Nature and Nurture, the Internal Conflict

In this post, liberal does not mean “of the contemporary American left” and conservative does not mean “of the contemporary American right” though there is at least some overlap (in other cases, they are in opposition).

I was born, I think, with something of a liberal soul. I was unusually creative even as a little sprite. I was the kid who looked at all the rules and asked “why?” even more than most other kids. This continued into adolescence. There’s nothing remarkably unusual about this. Young people questioning authority is hardly an unusual concept. I was ahead of some of my peers, and behind others.

The “behind others” may, as much of anything, have had little to do with my soul, however. Rather, I was raised in a rather conservative environment. Not religious-fundamentalist. Not even Republican – though I assumed my parents were Republicans for the longest time. Rather, a household of anti-entitlement, a little skepticism towards charity, and where rules we couldn’t understand were still rules (not just parental authority rules). My parents weren’t actually all that strict, compared to a lot of people I knew, but there was an atmosphere. They used soft influence more than threats when it came to my hair getting too long, for instance, or friends of which they disapproved.

In high school, I started making friends with a fair number of counter-culture types. They were people I bonded with, even though they had pink hair and nose-rings while I had a traditional haircut and wore button shirts. They did things it would never have occurred to me to do. I had parents that would push back when my hair started coming over my ears. They never lectured me against drugs, but rather raised me in an atmosphere where they were unthinkable.

What turned me away from liberalism, to at least some degree, is the realization that their system was right far more than it was wrong. I couldn’t live within the parameters of their world. It was never in my liberal soul to do so. But their system pulled me back from so many mistakes it was ridiculous. When my soul’s ideology ran up against theirs, they usually won. Sometimes in the form of preventing from doing something that was a mistake. Often in the form of having made a mistake by not letting their voice in my head prevent me from doing them.

Myself at seventeen and myself at nearly twice that age would not recognize one another. They would not get along remarkably well.

“What do you mean I should cut my hair? You sound just like my parents.”

“Listen, kid. You’re a freak. Don’t try to deny it. We both know you are. There are some ways that you will never be able to conform to society. But your hair? That’s one way where you can. Cut your damn hair.”

The conservatism was an anchor. Since I could never walk the straight line, it always prevented me from straying too far from it. It prevented me from being too much a victim of what I have come to see as my own poor internal judgment. My own tendency to want to knock down boundaries simply because I do not immediately see why they are there. To accept the wisdom of my surroundings, even if the actual wisdom of it all eluded me. Not forcing me to follow all rules without question, but nonetheless forcing me to come up with a strong affirmative argument any time I wanted to break them.

My parents, as it turned out, were never as conservative as I thought. My father was a district delegate for Barack Obama. My mother, another liberal soul who was mugged by reality, would tell me not to do what she would have wanted to do and, in some cases, what she did. She told me I had to go to college, though half-expected me to flunk out and was fully prepared to love and embrace me anyway. She had some strong ideas on who I would marry, and it wasn’t who she thought I would marry (Clancy is somewhere in between – she’s thrilled) and she was fully prepared to love and embrace me anyway. The ways in which they made clear they would never support me, they would have supported me in the end (within reason).

They presented me with an illusory world of conformity that, the older I have gotten, the more I realized never fully existed in the Truman household. They bucked the system in more ways than I ever realized. Like me, they had their own tendencies that were at odds with their environment. Like me, they conformed where they could, but did not where it wasn’t in them to do so (though, with them, it was more a matter of socioeconomic class than internal ideology).

Sometimes I think it is the conflict between my nature and my nurture that leaves me so… conflicted… about so many things. In politics it gets more complicated still (my conservative nurture leading me to Democratic sympathies, and vice-versa), but the squishiness you see before you stretches to many things beyond who I should vote for and which political positions I support. They go to which job I should take, who I dated, and my feelings about where I went to school and what I majored in. The natural inclination that the system should never stand in the way of who you are and the life you want to lead, and the nurtural inclination that the system exists for a reason.

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.


