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that was then, this is now (part infinity in the navel-gazing series)

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.
United
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.

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference that was then, this is now (part infinity in the navel-gazing series):

» And he can kiss mine too from it comes in pints?
"This insane, deranged, cowering Long Island housewife kindly asks that you kiss her proud American ass."... [Read More]

» He's not good enough to kiss her ass from Physics Geek
Michele posted a real doozy today. Apparently, someone calling himself the Angry American thought he could humiliate Michele by dredging things that she had written years ago, before her move to the Right. One of the things that I've long... [Read More]

» What it means to be nuanced from The Shape of Days
I tell people that I'm a 9/11 Democrat. I was a liberal all my life, in most respects; voted for Clinton twice and Gore in 2000. But when 9/11 happened, my priorities changed. Michele puts it better than I could. [Read More]

Comments

Michele, you may be a deranged housewife and indeed flat-out insane... but I'd rather have you on my side than a thousand propaganda tools like Drum or a like number of smugly ignorant losers like Willis. I'm proud to share a nation with you. YOU GET IT.

It's why we love ya, Darlin'. :-)

PS: Will you marry me?

Oh wait, I've already got a wife. But see, if we just embrace other cultures....

Honesty is never easy, but it's usually quite rewarding.

A foolish consistency, said Emerson, is the hobgoblin of small minds; a small mind like Angry American's apparently believes that if you were wrong once, you should stay wrong, dammit.

Eight years of piling up crap on my site has produced enough internal contradictions to keep a brace of shrinks busy for months at a time. Too bad. We are what we are, and that inevitably must include what we were.

Hon, you deserve FIVE pies for that.

Angry American, no pie for you.

Thanks Michele.

Right. On.

Michele

At least for you, you don't try and change your past (like certain leftist bloggers who sanitize their archives when they've found they've stuck their foot in it). You own up, explain your change and keep on pluggin'

As I've pointed out before, contemporary liberalism has little resemblance to the liberalism of John F. Kennedy, who said in his inaugural speech
We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom--symbolizing an end as well as a beginning--signifying renewal as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forbears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago.

The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe--the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans--born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage--and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

What contemporary liberal would ever publicly speak those sentiments? It's a weird twist that the Dems have become the Buchannanite isolationists who want to pull up the drawbridge and write off the rest of the world.

A@A doesn't get it ... by design.

Brava, Michele, brava.

Exactly, Darleen. The "Liberals" of today are anything but liberal.

Instead of advocating freedom and tolerance, they embrace the opposite.

Execellent post Michele.

Thanks for that, Michele. Would that there were lots more like you.

Wait... you actually have to ask people to kiss your ass?

You're losing your touch. Time to hit the stairmaster, babe.

good for you, michele. people grow, mature, and have a variety of experiences that alter their perceptions of the world, and the truly mature and adult can admit it, that they'ved erred in the past.

and 'angry american' is just a peevish ass.

John Kerry could learn some lessons from you. See, there is nothing wrong with changing your stance on issues. In fact, to me it shows you were open minded enough to consider the opposing arguements. You have the balls to stand up and say "Yes I believed that once, and now I believe differently." Kerry just wants to pretend it didn't really happen.

One of the big problems the Democrats have is an overconfidence in their ability to rewrite history. And sometimes I don't even think they consciously realize they're doing it - it's like they have a form of magical thinking where stating something passionately enough makes it become true.

And they've often been able to use unchallenged control of information to get away with it. Trouble is for them, (I think/hope) it doesn't work anymore. In the information age, truth has a way of being annoyingly persistent. The left can no longer be confident that they can send inconvenient facts from their past down the memory hole.

-- 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).--

I get the impression, however wrong, that his using the term "housewife" was meant to demean, disparage and insult you.

Just so you don't go all "Long Island Lolita" on us, so what?

Well done, Michelle. Not to take away your thunder, but I had one of those defining moments several years ago, ironically enough on a different 9/11.

Dang it, you made me cry too.

Thanks, Michele.

Epithanies can happen to anyone--so I'll share mine:

You know, Michelle, after I woke up at 3:00 am for my routine weak-bladder totter to the bathroom last night (itís an old man thing), I laid back down and the images of your fine twin-tower poster, as well as the newly-helmeted New York Terror Police vigilantly guarding Citicorp rose unbidden in my mindís eye. So I started thinking again about your last few terror threads.

Since Iím among friends here Iíll make a personal confession. All of a sudden, I felt like a death row inmate who has stopped all his appeals. I wasnít really interested in continuing to live. Iím still not. I think it was the thought of your proposed political strategem of planting posters just beyond the poll boundaries that did the trick.

