Why P.J. O’Rourke is Right (Part 2 of 2)

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’ve been enjoying a section of P.J. O’Rourke’s recent book Don’t Vote: It Just Encourages the Bastards in which he discusses his journey from default Republican to college Communist and back to responsible Republican/Libertarian. O’Rourke has a way of relating socio-political lessons, wrapped in the humor of real-world experience. [Note: His punctuation habits are somewhat lacking, and while I mostly refrained from correcting him, I confess to a slight bit of editing.]

Ready for some more O’Rourkean wit? I hope so…

P.J. O'Rourke stroking chin“I stayed a left-winger for more than a decade…. I remained determined that wealth should be shared with everyone, especially me. But the silent majority tacitly refused to agree and I had to get a job. The pay was $150 a week. I was to be paid every two weeks. I was eagerly looking forward to my check for $300 (as was my landlord). But when payday came I found that, after withholdings for federal, state, and city income tax, Social Security, health insurance payments, and pension plan contributions, I netted $160. I’d been struggling for years to achieve socialism in America only to discover that we had it already.

Usually when I’m asked what made me a Republican I tell that story. But it isn’t true. I mean the story is true, but it didn’t really change my mind. I went on for years considering myself to be at least a nominal leftist.

I was too busy to be involved in left-wing causes anymore. I had that job. And, truthfully, all causes are boring. They are a way of making yourself part of something bigger and more exciting, which guarantees that small, tedious selves are what a cause will attract. Plus I was finding my work to be about as big and exciting a thing as my own small, tedious self could handle.

And I had begun to notice something else about left-wing causes. Radicals claim to seek what no one claims to want. The collective has been tried in every conceivable form from the primitively tribal to the powerfully Soviet, and ‘the people’ who are thus collectivized immediately choose any available alternative, whether it’s getting drunk on Indian Reservations or getting shot climbing the Berlin Wall….

Silliness made me a Republican, and boredom helped too. My aging hippie friends were boring. They continued to be convinced that everything was going to be shared soon, so they hadn’t gotten jobs. They hadn’t gotten married either, although ‘wives’ were the one thing that did seem to be getting shared. Occasionally they had a kid. They didn’t let the diapers freeze. There weren’t any. These children, though provided with remarkable freedom from discipline and conformity, didn’t seem to give much thanks for it, or ever say thanks, or please, or even ‘How are you?’ My friends were living the lives of unfettered bohemian artists. Except the lack of fetters seemed to tie them to dumps on the Lower East Side. (Rented, not owned.) And where was the art?…

By the early 1990’s my political philosophy was completely elaborated. I didn’t have one. I simply thought — and I continue to think — that it is the duty of every politically informed and engaged person to do everything he or she can to prevent politics.

But I was not yet a conservative. I was a Republican and a libertarian. The mutual exclusivity of those two political positions was, I thought, one more proof of the self-negating nature of politics, which should be allowed to take its course until politics is regarded as such a nugatory enterprise that people have to be chased through the streets and tackled and forced to serve as senators, representatives, presidents, and Supreme Court justices….

I became a conservative at 11:59 p.m. on December 4, 1997, the way many people become conservatives. My wife gave birth. Suddenly I was an opponent of change….

Things that once were a matter of indifference became ominous threats, such as refrigerator magnets and homosexuality…. [T]he heck with Heather Has Two Mommies. How about Heather Has Two Nannies? There’s a book that could teach children something worthwhile in the way of values.

I have lost all my First Amendment principles about rap songs lyrics. I am infuriated by them. Because I cannot understand a word that hip-hop musicians say. For all I know what’s spewing out of their mouths is, ‘We need a single-payer national health care system,’ or, ‘Home mortgage interest tax deductions subsidize suburban sprawl, increase the burden on transportation infrastructure, and lead to greater production of greenhouse gases.’…

"Hopeless" bumper stickerConservatives are opposed to change not because change is bad but because change is new. It’s as modern and confusing as the metric system or the BlackBerry. I don’t know how to count the change. And I can’t find the OFF button for the hope.”

Like I said before, I may not agree with O’Rourke’s every sentiment, but he does bring a smile to my face.


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