[Note: rather a lot of this was written in early March 2011, but it sat for some time before I got back to it. A new friend’s feedback encouraged me.]
I’m not entirely sure, but I think I might always have been a conservative, without really realising it. I’m still trying to figure that out. But I almost never voted Conservative. I think, except maybe for once, I never voted NDP. I was usually voting Liberal, both federally and provincially. Largely, that was due to my family, my school, and my Church, but I could never bring myself to swing further left than that.
When I moved to Calgary, I joined a riding that was so deep blue, no vote of mine would make a difference. So I voted Libertarian federally and Wild Rose Alliance provincially (in their first election). I plan to vote WRA again. With Prentice gone (what a jack-off), I voted CPC in the last election without feeling too sullied, but I doubt it made a difference. There was no Libertarian candidate this time around, so no worries there.
That’s where I stand now, but how did I get here?
I remember developing interest in news and politics somewhat in elementary school. As something we did on a weekly basis, Fridays I think, we did posters or quizzes on “current events”. That kind of opened up the world to me a little bit, which heretofore I hadn’t much cared about. I don’t think I took sides then, or anything. It was largely a regurgitation exercise, and I believed something that appeared in print or on TV. They weren’t trying to teach us much in the way of critical thinking or analysis, just summary and repetition.
I vaguely remember from that time the Iranian hostage crisis, for example, and feeling proud that Canadians had a hand in getting some of the Americans out. I remember reading crappy Canadian history books in class that ended with the Diefenbaker prime-ministership. And I remember having a very strong interest in military history, partly due to a love of airplanes (the best planes were fighter planes). Unfortunately, most of the military history available to me was American and European, rather than anything Canadian. I forget how old I was when I learned who Laura Secord really is or that we burned the White House (assuming it was us and not just British forces stationed here).
My interest in news, history, and current events carried on through my high-school life (and, indeed, continues today). My perception of it changed over the years, though. In high school I spent a couple of years in Air Cadets. I generally enjoyed the experience, and I probably would have gone forward with a career in the military, but all I was interested in at the time was flying, and when I realised in grade ten that I needed glasses, that killed that hope for me. I didn’t re-join cadets the following year, either. I still kind of regret that, even though my excuse at the time was that it was taking too much time away from my academics. Purely a rationalisation, I think now, because I didn’t need to work at all hard in school. I maintained, though, my interest in and support of our military. I attended air shows and went to other military displays. It was in elementary school where I developed a sense of nationalism, and I was always somewhat offended that promoting Canadian nationalism was seen as being “too American”. It was in the vein of “all problems and wars are the result of being too nationalistic”, or some other simplistic bullshit. To my shame I largely kept quiet on that subject, but I was also quietly proud.
My interest in firearms arose largely from Scouts, believe it or not. At camp one year, it was the first time I fired a rifle (or firearm of any type). It was a simple .22LR of some variety with open sights; I don’t remember if it had the usual 5-round magazine, but I expect it did. I was able, on the camp range, to hit small targets at 50 yards or so (eg the plastic boxes the ammo came in) and see them fly up with fragments. I found that exciting, but it was also a little scary to me, because I understood that these tools can be dangerous also. I don’t recall if I ever had any position on gun control before then or not. I doubt it. Even after that, I kind of waffled somewhat, because I held the belief for some time that restricting access to firearms could be a good thing. Eventually, however, I realised that “gun control” should only ever mean “tight groupings” and “hitting your target”. Sure, require licenses and maybe background checks, but the licenses shouldn’t be overly restrictive or difficult to obtain. Otherwise, there really shouldn’t be any restrictions, except perhaps for certain types of military-grade hardware. And there should be more education about and promotion of firearms in the general population. But going beyond this is another post.
[Tangent] Castle Doctrine: enact one. Enough said. It’s just getting stupider out there. [Edit: the CPC has made some changes to current laws, but they’re not enough.]
Property rights: enact them. Enough said. [/Tangent]
In high school I was still surrounded by largely leftist politics. Fortunately, it was mostly charity-based, but there was a lot that wasn’t. At one point I was peer- and parent-pressured into getting a youth membership in the federal Liberal party to help push through an openly pro-life candidate’s nomination/election as party leader . He didn’t win, but it wasn’t a surprise. I got to join the others on a moral high horse that our consciences were salved by our actions, except I always felt a vague sense of unease about it. At this remove, I’m not quite sure why, but I think I had some sort of sense that it wasn’t right. At any rate, I always had a sense that I was out of step with those around me, but I really didn’t know why.
University provided a more-broad opportunity to interact with the world. Living in a university city meant that I and most of the college-bound people from my high school ended up staying close to home and relatively intact as a group. So their influence shadowed me, and my circle of friends didn’t expand much, as there was no need. But again, there was exposure to new, and enhanced opportunities for independent research. Universities tend to lean left, and ours was no exception, but if you looked, you could see alternate viewpoints. They conflicted with “my” world-view, though, so I tended to ignore them. I suspect, however, that some of what I was exposed to stuck with me, whether I willed it or not.
I attempted initially to become a teacher, but I chose a science-based curriculum (I had been somewhat inspired to become a physics teacher). This is a general dichotomy, as teachers and their unions tend to frown on rational thought, but science requires it. During my third year of study, I was on a practicum replacement in a rural high school at the same time that a province-wide strike vote was being held by the union. This opened my eyes in a way nothing else had, as we student teachers were inside the teachers’ lounge and treated as colleagues. I saw the profession’s warts and was disheartened. Between this and the struggle get my science/math grades up (I, stupidly, chose the real curriculum, rather than the one intended for teachers, and lacking proper study skills and too stubborn to get help, could not deal with the more advanced courses), I did not enter the 4th and final year of the program, instead burning the remainder of my scholarship on classes I enjoyed (literature of various types). I took the following year off to figure out what to do with myself, as the plans I had no longer worked for me. This is, of course, all by-the-by, insofar as the thesis of this post goes, but it does help frame my experiences.
Around this time, I acquired a female friend from a rural area that resulted in several things: a more intimate exposure to ideas that were not the same as those with which I was raised; and forced acknowledgement that my friends had some flaws that from some perspectives might be viewed as problematic. I make no claim to perfection myself, but these were the types of flaws that break friendships, either sooner or later. Challenging ideas and removing blinkers were additional contributions to modifying what I believed politically; it also turned out that my problems with the Church became more crystalline-clear, and at the end of my 4th year of university, I left both it and the Church. Perhaps ironically, my female friend returned to the Church…an even exchange. So, my voyage continued, ideas meshing, fighting, losing, and triumphing.
(more to come…)