Now Iím not going to do anything silly. My old heart can keep beating as long as it will endure. Iím just not interested anymore in squeezing extra miles out of it simply to stick around in America. And, no, donít be tiresome and tell me to go somewhere else.

For the first time in over 50 years I suddenly donít care whether America gets better or not, and, whether you agree with my politics or not, thatís a personal tragedy that needs no response of ďlove it or leave itĒ.

Through my youth and maturity I had hope that America could be a better place and not just the same place, that we could be a better people and not a worse people. All I have to do is look over the last twenty-five years of general misrule in this country to see that hope of a better America was forlorn.

And all I need to do is to look over the last twenty-five months to see that we have become a far worse people with the suddenness that ice melts into water.

When I read the political blogs now, I immediately see in my mind's eye the faces I remember in the crowd during the news footage in the 1950's and 1960's of the forced integration of Universities and schools. I thought, and still think, those faces were the worst our country had to offer to the world.

When 100% of the country wants to be safe and 47% of the country doesnít want it to be better, all the 47% has to do is dig in their heels and the country will either stay the same or get worse, but it wonít get better. Nothing but this has been going on now since 1980. That's a long time.

And when a ďwar on terrorĒ is added to the typical rhetoric a la Rush Limbaugh which has defaced our country now for a couple of decades, all hope is lost of getting anyone to admit that the people who disagree with them might simply be wrongónot liars, not traitors, not blackguards, not the scum of the earth, and not demonsóbut just wrong, people with bad ideas and nothing more.

There's nothing wrong with not voting for someone merely because you think he's wrong, so why must a candidate's character inevitably be assassinated in the process? What more need anyone do but vote against him?

But though my experience last night is a tragedy, I can see immediately that thereís a certain freedom that comes with it.

I donít have lovely children, like you, so if I no longer care if America gets better, itís not that much of a problem. I can play the odds that my heart will give up before all I cared for in America is lost entirely, which it might well be.

Iím a Democratic poll judge, and, for civic dutyís sake, I have to keep any politicing on the other side of the little flags 100 feet from the door, but anyone is welcome to parade all the posters beyond the little flags that you like.

Michele,

Thank you.

A lot of us grew up on Sept 11.

Darleen,

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

Those words are engraved on a coin that I carry with me at all times.

The other side of the coin has a picture of an eagle flying in front of our flag, and it says "Operation Enduring Freedom, Anti Terrorist Task Force"

My husband sent it to me from Afghanistan.

Joseph, it's interesting you see the schism during the mid-20th century.

It's the 60s boomers. They just have a different view of "getting better" than we do. And we tail-enders and below are finally finding our voices.

Politics has been even nastier in the past than it has been today. It's a shame they have to be so nasty during wartime, but so be it.

Joseph appears to think that there's something wrong with placing posters, quite legally, to remind people of something that's important to her that they should think about on election day. This is why the rules state 100 feet, and not 1000 feet, or 2 miles, or whatever it is. This is still America, after all.

And if Joseph really thinks America is a worse place today than it was 25 or 30 years ago, well, I must confess I find that a personal tragedy for Joseph, but not a tragedy for the human race, or America.

No one promised Joseph happiness. Merely the right to its pursuit. If it eludes him I'm sad for him, but I'm pleased to live in the freest, most tolerant, most pluralistic, most caring, and most hope-filled society in human history. If he's not, okay. That's his right as an American.

Joe Marshall thinks since people like Michele and others wish folks to remember the most pivotal event in recent history before voting, that America is no longer worth living in. He feels that he might as well die. He all but claims that if people who agree with Michele DON'T lose this election, than it won't be worth it to wake up in America any more, because "America will be lost entirely". THEN he claims that he's real upset about character assassination.

Thanks for sharing, Joe. Pick up your official "Dram Queen Merit Badge" on your way to the undertaker's, will you?
The REST of us will enjoy ourselves- and our country, which by your own words does not suit you anymore- quite fine without you, thanks.

I made my break back in the Reagan years, but it was very hard for me as well, because I wasn't just a liberal, I was an out and out leftist (as was most of my family).

September 11th and its aftermath was very tough for me because I knew that I would have cheered it in concept back in the 1970s (not the deaths of course, but the idea of toppling the twin towers of capitalism and the Pentagon).

Darleen and others are entirely correct in the changes over time in the meaning of "liberalism." Consider, for instance, Kerry's snarky complaint about spending money of fire stations in Iraq. This from the party of the Marshall Plan and the Peace Corps?

The Bush campaign ought to be pointing these things out.

Pardon me, Mr. Marshall, you need to come off the cross now, we need the wood.

/snark