  1. I have nothing substantive to add, except to say how much I enjoyed reading this piece.

  2. Bravo! Specially liked this bit:

    The conservatism was an anchor. Since I could never walk the straight line, it always prevented me from straying too far from it. It prevented me from being too much a victim of what I have come to see as my own poor internal judgment. My own tendency to want to knock down boundaries simply because I do not immediately see why they are there. To accept the wisdom of my surroundings, even if the actual wisdom of it all eluded me.

    Without that anchor and the tensions thus created, how would any of us know if we were evolving? The real freaks, the ones who make a difference, aren’t the kids with the pink hair and the nose rings. They’re the conformists. They’re told “Thus do rebellious children dress and behave. Behold our chintzy wares, sold by sullen attendants at the Rebellious Store. Buy them and Be Someone.”

    See, the real freaks, the real nonconformists, they learn the art of camouflage. They know their parents love them. If they rebel, they do so in far more interesting ways.

    • Blaise, have you read Nation of Rebels? A little dated now, perhaps, but I found it a very worthwhile read. Even if I am sometimes guilty of it.

        • Ah the problem of too many books and not enough time, I am very aware of this problem.

          If there is a paradise after life and I am admitted, I would love said paradise to have all the books in the world along with all the art and film and theatre. Nice additions would be if paradise looked like Greenwich Village or Paris in high autumn and Maggie Gyllenhaal was my girlfriend.

          • BlaiseP,

            He also wrote a story about a library that contained every possible book in the universe and the characters went through, book by book, to find one that was intelligible instead of random letters next to each other.

          • I love Borges.

            I arrive now at the ineffable core of my story. And here begins my despair as a writer. All language is a set of symbols whose use among its speakers assumes a shared past. How, then, can I translate into words the limitless Aleph, which my floundering mind can scarcely encompass? Mystics, faced with the same problem, fall back on symbols: to signify the godhead, one Persian speaks of a bird that somehow is all birds; Alanus de Insulis, of a sphere whose center is everywhere and circumference is nowhere; Ezekiel, of a four-faced angel who at one and the same time moves east and west, north and south. (Not in vain do I recall these inconceivable analogies; they bear some relation to the Aleph.) Perhaps the gods might grant me a similar metaphor, but then this account would become contaminated by literature, by fiction.

          • I would love said paradise to have …all the art and film

            Does that include “art films”?

          • James, I have it on good authority Jesus isn’t going to let the snobs and poseurs into Heaven. They’ll get to hang out in a suburb of Hell, which will look an awful lot like the Siskel Film Center. They will think it’s Heaven.

            Sartre tells us Hell is other people. But mostly it’s other snobs.

          • Blaise, I meant the euphemistic “art film.” I’m not sure many snobs watch those. But I do agree that heaven should be sans snobs. Or, if as seems likely, I’m not there, that they’re not in my district of hell.

          • Nowadays, “art film” just means “not made from a comic book or a TV show”.

  3. This is a very good post and I can relate to a certain extent.

    I was not raised in a conservative household. My parents understood that me drinking a little beer at parties or drinking some beer/wine with them was better than getting trashed on vodka at parties. Also that smoking a little pot was fine and might prevent me from experimenting with really hard stuff. Then again, so does my dislike of needles and not being able to wrap my head around the idea of snorting things up my nose. They also were very encouraging of my interests in theatre, art, film and literature, and did not push me towards a get a job major.

    At the same point, I have never been very counter-culture. I don’t have piercings, or tattoos, or dye my hair unusual colors. My general reaction to seeing 20-somethings with full-sleeve tattoos is a very old-fashioned “How is that going to look when you are 80?” My general reaction to neck and face tattoos is “How are you going to get a good job?” I do wear jeans and t-shirts but now my summer preference is probably for a button up shirt of linen with the sleeves rolled up. This is not to say I dress like a dad though. I’m against the chinos with running sneakers look. 😉

    Though it does baffle me to see guys in their 40s who are still dressing like they did at 15: Vans, shorts, band t-shirts, etc. Perhaps these guys are still trying not to be their dads and I look at the guys in their 40s and rebel against them trying to keep their 20s alive forever.

