There was a time when I could visit with people I knew to be "conservative" about politics, the world, the economy, social trends, and expect a rational and sometimes even enlightening discussion. As time passed, I felt myself become more "conservative" in my views about what I thought governments should do and probably shouldn't do.
Those discussions remained rational because the people involved were sincere and genuinely interested in the best for everyone. If I had a good point, it'd get a hearing and once in a while even an agreement. I responded in kind always listening for underlying reasons for the point of view.
Several years ago, I noticed a shift. Those discussions started to get edgy. The back and forth respect for what each person was saying started to fade. The underlying reasons I was always looking for began to take on a harder, more concrete, more absolute tone. Opinions were being stated now as truisms and came out as challenges.
The venue for explaining ones views shrank. Circles of friends and acquaintances shifted awkwardly and a whole lot of conversations just plain ended. Business still goes on pretty much as usual but you can find yourself in a two hour car ride with someone afraid to broach any subject where there is a chance of a disagreement.
Recently, I took a tour of some so called conservative blogs. What I learned is that I must not be a Christian even though I always believed I was, and that I'm a traitor even though I always thought I could freely hold my own reasoned opinions.
Somewhere along the line, the notion that total allegiance to the Republican party line is what defines citizenship became the standard. It seems like anything outside of what you're told by the Republican machine makes you dangerous and the object of scorn, ridicule, threats and gets you ostracized.
There's no reasoning with it.
I feel sorry for a lot of things related to this but I keep thinking about my friends and acquaintances I used to visit with about the world. Many of them were pretty excited about the rise of the conservative movement in politics because they felt they were getting a voice. That's why the shift didn't freak me out like it did more liberal people.
Now I'm freaked out. I know some of my friends are looking at the current situation and not recognizing the values they hold dear. What remains to be seen is if they'll begin an earnest effort to change the situation or continue to put up with what's happening. If this group of well-reasoned, disciplined, and principled "conservatives" is happy with what they are getting then we're going down the road with 'em and there isn't much that can stop it.
Radicalism is an ugly thing and absolute power in the hands of radicals like we have running the country now isn't something I wish for my kids. There's too much at stake for all of us to have a small group of people taking everything for themselves.
Just stating my opinion is enough to get me in trouble. Sad.