help but almost always cause irreparable harm: welfare that destroys the black family, school busing that ruins a once-thriving school system that often served even the poorest students well, taxation and regulation that drives out business which take with them jobs that provided a decent living even for not-well-educated citizens, middle- and working-class neighborhoods that become rat-ridden slums. Everyone loses.

Once I started to see, I realized that I was never really a liberal, but always a conservative, a believer in self-reliance, individual freedom, small government, and individual equality of opportunity. Once I started to see, I could not go back. I could not un-see.

So many Americans in this country are liberal and Democrat just because that is what they have always been, and this political stance is presented as the only intelligent and humane stance one can have—but they don’t live life like liberals. They are for family and against abortion, they want jobs, not handouts, they believe that capital punishment is sometimes necessary, they want to have the right to own guns to protect their family, and they want government out of their schools, churches, and homes. If we can get them to see, they too will not be able to un-see, and we might just restore America.

Dana R. Casey is a veteran high school English teacher, a mother, an artist, a home chef, a carpenter, and a writer. Her work has appeared on Conservative Teachers of America, D. C. Clothesline, Freedom Outpost, and Candid Discourse.

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