    The sociologist Daniel Bell used to describe himself as a “socialist in economics, a liberal in politics, and a conservative in culture.” I have some kinship with this quote especially aspects on the culture front. Large chunks of current American culture seem to be trapped in the kinder-sphere. I am mystified by guys in their 30s and 40s who are still very excited and constantly post about G.I. Joe, Mutant Ninja Turtles, Voltron, Robotech, and Thundercats. I liked these cartoons when I was a kid as well and have some nostalgia for them but I find them boring to watch now largely. I’ve moved on and into other things. There seem to be a whole movement of people whose cultural and entertainment tastes have not advanced beyond being 12.

    Though I am told that this makes me uptight and a kind of snobby.

    • I’m currently watching The Adventures of Pete and Pete (a fine scrap of surrealist art)
      I heartily recommend you watch Kodomo No Omocha.

      There is plenty of literature out there for kids that everyone could stand to read.

      That said, I cannot see GI Joe, nor TMNT as being “high children’s art” — just not deep or complex enough. There’s a level at which something is actually good, and a level at which it’s simply filler.

      • This is not to say that all children’s entertainment is bad and lacking in depth. The original Looney Tunes were very subversive in their own ways. And I never liked Pete and Pete when I was a kid either. Perhaps this is because I am an identical twin. From K-12 people were too lazy to distinguish between us and we were just called by our last name by classmates. I really hated this. So perhaps that aspect of Pete and Pete hits too close to home. Now my brother has a beard and I am clean-shaven so getting us confused is an impossible.

        However, I think people are over playing the idea that YA lit and other kid’s entertainment is being overplayed in cultural criticism. I don’t think the Hunger Games is bad but it is not revolutionary in either plot or prose. I would have to at least say that the Lord of the Rings trilogy was more revolutionary in terms of impact on literature and culture and this is on both plot (or at least source material mined) and prose (even if I find it wooden).

        As someone else said on a certain level every American is conservative about something but also feels compelled to rebel against something. Maybe this is more than being an American but a part of the human condition. I think that constant pop culture has taken over too much of the American culture scene. I am largely very glad not to have been in my 20s or 30s during the 1960s but one thing that I do miss is that there was a serious culture that many people latched onto. A lot of young people did get excited over Truffaut, Goddard, Kurosawa and other films.

        • I do think that children’s entertainment is getting markedly better than it was, in most respects. Particularly than it was when I was growing up (80’s and 90’s). A quick look at the old He-Man and the new He-Man is pretty remarkable in how different they are. Which is not to say that the new He-Man constituted Higher Art. Airbender, from what I have seen of it, is quite remarkable in comparison to the stuff of yesteryear.

          (On the other hand, Power Rangers is still around. The 2004 Batman series is poor in comparison to The Animated Series. So it’s all far from perfect.)

        • Wish they’d show more “exciting and good” films, rather than more Jane Austen in high school.

      • I don’t usually get to agree with Kimmi, so I’ll grab the chance: Pete and Pete is awesome.

    • My aversion to tattoos and piercings is related to both my internal liberalism and internalized conservatism. The conservative looks at it as an unnecessary deviance from social norms with unnecessarily accumulated consequences. The liberal looks at it as a trap, of sorts. Trapping the you of tomorrow with your preferences of today. When I was in middle school I had a personality-turn of sorts (as is not uncommon) and so I always had the (“What would you have done in the 6th grade”). This didn’t really apply to hair-length or hair coloring, though, because that could always be undone.

      As far as entertainment goes, I have an appreciation of the nostalgic aesthetics of the childhood favorites. My screen-saver slideshow contains hat-tips to Thundercats and Voltron. But I recognize it for what it is and any attempt to actually go back and watch them depresses me. There’s a new Thundercats, which appears to be well done, which excites me on some level but not on a level that makes me want to watch it. I still like my Batman, though.

