Commentary

Moore: Coming in from the left

By Deb Moore

Cognitive dissonance.  That’s the feeling gnawing at me for almost a year now.  So, what happened last year that sparked this angst?  Well, that’s when I finally found my “tribe”.  What?

Why would finding a new intellectual home with like minds on vitally important issues, especially during such chaotic times, bring anything other than comradery and comfort?  This uncomfortable experience emerged from my own observations of common human proclivities and behaviors, including my own, and realizing that these particular tendencies may be at the root of all disagreements, from personal interactions to world wars.  At the same time that I am acknowledging such disturbing realizations, I also notice that my mind and heart are being blown wide open, which, in spite of discomfort, feels like good and necessary spiritual and moral growth.

As a life-long impassioned proponent of holistic medicine, developed out of lived experience, as well as a great deal of academic and practical research, I had long been aware of and philosophically supportive of the “health freedom” movement, but was never involved with it.  As my concern and horror grew with Covid and vaccines taking over everyone’s lives, I was delighted to learn, last winter, that Vermont had its very own Health Choice organization, and I instantly became involved.  This became my new tribe, and I felt right at home from the start.  I was finally surrounded with people who “got it” as I did, and felt (and still feel) such a connection with these intelligent, educated, caring people who dare to think outside of the allopathic medical model box.  Home at last! – Or not?

For someone who spent life as a default Democrat and then a probable Progressive (at least a Berniephile), I quickly started to notice that most of my new tribe’s political leanings were not exactly compatible with many assumptions and inclinations I had in me for my whole life.  Yup, it seemed increasingly clear that many of these folks I felt so great about were also decidedly right-leaning.  I felt I was trespassing in enemy territory!  I didn’t know where to put my mind and my feelings, and thus:  cognitive dissonance!

Well, it’s been quite a journey for me, and it’s still ongoing. I have been immersed in this other, somewhat foreign world that has grown larger for me than the initial group of health freedom folks. This includes the only media outlets that report Covid-related information I believe to be accurate and science-based, but that I would never, ever have considered patronizing up until now.  This is bizarro-world for me, topsy-turvy, upside-down.

But along with these shifts in habits, I am also experiencing unfamiliar shifts within myself.  I’ve been learning how to allow myself to be open to learning where the Other is coming from.  But the most important side effect of this has turned out to be the growing observations mentioned earlier, observations from both points of view that have led me to really startling conclusions.  And that is the real point of this essay.

Coming into my present life directly from a position as a Trump detester, I feel like I’m in another country experiencing culture shock.  But – I am listening.  And I’m realizing that I’ve never really before allowed myself the opportunity to listen.  That this Other that I had come to denigrate and fear, had more in common with me than I imagined, and that I’d really better listen to learn why they should feel so very differently than their “Other”, which was, really – me – or at least the me that I had been, kind of by default.  Then that is what really started my larger observations:  both sides are doing exactly the same things to their others!  The same kind of blaming, generalizing, fear-mongering, name-calling.  I’ve made up an actual list of epithets and blame-names.  For every label or charge on one side, there is a corresponding one from the other, sometimes the very same!

Observing this behavior coming from both factions has really brought home what I believe to be the crux of this whole thing:  a) ordinary people from both right and left ALL essentially want the same things from their lives and their country; b) everybody keeps listening to the side that feels more compatible with their views, which hardens these views, especially when these views are shaded or twisted by biased media; c) nobody is really listening to where the Other side is coming from!  I believe this because, if they were, they would find very, very little difference on a basic level, and the actual differences would feel smaller and less emotionally offensive.  “They” are not a monolithic block of same-minds; I am living proof of that from the left, and I’m finding right-leaners who are also independent and eclectic thinkers.

As for the Left/Right split in this country, I’m beginning to believe that it is contrived or manipulated.  I will not speculate here who or what is causing that, but in any case, this intense negativity is now clearly endemic in the whole population.  This is the kind of animosity that drives any war.  I’m aware of groups that are actively trying to bridge different sides of various political bifurcations, and that when such bridging happens, communication and de-vilifying occurs.  My de-programming has been a DIY endeavor, not always easy, but it’s working.

