A Set of Ideas that Rocked My Political Orientation as a Republican-Leaning Teenager

Posted on November 6, 2013 by

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“There is no such thing as a “black” and “white” world.”

“There is no such thing as those ‘eeeee-vil’ men.”

“There is no such thing as “good guys” or “bad guys.”

I remember that it was in an AOL chatroom about politics in the year 2000 where I realized, well, I guess I’m on the liberal Democratic side.

Up to that point, I’d thought of myself as a Republican because:  1)  Abraham Lincoln and 2) my dad had been one as well.  Here and there I would hear the word ‘Republican’ and ‘conservative’ latched on together. I thought those were good things; those very words described a shy teenager like me.

I wasn’t particularly political, and neither was my family.  We didn’t really go out of our way to find news.  In my formative years, we didn’t really talk about politics, and it seemed like the only news my folks cared about whatever happened to be on local TV or the radio and what was related to the Filipino community.  We didn’t really have much discussion about current events or anything — it might be mentioned in school by peers or teachers, but that was the extent of my current events knowledge.

However, during each presidential election season, I’d learn a little more, and come to re-affirm that I indeed identified with Republican principles.   I’d associated ‘Democrat’ with something ‘gross’ as early as 2nd grade.  My principal, also at a Catholic school in LA appeared to be voting for Clinton.  Meanwhile my dad was conservative and going with the ‘normal-sounding’, incumbent George H. Bush.  He sounded much better than the young upstart from Kansas.  I wondered why people didn’t like Bob Dole when he ran in 1996 and wondered why people laughed when he fell down while on tour during his campaign.  I thought that was particularly mean.

However, I remember this 16 years of learning changing over the course of a few months.

In an AOL chatroom in 2000, however, it seemed, history as taught by my AP US History Teacher was on his side.  Conversely, the people whom I identified with seemed to have a ‘lack of knowledge’ of history.

My AP US History teacher didn’t really make any effort to hide his leanings.  His room was adorned with bumper stickers and sayings.  One has been sticky over the year, “It’ll be a great day in history when schools have all the money they need and our air force has to have a bake sale to buy a bomber.”

Here, I could anticipate the arguments decrying the ‘liberal bias in education.’

But I counter that he wasn’t a preacher or proselytizer, as class was not based on any lecture format.  He would not bombard us with monologue lectures while standing in front of class;  a point he emphasized from day 1, from which we would then “barf” back dates and times about points in history.  Instead, he would sit almost leisurely on a leather chair with two rows of students.  Our classes were based on questions us students had about the our readings.  ‘The Socratic method’, he emphasized.  Our assignments were 2-page essays that emphasized arguments and active employ of action verbs (every sentence had to have one).  Results of his method?  Many students of his got 5’s on the AP Exam.  I only got a 3, enough to pass with college credit, but I did get a 700 (out of 800) on the SAT II’s US History Exam.

What he was, was and likely still is is a statement-maker.  A Reddish white guy, who also coached the golf team, he made it known that he leaned on one side, but made it known that he was arguing and that everyone had an opinion but had to be able to back it up.  Everything was an argument.  In his nasally Tom Brokaw-like voice, he argued often but playfully against students whom he suspected to be Republican, tying in parallels in history with current events in a way that no social studies had up to that point.

“Good guy”, “bad guy” talk had been a feature of the early goings of the George W. Bush presidency.  He pointed out the logical inconsistency and lack of reality described by such rhetoric.

Ala…

“There is no such thing as a “black” and “white” world.”

“There is no such thing as those ‘eeeee-vil’ men.”

“There is no such thing as “good guys” or “bad guys.”

In retrospect, this is what I remember, so I guess it shows something that has stuck.

These ideas underlayed my subconscious as I read the rhetorics of the AOL chatroom and later, AOL message boards, the earliest known Ancestors to Anatomically Modern Something Awful.

I became incensed by rhetoric that was defending George W. Bush and his rhetoric, as well as Ronald Reagan’s views about the world that actively employed the “good guy-bad guy” strategy when he talked about the then Soviet Union and how he “made” America prosper.

What I ultimately have taken away was that there is no moral high ground upon which Americans stand, and that what is evil is usually “constructed”, by political groups, by individuals — they are artifacts of the world, not things that are born or inherent.

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