I grew up as an American, Catholic, Democrat. This was my patrimony, my identity, and it was a seamless garment; as unthinkable to become a Republican as to become a non-American. Then, coming of age in the 1960's and early 70's, I was swept along in the heady spirit of that era. Though not part of the drug scene, I was definitely into the "flower child" mentality - questioning authority, questioning tradition, questioning the status quo. The patrimonial identity remained intact, but became infused with new ideologies. The 'flower child' mentality became a part of the patrimony, an integral part of my identity. As a self-identified Democrat, I applauded the Democrat's 'flower child' promise to end racism, poverty, and war. As a Catholic, I eagerly embraced the hippy, ecumenical ideal of "We are one in the Spirit". This meant rejecting 'rigid dogmatism' and following many heterodox ideas. But the patrimonial identity remained; I still considered myself a good Catholic. I was a Catholic, Democrat hippy.
Come on, people now, smile on your brother
Everybody get together, try to love one another
The hippy image faded, but not the ideological identity. I voted for George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, and Michael Dukakis. Somehow, I managed to convince myself that their horrible values and policies were outweighed by their good promises. In reality, it was my life-long identity as a Democrat which made want me see positive values in these candidates. Had I continued in this vein, I suppose I would now be supporting Barack Obama.
I was no longer a hippie - in fact, I was no longer a young man when a very close friend, a man just a year older, stated frankly that our generation had created a horrible mess. This shook my world, and I resented my friend's attack upon our generational and ideological identity. But I had to admit he was right; our ideology was not working as advertised. This was a terribly gut-wrenching moment, a threat to my identity. Perhaps it's when I finally took the 60's attitude to the hilt, and began to question the questions.
Painfully weaning myself of life-long ideological habits, the long path back home was guided mainly by two emerging convictions: First, there has to be such a thing as truth, and there has to be but one version of it. Relative truth is an oxymoron. Second, the wholly vulnerable and wholly innocent babies must be defended; this was certain. Those who were so defending must be right; those who were not must be wrong. (By their fruits you shall know them.)
You can read in this blog the result: 'right-wing extremist', 'conservative', 'orthodox Catholic' - employ whichever label you like. (Here's a hint: I will not be voting for Obama.)
Why do I tell this story now? Maybe just in case someone else of the baby boomer generation happens to read it. Let me break for you the gut-wrenching news: our generation has made an awful mess, and you do not have to carry this around any longer as your inherited patrimony. You can make a clean break, embrace truth, and join in making amends.