I still cringe a lot when I hear generalized name-calling from either side, which represents to me a one-dimensional perception of the Other.  Both sides often see the Other as pure Evil, and I’m learning now that there is depth and experience from which both sides are coming that is simply overlooked and not even acknowledged by the other side.  Each side sees the Other as a one-dimensional caricature, not as a three-dimensional sentient entity.  How can anything other than WAR result with this kind of mis-interpretation and mis-perception going on, on both sides? 

It IS possible for two sides of any argument to come to agreement on how to move forward together.  This has been done for eons in this country and everywhere else.  (Or not, and then: WARS, of which there have been plenty.)  What does it take?  First, the willingness to listen.  Listening not only acknowledges the Other as a sovereign entity, but one with legitimate history that is worth acknowledging respectfully.  Second, listening with EMPATHY: realizing that one’s own side doesn’t have a monopoly on legitimate emotional content.  Third, to actively, together, seek out commonalities, including values and goals:  sharing.  Fourth, to agree on logistics for any joint ventures from which to start.  Fifth, to keep listening

ALL of us are flawed and trying to do the best we can to get along in a scary world.  But we all have the responsibility – as well as the wherewithal – to recognize when we are unnecessarily exacerbating an already tense situation, and to curb our instincts, which include not only irrational words or actions, but also perceptions of the Other as evil.  While there may be forces of evil at work behind the scenes, it can help to realize that even the ordinary people who are carrying out evil orders are doing so unwittingly and think the same of you!   

While I’m still grappling with my cognitive dissonance, it has brought me to places – inside and outside of myself – that I never imagined I would be, and the struggle is much less intense than it was.  The fun part for me is the learning process:  feeling myself open up and increasingly understand better, and sometimes even switching points of view that I thought were forever etched in my soul.  It is somewhat liberating, actually.  And it helps me be an even more loving and empathic person.  There are some political beliefs I will never swap, but I feel good about being a critical thinker and allowing myself the possibility of making strange choices I never thought I’d be making.  I recommend it.

Deb Moore, PhD, is passionate about the health of the Earth and its inhabitants, and involved with various efforts to mitigate its poisoning. Her Clark U. doctoral degree is unique and interdisciplinary:  The Philosophy and Sociology of Science and Medicine.  She is Director of a national environmental health nonprofit, Second Look, and is a writer trying to find time to finish a non-fiction book. She lives in Central Vermont.

25 replies »

  1. Thanks for sharing. I am also something of a refugee from the Left. Before 2020 I’d never even heard of Vermont Daily or its neighbor Truth North. I’d always leaned left and mostly voted third party, but never shied away from contrarian views. So it goes with the Covid mess, which has led me to reexamine other things as well.

    At this point it’s less about “right” vs. “left” than it is simply being awake (not Woke). If you read letters to the editor in the two major liberal media outlets in Vermont, people are STILL scapegoating “anti-vaxxers” despite the CDC’s own acknowledgement that the vaccines don’t stop infections. People are in a trance that even the most provable facts do not seem to budge. All you can do is pray for them and hope they don’t have to wake up the hard way.

  2. The way that the left is failing to produce positive outcomes from their doctrine, I believe that more people will be identifying as having come “from the left”.

  3. Thanks so much for writing this piece. I’ve had a similar journey and it’s great to learn of others experience.

    • This is truly the most important message today. Humanity needs to rise up together in order for truth and liberty and virtue to prevail for all. Thank you so very much for sharing your journey and wisdom. What did Jefferson say- the two party system will divide us- now is our chance to really unite for what matters most for all of humanity and our descendants- true freedom.

  4. An excellent essay with which I couldn’t agree more. Let’s all pass it on! Everywhere I look, it seems, people are referring to general cultural issues affecting “us” or “them,” for example “racism,” “homelessness,” “gender issues,” and the list goes on and on. Although solutions can be formulated by looking for cultural patterns, a balance must be kept so as to not overlook specific challenges for specific individuals in their specific circumstances. That’s where, I believe, “listening” comes in, as described by Deb Moore. Let’s look for individuals who want our help and compassion and let’s help him or her. It’s quite easier to preach about “those people” who have differing “right” or “left” opinions because then we feel helpless and don’t have to do anything to make the world a better place. The other danger in making generalizations about cultural trends is the ease with which we can tend to see only our perspective. (We all do wear blinders.) Yes, some BLM activists are Marxists, but black lives actually do matter. Is there one somewhere that I can bless?