      I could write posts and posts about the 40/15 dynamic you refer to. When I was working at Large Software Company with a ridiculously lax dress code requirement, I tried growing my hair out for the first time in ages. The end-result was that I felt silly. It comes across to me as lacking dignity and the self-respect of your age and position (or aspired position) in the world. This is in good part a product of the nurture, though.

      I do resist dress shoes pretty hard. It’s one of those areas where I have found great personal difficulty in conformity. Steel-toed Cats all the way, whenever not prohibited. Serving the same purpose as cowboy boots back home (and here, to an extent).

      • I am sort of the same way that my aversion to piercings/tatoos is both liberal and conservative. I also have the trappings of Jewish prohibitions against them even though I am not very religious. A lot of younger Jews are getting tattoos though and they justify it as “reclaiming” them from the Nazis but how can you reclaim what was never yours to begin with? I think they would be more intellectually honest if they equated the prohibition against tattoos to the laws of kosher; maybe the rule made sense thousands of years ago but not any more.

        I think that the 40/15 culture does seem more prevalent in the software industry and certain geographic locations than others. I live in SF and see it a lot.

        My background is not in tech though. I was in the arts and then went to law as the arts became unrealistic. I used to not be into clothing at all and has very lax in how I dressed but the combination of being in art and law made me more interested in clothing. There is also an aesthetic aspect that attracts my art brain. The law angle made me more aware of the pleasures of a very nice suit. Not a cheap suit.

        And shoes are good too. I like how a good pair contrasts well with jeans. Why don’t you like dress shoes? Dress shoes and boots have the same comfort level for me.

        Though I think part of the embrace of nostalgia-d0minance is that many people feel the traditional markers of adult hood are not immediately tenable or realistic anymore. It is no longer super-common or super-advisable to get married around your senior year of college. I read the novel for MASH during the summer and was immediately struck by the fact that all the characters were very young (around 26-29) but also were married and had kids. This means they were having kids while still in medical school or during their residencies. I think most people in med school would now consider than insane but it used to be a norm.

        • Though I have almost always worked in tech (my current foray into substitute teaching aside), most of my jobs have involved software development geared towards one industry or another. It’s included the oil industry, the banking industry, car sales and distribution, retail, and straight-up software and consumer electronics. With the exception of the outlier that required written notification that you were going to grow facial hair, the cultures are almost exactly what one would expect.

          In the tech industry, 40/15 very much is the prevailing culture, when it’s not tied to another industry as is the case on most of my resume. With the exception of the Big Brother corporation that went overboard (a suit and tie is counterproductive if you’re going to be flat on your back underneath someone’s workstation), I actually find myself more comfortable in an environment where professionals are expected to dress like professionals.

          Except the shoes, of course. As for the why on the shoes, some of it may be related to how dreadfully uncomfortable they were when I was growing up and some negative mental association on my part. The other thing is that I don’t like my ankles exposed (even underneath pants). Going back to K-12, I tended to wear high-tops. My “tennis shoes” now are actually sk8r shoes.

          The culture among doctors is interesting. I only get to see two subsections of it (primary care and obstetrics), but modestly early starts on families are not as unusual as I would have expected. By the start of residency, almost every doctor seems to be married. Most had kids in my wife’s residency, though that was in Mormonland. A number of them take advantage of welfare programs (also Mormonland, so I don’t know how typical that is). Clancy says that in medical school (a flagship state U in the south) 2/3 of the men were married or engaged by graduation (far less for the women). There may be a point at which waiting for the right time would take so long that they just get started anyway. Or it may be skewed by the different mentality in my wife’s specialty and the southern and Mormonland angle.

          • I think there are certainly geographic and religious angles at play. I grew up in the not-very religious Northeast. My classmates were (probably) largely told like me that you don’t get married or have kids until you are well-established in your career. My mom was 34 when I was born and my twin brother and I are her first and only kids. 34 was fairly old for first pregnancies in 1980. Now it seems more common. A lot of people I know from high school and college are just now in the end: engagement, married, have kids stage. Quite a few are like me and it seems far-ish away because we are still getting established, some are still in or just entering grad school in their early-30s.

