“Conservative Kid Grows Up”

Ed of Dispatches from the Culture Wars just posted an interesting piece called “Conservative Kid Grows Up.” I found it interesting because, quite simply, it’s my story too. And for many of you, it’s your story as well. Here are a couple excerpts from a news story on it:

Jonathan Krohn took the political world by storm at 2009’s Conservative Political Action Conference when, at just 13 years old, he delivered an impromptu rallying cry for conservatism that became a viral hit and had some pegging him as a future star of the Republican Party.

Much like this young man, I and my fellow Christian homeschoolers were told that we were the future of the Republican Party, that we were the future of all that is good in this nation, and that we would grow up to be some sort of conservative super stars. And, like him, it didn’t exactly work out like that for me:

Now 17, Krohn — who went on to write a book, “Defining Conservatism,” that was blurbed by the likes of Newt Gingrich and Bill Bennett — still watches that speech from time to time, but it mostly makes him cringe because, well, he’s not a conservative anymore.

Occasionally I run across things I wrote in my former life, and yes, I cringe too. And it’s not just me. I’ve talked to others who have walked similar path who have plenty of cringing moments. And of course, the worst is when a parent or relative tries to sway an argument by saying “but don’t you remember when you said X?” And yes. Yes, I remember. But that’s the position or argument that I am now arguing against.

“I think it was naive,” Krohn now says of the speech. “It’s a 13-year-old kid saying stuff that he had heard for a long time.… I live in Georgia. We’re inundated with conservative talk in Georgia.”

Exactly! The irony is that my parents, etc., think that the ideas I articulated at 13 were somehow really mine, and that the ideas I articulate today I articulate only to please my peers, or because I’ve been “brainwashed by liberal professors,” etc. I was naive to think I had everything figured out, but my parents and their peers should have known that people grow and mature and form their own views.

“The speech was something that a 13-year-old does. You haven’t formed all your opinions. You’re really defeating yourself if you think you have all of your ideas in your head when you were 12 or 13. It’s impossible. You haven’t done enough.”

Yes, yes, yes. I was silly to think at 13 that I had everything figured out. And it was silly for my parents and their peers to think that I and my peers had thoughtfully formed our opinions when we were merely parroting what we had heard from them our whole lives – and indeed, parroting the only political views we had ever heard.

“One of the first things that changed was that I stopped being a social conservative,” said Krohn. “It just didn’t seem right to me anymore. From there, it branched into other issues, everything from health care to economic issues.… I think I’ve changed a lot, and it’s not because I’ve become a liberal from being a conservative — it’s just that I thought about it more. The issues are so complex, you can’t just go with some ideological mantra for each substantive issue.”

When I started changing my views while in college, my father told me I’d been “brainwashed.” But, like this young man says, “it’s just that I thought about it more.” And yet, the idea that I could simply have thought through these issues further and formed new opinion on my own is somehow anathema. And that, my friends, is maddening.

When you’re 100% and completely positively sure you’re right, and when you’re so sure you’re right you’re unwilling to even consider any other views or arguments, you end up thinking that anyone who thinks differently from you must be “brainwashed” and that any child raised on the Truth ™ will naturally and honestly parrot, adopt, and forward your beliefs. Except, it doesn’t always work out that way. And when it doesn’t, someone is bound to get caught and chewed up in the gears.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


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