Twelve steps for recovering liberals

My old friend Michael Frost and I were high school classmates. Mike went on to Harvard and the University of Virginia Law School. I sought him out a few weeks ago to catch up after not seeing him for several years. We had gone in different directions politically after college, but I owed to Mike’s friendship my sitting in on some great classes he was taking as an undergraduate at Harvard. Mike took me along to class with him, for example, the day that Professor Walter Jackson Bate gave his legendary lecture on the death of Samuel Johnson when Mike took Bate’s Age of Johnson class in 1971.

Catching up with Mike, I found that he had been rethinking his politics in a serious way. He asked me for a recommended reading list, but he seemed to have mastered much of the relevant literature on his own. He’s continuing to chew things over. He wrote me today, citing Thomas Sowell’s Vision of the Anointed and the collected essays in Why I Turned Right (“for me a moving, funny, and ultimately enraging book”), and announcing that his “political conversion is almost complete.”

Mike adds that he’s thinking about starting a 12-step program for recovering Democrats patterned along the lines of Alcoholics Anonymous. He said he sees a lot of parallels to his overcoming liberalism in AA’s 12 steps. He writes concerning a possible 12-step program for former liberal Democrats:

The organization will be called Formerly Democratic Republicans. FDR for short. Right now I’m feeling stupid and foolish and angry. Angered that the better part of my intellectual lifetime has slipped by, malnourished by the social/moral/political pablum force-fed by brain laundries like Harvard and mainstream media. Foolish and stupid because I really didn’t have to be force-fed –- I lapped it up eagerly and found it tasty and self-satisfying.

Anxious to make up for the lost time that can never be regained, I’m skipping directly to Steps 8 and 9 [in AA’s 12 steps].

Step 8: While I don’t think I’ve harmed you, I’ve got to confess that until now I’ve always been chagrined that the wittiest, most intelligent and empathetic friend of my youth apparently had gone bonkers after college and “become one of them.” That was wrong of me.

Step 9: I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I so care-less-ly let our friendship slip away. I’m sorry that I so readily dismissed your mind.

All members of FDR must be assigned a sponsor/mentor; I’d be honored if you would agree to be mine. So, if late at night I’m about to succumb to Obama’s Siren Song for class warfare in the form of an Oil Excise Tax, don’t be surprised if I call you to come over and lash me to the mast.

Continuing in the confessional mode, Mike adds:

I had in my office three small busts: Washington, Lenin, and Mao. I’m embarrassed about that, it’s emblematic of a lifetime of weak thinking and an unexamined life. Washington remains. Lenin and Mao are now at the back of a bookshelf in my basement, facing backward. It’s where they belong, along with a lot of my former non-thinking.

This is a humbling and exciting time for me, almost as exciting as discovering Yeats for the first time. Do you remember how that felt? Words so powerful, just, and true, that they were more than words, pure essence that shot through your brain straight to your soul and rang it like a bell, connecting you to something beyond yourself, resonating, reminding you that there is something beyond yourself.

Mike’s story is, as they say, sobering, and humbling in its own way for me. I thought it might be of interest, maybe even inspirational, to a few readers or family members of readers.

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