            More cynically, if you think you need to wait until marriage to have sex, you are going to get married young (probably).

            Interestingly I generally don’t mind having my ankles exposed (though I always wear socks and pants. Never shorts). All of my sneakers are low-tops.

          • You know what’s insane? Wearing bluejeans in 100-degree Gulf Coast weather. You know who is insane? I am.

            I think you’re right about regionality, though also a factor is basic SES. I was raised in an educated suburb, and the norms you speak of were pretty common, give or take a few years. I think that in general we’re reaching a point where rubber hits road as post-graduate degrees become more common and a lot of people waited too long.

            I think this is particularly the case for doctors. Even if in general you want to wait, you’re looking at a much longer timeline. We did The Responsible Thing and waited for things to settle down and establish, but they just never did. Medical school (I wasn’t there for that), residency, fellowship, waiting on a second fellowship, second fellowship, then starting a new job. For us it was further complicated by a medical issue that made us wait, and then coming to the determination that her current job wasn’t sustainable. So the kid is due in late October, and next summer she will be unemployed again (unless she lines something up between now and then). In retrospect, the other doctors had the right idea. We just feel fortunate that pregnancy came so soon after trying.

            In other corners of the south, of course, early pregnancy and early marriage are a lot less uncommon. Religiosity having a lot to do with that. Also, in some corners anyway, a lack of economic opportunity.

            More cynically, if you think you need to wait until marriage to have sex, you are going to get married young (probably).

            I think this is quite right. Religion has, on the whole, done a poor job of coming to terms with this. The LDS church being a prime counterexample, though. One of the impressive things about it is that they seem to know the score and work their culture towards appropriate matching and reproduction early while keeping educational and economic opportunities open for those who choose to do so.

            The Catholic Church, as well as southern evangelicalism, haven’t quite come to grips with it yet. Or don’t seem to have. In the south, at least, you have a mixture of middle class people who want their kids to wait and the less educated and less well-to-do ones where they are less likely to see the point, and a lack of controlling authority as with the LDS*. The Catholic Church has the authority and structure in theory, but not in practice like LDS Church seems to (at least in Mormonland).

            * – In case you don’t know (and I don’t mean to be condescending if you do), the Southern Baptist Church is not remarkably hierarchical. The International Church of Christ is anti-hierarchy. Pentacostals seem more confederated as well. Not to mention independent Bible Churches and evangelical non-denominational stand-alones.

          • Will,

            Yeah some people certainly do wait to long and this can lead to other issues regarding the child.

            Around the time of the 2008 Presidential election, there was an article in the New Yorker called “Red Sex, Blue Sex” It was by Margaret Talbor or Jill Lepore and it dealt with the attitudes towards teenage sexuality across the United States.

            IIRC, the article stated that Jewish-American young people were the group least likely to find anything immoral about pre-marital sex but the most likely to delay having sex. The reasoning being that an unplanned pregnancy could hurt economic and educational opportunities. You can’t exactly go on a Fullbright or Rhodes Scholarship if you have a kid or take a really interesting job opportunity.

            What is odd is that our American ancestors were not always as puritanical as we seem to be today. In the book, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America, David Hackett Fisher mentions that in New England, pre-marital sex was fairly common. Especially after engagements were announced, so it was not uncommon to have a pregnant bride on her wedding day.

          • Will,

            In you weather, I would probably go for a nice pair of linen pants.

          • ND, my current weather is high desert. It’s been a particularly hot summer, but not like the old days down south.

            The reasoning being that an unplanned pregnancy could hurt economic and educational opportunities. You can’t exactly go on a Fullbright or Rhodes Scholarship if you have a kid or take a really interesting job opportunity.

            Oh, that makes complete sense. I strongly suspect that there was more waiting going on at my high school than at my ex-girlfriend’s. Mine was more red than hers, though hers was likely more evangelically religious on the whole*, but I would bet that there was more waiting at my school.

