Chancellor Bismarck sure saw me coming when he penned that maxim he is credited for: “Any man at twenty who is not a Socialist has no heart, and any man at forty who is still a Socialist – has no brain. Yes that was, and is, certainly me. Though the verdict is still out on whether I have even yet, a brain, I was certainly that young man that thought the answer to our world’s woes was to be found in the benevolent arms of an omnipotent government. I genuinely thought that virtually any problem could be fixed through the ubiquitous imposing of good ideas; good ideas of course, meaning mine. I still remember vividly times when “this” would not fit neatly with “that,” and I would think that if the government would just enforce a rigidly controlled standard for everything all the worlds stuff would fit and work flawlessly together. I did not realize that the USSR was at that very moment merrily doing that very thing to great and disastrous effect. I was decades away from understanding the basic divergent dynamics of free and centrally planned economies. I am sure that if that younger, and well meaning me, had in those days encountered the middle aged me he would find him a heartless S.O.B. I am very sure that he would have a quite impassioned discourse with him on the wondrous benefits of imposed world collectivism. And I am confident that the young man would leave that conversation quite bugged at the “closed minded, ignorant, blah, blah, blah nonsense” being spewed by the “obstinate middle aged, heartless, blithering idiot.”
I still remember the heated argument with the guys in that backroom at the office one morning before work. I was upset over the latest death of some toddler at the hands of his older brother who had found and was playing with his father’s gun. My friends were patiently explaining the virtues of our constitution in keeping our government from completely overrunning and oppressing virtually everyone in the name of protecting us. Not to be swayed from my emotionally charged idealism I had spat:
“Constitution be damned! If just one child is saved I don’t care if we gut the entire constitution – It will be worth it.”
I don’t fault that younger me of course, for he was a victim of the public school system and virtually ignorant of the protections that wondrous document gave to millions of just such toddlers from a government bent on “protecting” them, even if it must necessarily squash them to do so. No, I really had no problem taking away other people’s rights back then, in favor of my own idealism. I was quite certain that the world would be a far better place if I was king and my superior wisdom was imposed upon it. I was quite certain that the world and all children everywhere would be safe, if we would just take away everyone’s guns. And that young man would certainly not then be interested in any nonsensical facts and statistics spewed by the middle aged “Right Wing, gun lovin whacko” that he would later become.
I remember too, the exact spot sitting in my car listening to the Christian radio station. I was becoming quite the bible-thumpin,’ scripture quotin,’ generally annoying, new Christian. I still had many vestiges left however of my not-long-left-behind secular agnostic paganism. One such issue I had with my newfound Christian brethren was the whole “Abortion is Murder” thing. I had, I thought a well honed, thoughtful, and flawlessly logical position on the subject, and was fairly bugged at the Christian worlds meddling in a private issue I felt they just had no business “meddlin’” in. I remember arguing with my car radio and putting it in its place with what I thought was a very clever retort:
“Choice,” I told my radio, “Is the greatest of God’s gifts, and you Christians want to take away that Gift from God.”
Yep, I had a slogan for every occasion back then. I was just a walking bumper sticker. Little did that young man know he would go on to become a rabid Pro-Life activist, and the bane of many an abortion clinic, and many a Christian who had thought, as that naïve young man had back then, that Christianity and abortion are somehow compatible.
Yes there are these, and so many others of the great moral and ethical issues upon which I and that young man would most heartily and vehemently disagree. It would, I think be a fascinating conversation between the young man I was, and who I was to become. The two are so different, yet with the same passionate desires for truth and justice in the world. Sure they have, and had, very different ideas on how to achieve that, and very different lives and experiences to draw upon, but they both are, and were, trying to get to the same place. I wonder if I would try to persuade that young man of his well meaning naïveté or if I would just smile at his passionate diatribe; for there is really nothing that I could say to him now that was not already put to him all those years ago, completely demolishing his world view, and changing him forever. I expect he would find me fairly unintelligent, closed minded, and just stubbornly unwilling to learn from his clear and profound logic and wisdom. I expect he would be pretty bugged, wondering why, rather than concede to his overwhelming logic and wisdom, I just sat there and quietly smiled.