How I Came to Be This Way

I always did bat for the other team.

I was born in Boston, enmeshed in a multi-generational family of Red Sox and Patriots-supporting New Englanders, yet I spent my formative adolescent years in metropolitan New York, surrounded on all sides by Yankees, Giants and Jets.  True to my roots, I strutted into school every day of my life in Boston-based sports attire of one kind or another, perennially subjecting myself to my classmates’ vigorous and merciless ire.

I was an outcast in primis, and I wore it squarely and stubbornly on my chest as a mark of pride and self-identity, the Red Sox fan in a sea of pinstripes.  In fact, I was never closer to becoming a Yankee supporter myself than upon moving back to my place of origin on the occasion of entering college.  All those years in the Empire State had the effect not of conversion, but of attracting me, instinctively, to cheer on the visitors.

Whether in concert or by accident, I came to approach government and politics in a strikingly similar fashion.  A square peg poking at a round hole.  Independent with a lowercase “I.”

In high school it was simple:  Democrats were good, Republicans were bad, George W. Bush was an idiot.  In my little bubble, there was no arguing such basic and elementary “facts,” in part because there were so few people in the neighborhood to argue them with.  Historians refer to this phenomenon as “consensus,” and in a free society, few states of affairs are more poisonous or more boring.

College is supposed to make you more liberal.  It made me more conservative.

I employ the terms “liberal” and “conservative” with extreme trepidation—for reasons that, in the fullness of time, will become abundantly clear—but I very much spent my days at university in a perpetual state of flux with regards to what I thought I knew about the world.  As one of my favorite clichés asserts, the primary function of college is to let you know how much you don’t know, to teach you not so much what to think, but rather how.

If college failed me in every other respect, it at least flung me into the world with a greater sense of uncertainty and inadequacy on questions of war and peace than I had ever experienced before.  For that, I shall be ever grateful.

What my particular political views currently are, I will leave for future posts.  Suffice to say, I do not find myself at home in either of the major political parties, and if I did I still would not formally register with one or the other.  At the inception of this great experiment of ours—a public affairs blog founded on the principle of nonpartisanship—I wish only to emphasize my strong distaste for the rigid, for the predicable, for the ignorant, for the dishonest, for the unfunny and for the unprincipled.

Searching for a personal credo, it is hard to top the late, estimable Christopher Hitchens, who wrote at the close of his book Letters to a Young Contrarian, “One should strive to combine the maximum of impatience with the maximum of skepticism, the maximum hatred of injustice and irrationality with the maximum of ironic self-criticism.”

The ironic self-criticism perhaps most of all.  Show me a man devoid of self-awareness and introspection, and I’ll show you a man who never went to school in the wrong team’s shirt.

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