            What is odd is that our American ancestors were not always as puritanical as we seem to be today. In the book, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America, David Hackett Fisher mentions that in New England, pre-marital sex was fairly common. Especially after engagements were announced, so it was not uncommon to have a pregnant bride on her wedding day.

            I could be completely wrong on this, but I think it has to do with the conspicuousness of premarital sex. That is to say, the more conspicuous it is, the more people need to speak out against it. I consider the rise of religiosity that accompanied the rise of atheism to be attributable to this, sort of. As long as something is going on and nobody is speaking of it, you can kind of overlook it. When people start getting together, having sex, then breaking up and having sex with others, and then everybody knows about it, this starts getting a response. This is, admittedly, guesswork on my part.

            * – Her town was a late hold-out of going from Yellow Dog to Republican. They finally flipped around the middle of the last decade.

          • Steel toed Cats would seem useful in substitute teaching.

          • My first assignment involved first graders. As a reward, I would let one of them ride on my foot (sometimes, one on each foot) around the classroom. Having large feet (size 15) and steel-toed shoes (I checked with the district first) were both quite helpful.

            (There was this one very sad little girl – she apparently has problems in the home – and the foot ride was the only time she smiled or took off the sullen face the two days I was there. I got a very nice little valentine from her on the second day, which happened to be V-Day.)

          • Sure, take my nasty implication and turn it into a feel good story. You’re just too decent a person, you know? 😉

            As to ways of dressing…I am a dedicated shorts person. It is my concession to a society that insists I wear clothes. I would prefer to be roaming naked in the woods. I go barefoot as often as I can–in summer it’s rare for me to wear anything more than sandals on my feet. The academic year is sort of hellish. There are no formal dress requirements at my school, but unlike many west coast public universities the informal standard is to dress “professionally,” plus I feel it’s more respectful to my students. But that means I’m wearing dress shoes and–god help me–a tie. But I just can’t bear the long sleeves, so I always have the sleeves of my dress shirt rolled up.

          • My feelings on attire: I’ve always hated jeans, found them inflexible (I suspect if I found Real Jeans and not Fashion For Women, I’d have a different opinion…), and I loathe dress shoes.

            Give me sneakers, so I can get to my appointments on time!
            Business Casual makes sense, but I’m most thankful that I can work in an office where I can dress a little out of the norm (mismatching socks), without having to dress exotically.

      • Also what is interesting and also probably very hypocritical for me is the kind of rebellion against societal mores that I appreciate and the kind of rebellion against societal norms that turns me off.

        There are lot of artists: Robert Mapplethorpe, Bansky, Tony Kusher, Carryl Churchill, Judy Chicago, Brecht, Beckett, Andre Serras, Karen Finley, Ginsburg, Goddard, and many more that I love. All these artists have produced work or works that a one-time or still is considered shocking, controversial, boundary-pushing and questioning of societal norms.

        Yet at the same time, I am not interested in a lot and even repulsed by a lot of truly anti-social scenes like the Juggalos (fans of Insane Clown Possee) and really fringe Heavy Metal.

        There are almost certainly class angles at play here. I grew up in an area where liking the first group was considered a mark of sophistication despite or because of there provocative nature. Meanwhile the second group are largely just considered noise thrashers.

        This is not to say I would support censoring the second group. I am rather strong in my beliefs on the First Amendment but I do wonder if it is hypocritical to appreciate how one type of artist breaks societal norms but be completely repulsed by how another group does it?

      • My tattoo avoidance is similar. Often I see folks with great tattoos and am jealous. I think well-done sleeves look dope. But I am tattoo-less. Why? Because I haven’t yet found something that I care enough about or love enough to say, “I want THAT on my body for the rest of my life!” I’m sure many folks never regret their tattoos, but I know many who do (including my wife… she went the rebellious route at 18… fortunately it is small and well-hidden… plus I don’t know how rebellious we can really consider a unicorn… but I digress). At this point, I have zero confidence that I could choose something I wouldn’t regret. If I did? Sure, I might go for one. We’ll see…

  4. I very much enjoyed this piece and feel like I could have written it except for all of the mistakes I made that I now regret*.

