In the comments on The Forgotten Enemy
, someone calling himself Angry American decided to play a little game with me. Basically, it was a game of catch. He threw my own words back at me. I caught them.
I figure his motive was this: to put the words out there so my own readers could attack them, and then he would come back and smugly point out that the paragraphs he inserted into his comments come from none other than me. I beat him to the finish line, though. I admitted right out in the comments that Angry American's "thoughts" were indeed mine.
It's not a big secret that I was once quite the opposite politically from where I stand now. I think I've written about it enough times for newer readers to know, and older readers were here when those words were originally written. Granted, some of the things Angry American printed are not in my archives, but that's just sheer laziness on my part and not an attempt to hide anything. In fact, I myself have linked to the archive.org sections where you can find all those old rants against Republicans, etc.
I have nothing to hide. I never attempted to sweep my former liberalism under the rug. Though I am embarassed at how easily swayed I was by my then compatriots and their conspiracy theories, it's not something I would wish away because I learned an awful lot from those years.
I liken it to my divorce. People often ask me, if you had to do it over again, would you do it the same way? Of course I would. I would not be the person I am today without having learned all of those lessons along the way. Everything in life is a learning experience and what we become because of those experiences is a good indication of just how much we learned (though, what I've become is up for debate. According to Oliver Willis and his commenters, I've become insane and should not be taken seriously. According to Kevin Drum's comments, I've become a deranged Long Island housewife. Hmm..can one work full time and still be considered a housewife? And I thought that term was un-PC, anyhow).
So a few people who picked up on the exchange in those comments emailed and asked what it was all about. One person in particular asked if there was one singular defining moment for me when I realized I was on the the "wrong" side of the fence.
Yes and no. In many ways, it was gradual and I won't rehash that again because it's all here
. But I did say this in my email:
bq. I realized how uncomfortable I had become with myself and how dishonest I was being with myself. I looked at my friends and family and sensed their feeling of unity and togetherness after all this and I felt lost and left out. I wanted to join them. I wanted to put a flag on my car and pledge allegiance and stand up for my country and its leaders, but I was afraid of what my fellow liberals would think of me. So I kept with the party line and kept repeating everything they were saying in the forums and in their mass emails; I listened to the conspiracy theories and actually contemplated a few of them and I hated myself. I hated that I was so worried about keeping up appearances with these people that I was lying to myself. So, defining moment? Maybe two.
And I went to archive.org and dug up these two posts, both from September, 2001.:
Yesterday, on my way to Pete's wake, I saw a woman standing on the side of the road with her children, holding up signs pointing to the local flea market, where they were accepting donations to send to the rescue workers. I saw lawns and fences decorated with flags. I saw a whole schools dressed in red, white and blue. I keep thinking back to high school, when the hostages were held in Iran and everyone drove around with their headlights on during the day in a show of solidarity. We stared out of the window of our classroom, awed by the swelling patriotism that engulfed our country. I remember the Gulf War, the yellow ribbons tied to trees, the signs on windows of families who had loved one overseas "Pray for Claude," said one, and I know a lot of people did, whether they knew him or not.
Times like these tend to bring people together. I am not a flag-waving patriotic kind of person. If you are a regular reader here, you know I have my problems with this country, with our leader. Yes, I know I am lucky to live in a free country. But living in a free country also provides me with the freedom to criticize it. I have railed against George W. Bush here many times, almost on a daily basis. But now I have to place my trust in him, and the people he chose to surround himself with during his term. I have to put aside whatever came before this and trust him to do the right thing. And I have no idea what that right thing is. I can't imagine being the people in the unenviable position of having to choose what that is. We have to trust. We have to have faith in our leaders. We cannot become divisive. We cannot take our anger out on the wrong people.
What I just witnessed was strength in numbers.
I was taking a quick drive to the store. One block away. As I pulled into the lot, I saw a couple across the street standing outside their building, holding candles. There was supposed to be a candlelight vigil at 7, but it was too light out then. So I figured this couple just came out when it got dark. Very sweet. Then I looked down the block. At least every other house or building had people outside of it, candles and flags held high. I forgot what I had come to the store for and drove out the lot and down the road. All down North Jerusalem Rd., the people stood. They waved, they sang. I turned north onto Gardiners Avenue and the numbers doubled. Down the side streets, they were there. The people who weren't outside had left lit candles by the sidewalks. Old, young, parents, children. They were all out. I decided to swing home and stop at my mother's to let her know. I passed DJ's school and had to stop my car to get a better look at what I was seeing. There were about 400 people, maybe 500. All with candles. All singing, holding hands, hugging. And I couldn't get out and join them. Because I finally broke down.
I pulled over down the next street and stopped the car. I cried. Finally, I cried hard and long and I hyperventilated and had a panic attack. And I stayed there, gasping for air and wiping my tears with my sleeve and sobbing like a little kid. I cried for everything that happened the last few days. I cried for my father, who is walking around like a lost child. I cried for my cousins, who have been sifting through rubble and body parts non stop and will never be the same again. I cried for the vicitms, the survivors, the witnesses. I cried for everyone in this country. And I cried for my kids. Because they will never experience the freedom and safety I felt as a child.
There were some good tears. There were tears of thanks for every rescue worker, every hero, every volunteer. Tears for every person who has comforted someone who needed it. For every kind gesture, every candle lit, every person in another country who has grieved with us.
Then I had a thought. They think they broke us. But I think maybe they fixed us.
Well, hindsight is interesting. We're still very much a broken country. But I suppose it will always be that way. I was naive to think that something of that magnitude would bring us all together permanently. I really, honestly thought that I wouldn't be the only one crossing that line and embracing the other side. And no, it didn't happen overnight, it didn't even happen after those two "defining" moments. It takes time to break free from the things that hold you down. And, like my separation from my ex, it took time to work up the courage to say, I cannot live like this anymore
So, yes. I did say those things Angry American wrote and I thank him (her?) for bringing those words out again, to remind me of how far I've come personally, from a time when I could barely look at myself in the mirror to now, being very comfortable with who I am. There was a lot more than politics mixed into the path from here to there, but the letting go of that part of me was a big part of it.
I'm sorry, Mr. Angry American, but your desired results are probably quite the opposite of what you were attempting to do.
This insane, deranged, cowering Long Island housewife kindly asks that you kiss her proud American ass.