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August 17, 2009

ANOTHER KIND OF 'COMING OUT'


"I never heard you bashing Clinton or praising Reagan, and if I had, I imagine our friendship would have changed."

-A (former) friend

long-haired reactionary

From what I have heard, coming out to friends and family about being gay is exceedingly difficult. I am inclined to believe that this is the truth. Telling your loved ones that you are part of a biological minority can't be easy- although these days it does not necessarily mean shocked parents won't have grandchildren. These days, there are support groups for parents with gay children, children with gay parents, and 'alliance' groups of all kinds. The media is more than friendly and they are an open majority in some places. So perhaps coming out is not quite as difficult as it once was.

But I will tell you about another sort of 'coming out' that is still quite difficult. This is my tale of a 'political coming out' and the surprising consequences. For many people in America, being right-of-center is no big deal - but when your circle of friends and associates is comprised of various musicians, artists, and non-conformists of all kinds - it's complicated.

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I grew up in a house that was proud of its Central/Eastern European heritage and as a result, I was very aware of the the shear terror and genocide caused by the quest for Communist utopias. The oral history passed down through many Polish and Russian immigrant families is filled with the realities of what the 'progressives' in the West are so enamored with- pure death and destruction in the pursuit of social and economic equality. By the age of five, I knew who Stalin and Lenin were and grew up watching the white wash of history regarding the application of socialism. Many of my grandparents generation, who were lucky enough to come here, just couldn't fathom why some folks in America were in such a hurry to emulate such a catastrophe. From this wisdom, I acquired my first maxim which would guide my political thinking for the rest of my life:

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

As relatively recent immigrants, there was the desire to gain acceptance through serving America ( in contrast to being served by America- a mentality rampant today). To my fathers generation this meant joining the military and risking one's life so that there was no doubts about to whom they owed their allegiance. My father took this seriously enough to make every career choice one that served our country throughout his life and this would also leave an impression on me.

Because of my fathers career, my family had the opportunity to have house guests from the FBI, INTERPOL, various generals and other officers in the military, and men who only referred to their employer as "The Company". It was absolutely thrilling for me to listen quietly in the corner of our dim lit, cigar smoke-filled living room, like a fly on the wall, to their brilliant conversations over cognac and my mother's appetizers. They were not spiteful journalists from The Village or Berkeley who would have wet their pants when a car back-fired. These men were political insiders and men who devoted their lives to our nation - and everyone of them knew many who had sacrificed their lives in the line of this duty. Naturally, I could not comprehend everything they discussed. In fact, it took me years to fully understand the significance of many issues they covered. Unfortunately, many of their most dire predictions about the future of our nation has come to pass or are happening right now...

Yes, my upbringing definitely colored my viewpoint. I don't feel any reason to apologize for that. The wisdom of parents is a valuable primary resource - if they care enough to instill values and we are smart enough to listen (too often I didn't). My viewpoint was colored in the same way children of parents and grandparents who survived the Nazi Holocaust have their perceptions colored. (Although my grandfather, father, and I could never understand why the massacre of ten's of millions of people in "class" exterminations was somehow less important than "racial" extermination). See the horrible pictures here after you have finished reading

The "Other" Holocaust


I was far too busy smoking pot and surfing to join the military or anything like that and
like many people growing up, I assumed that there had to be something flawed in the established values of my parents, society, and religion. I did not reject them outright, but I did set them aside. I decided that they would have to prove their worth and validity. In this way, one could not say I was indoctrinated - my viewpoint would have to be "recolored" by my own experience. As it turned out, there were many incidents that would reinforce the views I had inherited and set aside.

Photobucket


Throughout much of my late teens and twenties I was a absolute train wreck - there is no getting around that. I thought that playing in punk and indie bands was a license to intoxicate myself to near-death. I thought that creativity implied self-destruction. Yet, anyone who really knew me knew I was certainly not a fan of liberal politics regardless of my 'wicked ways'. There was just too many things being said which I knew to be at least historically counter-factual.My attitude at that time could easily have been passed off as the cynicism so popular with my generation and I may have used it as a way out of confrontations. I found it easier to avoid issues when I recognized inconsistencies in my peers politics. I also knew that I was in a very small minority, at least openly, regarding the issues I took a conservative position on. I instituted a personal 'Don't ask- Don't tell' policy.