    Thanks for writing it.

    *yeah, yeah, there’s the “wouldn’t be who I am now” mistakes that I don’t mind so much but the “as it turns out, you shouldn’t have done that” mistakes are the ones that stay with me.

  5. This is not to say that the culture/entertainment of my preferences is conservative. It is not. If anything, I like a lot of stuff that is likely to get me labeled a “New York-San Francisco coastal elitist”

    A lot of it is far from popular though. I have no interest in A Game of Thrones, Harry Potter was cute enough but not completely interesting, Hunger Games and the new YA craze is also puzzling to me. I’ve always found Tolkien to be a wooden writer.

    Now give me the releases from the New York Review of Books classics series and the Criterion Collection and I am happy as a clam. Give me the Brooklyn Academy of Music Next Wave Festival and Film Forum especially if they are showing a Truffaut retrospective. You know, things that are complex, nuanced, and treat me like an adult.

    This is not to say I am against all Hollywood movies or American pop culture but I find it harder and harder to find stuff I like. Too much of it seems aimed at spectacle over good stories, good characters, writing, and acting. Thoufh IIRC, Hollywood sees teenage boys of all ages as their basic audience.

    • Do you want nuance in character, or do you want it in story? For I often find it hard to find both in the same place.

      Perhaps Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex… little else.

  6. Why are you hiding this back here? This is front-page material.

  7. Really good stuff Will. We are all such a mix of influences. Almost all of us have a conservative streak of some sort, although that can come out in many ways. And all of us, as americans, have a need to rebel against something.

    • And all of us, as americans, have a need to rebel against something.

      Ain’t that the truth.

      My wife was born with a much more conservative soul than mine, and was raised in a more conservative household than I was. The result was… more than a little bit of rebellion. For her and her conservative-souled sister. The exception to their household dynamics, if we were to consider it an exception, is that they were raised as if they were boys in a way: You will do well in school, you will go to college and get a career degree, you will support yourself and rely on others as little as possible. Implicit in this, though largely unintended, is that you will never ever rely on a man for your economic well-being.

      What they found, though, was that the institutions that they were to make their way through, failed them in large part as women having been raised as they were and having the temperaments that they do. Starting with the Catholic Church, moving on to the social dynamics of K-12, moving on to the patriarchal society more largely. Their appreciation for institutions and order made the shortcomings of the prevailing institutions and orders more apparent. And so there is more than a little bit of rebellion (her sister having been a self-described Communist until she married the Capitalist Russian, Clancy having a libertarian streak).

  8. This is a great piece. Honest… refreshingly so… and demonstrating the type of reflection that is too often lacking in folks of all stripes. Call it self-awareness, knowing oneself, successful navel gazing… whatever you want to… it is an important skill and pieces like this show what it truly means to have it. Well done, sir. I’m slightly tempted to weigh in with my own self-assessment, but I can’t help but feel it will pale, greatly, in comparison.

    • Thanks a lot. Where our beliefs come from has been an interest of mine for quite some time. At some point, I will write my magnum opus on the Ideological Triangle, which is where and how I believe the things that influence what we believe congregate. It could be called cynical or pomo, insofar as it sort of denies that some of us just have a better view in The Right Way while the others are selfish, short-sighted, or whatnot, though I don’t see it that way. I think that, by and large, a good part of the result is merely the dance between our internal selves and society at large. Which isn’t to say that one view is just as good as the next, but rather that all of our perceptions are significantly influenced by the context of our environment and experiences.

  9. Very compelling, Wil. Oddly, I try to look at myself through these lenses and I just can’t make it work. I can’t say that I have either a conservative soul or a liberal one, or even a moderate one. On the other hand, I have always found myself pulled between the sacred and the profane. I deeply identify with BlaiseP’s comment about mysticism on Kyle’s post, but also identify with a very materialist rejection of anything smacking of spirituality, as well as with things that could simply be identified as vulgar. Can’t say I’ve every really reconciled the tension.

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