Maximum Rock N Roll Magazine Cover


But what I did do was listen. I listened for years. I noticed that my friends and associates began to define themselves as Democrats by default and many as liberals. I listened to their opinions. I read every tract and zine: from leaflets passed around in Gainesville to Maximum Rock and Roll opinion columns to the New York Times. It was clear to me then that the Democratic party was becoming more openly the party of Socialism. Also, I noticed, among other things, that in spite of the counter-culture's more crass and radical rhetoric, it was just another version and ally of mainstream liberal politics - designed to appeal to the 'angst' of my generation. It was similar to how the KKK utilized skinheads to attract an element they would not usually attract. I was not impressed.

And as I mentioned, there were incidents. Some subtle...some dramatic...

John and Yoko


There were little things like a cartoon I saw in High Times magazine of all places...where the illustrator had a drawing of John Lennon singing, "...Imagine no possessions" in his epic song "Imagine". The author then pointed out that by the time of his death Lennon had accumulated tens of millions of dollars worth of possessions - none of which he was willing to part with during his life time. John Lennon was one of my all time idols - but wasn't that typical of the liberal elite! It is about selling a dream. It's about lying down rules for everyone else. It is like Al Gore with his massive carbon footprint telling you to drive a certain car and not to fly so much.

a raft used by people desperate to flee to 'racist' and 'oppressive' America

Another incident occurred during an early morning walk on the beach when I came upon a washed up raft constructed by Cubans desperate to escape their socialist 'paradise'. As I inspected the craft, which was no more than plastic storage drums lashed together, I thought about how these people were so desperate to come to America that they crossed the open ocean with a 50% chance of perishing at sea. I found out later that the group included several women and children and that they had lost their meager provisions early on in the trip. Yet why would they come to America? Why would they risk their lives to come to this allegedly racist and callous country? Why would they come to a place where the "rich" exploited the "poor" and only a narrow segment of white oligarchs lived at everyone else's expense. Unless of course none of that was true...


The next day after my walk on the beach, I was recording at a studio away from home. Somehow the conversation turned political and someone mentioned socialism and how Castro was 'making it work'. With the raft fresh in my mind, I was a little confused at that type of thinking. I looked around at all the flashing lights and knobs, the guitars and other instruments, and I felt a little ashamed. People didn't have 'stuff' like this in Cuba (except of course for the political elite). Most twenty-somethings didn't have time to write songs about how miserable they were or how broken their hearts were. They were either trying to survive each day or constructing shoddy rafts to escape. When they did write songs which spoke out against the government they went to jail like the typical case of punk rocker Gorki Aguila.

Gorki Aguila - true punk rock rebel

And here I was, in a town so liberal that no one would question a comment about Castro 'making socialism work', and inhabited by many kids enjoying college on either the government's or mom and dad's dime. Here we were, being 'bohemian', enjoying the fruits of capitalism - the luxury of free time and the luxury to complain. It was as surreal and poignant as seeing the raft itself. Some of us had money, some of us didn't but as kids in America - we were all spoiled.

Still, I was far from being outspoken or even considering myself part of any discernible political platform. I did notice that these fringe crowds I bounced around in, the ones who gleamed with pride over their supposed tolerance and open-mindedness, were actually confined by a fierce orthodoxy of their own. They never had a problem generalizing about "squares", "jocks", or "rednecks" - all of whom they asserted were "bigots" and "prejudiced". The irony in all of this seemed to escape my friends and I quietly called it the "tyranny of the tolerant".

I also recognized that it would be absolute career suicide for someone like myself, who was courting the collage radio and Indie rock circuit, to have an opinion other than what was the prevailing liberal dogma. I held my tongue- yes- but I would never forgot the hypocrisy. And this observation did more to reassure me that I was on the right path.

The Communist Manifesto


While I was listening to the people around me, and those who were supposedly our philosophical idols, I got into the habit of reading a lot- but not materials from the people on the side I was heading towards. In fact, I made it a habit to read just the opposite types of books. I went out and bought the Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital. I bought books by Chomsky and similar cranks. I took out the highlighters and pens and made notes in the margins. I knew that I would have to direct my collage energies towards economics so I could see if any of this added up. It didn't.

At that point in my life I had concluded that I was finished pretending that my silence was some type of general cynicism. I decided that, If asked or directly confronted with an issue, I would give my honest opinion even if it was (gasp) a conservative one. This was a far cry from being on the offensive - true. But I had the suspicion that friendships would be lost should the truth about my persuasion be known. As amazing as it was that I even cared, we were in the doldrums of the Bush years so there was little need to press the issue.

But times...they were a changin'

Stay tuned for part two...
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