  5. As a former leftie, CV has blown my mind open to liberal cultism.

    5 years ago I loved 7 days and the liberal mindset. Now I can’t even look at 7 days without feeling sick and see new-liberalism as a self destructive cult. It’s hard but I’m slowly finding my tribe.

    And no….we’re not all trumpies. Many are just lost and disenfranchised former liberals searching for a new home.

    • Hey Alex, I appreciate many of your comments here. The one thing that bothers me is the Trump thing and not from you. Conservatives want someone to run the country based on our constitution. As long as I’ve been voting (former democrat years ago) the political machines in the parties picked the candidate who of course would owe favors to the machine and those who gave lots of money to the candidate. Before Trump was elected, he had dealt with lots of politicians and they all loved his money, celebrate and influence. When he decided to run, most people would have expected him to be a democratic candidate and to lose the primary easily. Then, the impossible happened, the people liked what he was saying. He wasn’t a politician and he didn’t owe the political machine any favors and they didn’t have their thumb on him as he went about changing the status quo. Now, none of us are going to hang out with President Trump and we don’t all love everything he does or says. He is not a perfect person (show me one) but he did shake up the machine and that’s why they have tried everything to bring him down. Personally, none of us have lived a life like his. Yes, he came from money but he also built an international business and employed thousands of people. He has the intelligence to do more great things. Now compare where we are today to 4 years of Donald Trump. While he was constantly under attacked by the political machine from both parties he did more than all of the professional politicians before him and set the country on a new path of Americanism. The media hacks tried to destroy him and his family and they continue today. His best statement was something to the effect ” They are really after you, but I’m in their way”. I look forward to his return as a leader of America based on the promises he kept the fist time and I want him in the way of the professional career political machine again to protect America from the destruction we see happening now from the dictatorial, corrupt left.

      • Dano….great comment. I like Trump much more than the current Fake Pres. I also believe Trump won and the election was stolen.

        That said Trump never fired Fauci, was instrumental in the creation of the Vaxx and really never knew when to shut up. He came off as a bully and often as a sexist (grab them by the…..). He definitely was no racist though…even though the media did the best to smear him.

        Disclaimer: I did vote for him but mainly because I knew Biden was a globalist puppet train wreck waiting to happen.

      • Alex, the only thing I would add about what Trump did is that he relied on the circle of snakes in the establishment who lied to him and worked against his every move. Remember, he wasn’t a Washington politician and not from the established machine operating to enrich the club politicos and career hacks behind the curtain. What some call bullying, I call honesty. The Washington cocktail club was aghast at a man who spoke to regular Americans like we do. The media ran with Trump’s so-called horrible comments and tweets but these are the same people who call regular Americans dirty, smelly, Walmart shoppers who cling to their guns and religion and are all white supremacists and many other names. Remember what they did to Caesar? Thanks for responding!

    • I’m a conservative, but not a ‘Trumpie’. Seems we have ourselves divided up, too. I was hoping that Trump would fade into the political sunset after the election, but that’s not so, primarily because the left-wing media won’t stop yanking him back into the spotlight. He gives them the ammunition they need to keep denigrating conservatives. Someone once told me that if you put black and red ants together in a jar, they get along wonderfully. Shake the jar, however, and they’ll angrily rip each other apart. So, yes, we have to wonder who’s shaking the jar….

  6. ‘If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.’

  7. Calling all disenfranchised former liberals and politically homeless! You may want to look into joining Vermont Stands Up at https://www.vermontstandsup.org/join. Any Vermonter – regardless of race, ethnicity, political affiliation, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, vaccination status, or any other distinction – is welcome to unite with us to fight for freedom. Let’s continue the comversation together.

  8. such great comments to a great editorial. I am also from the beginning questioning from both ends…and conversations I do my best to stay in the middle and hear what others have to say especially pandemic related which has so severely impacted my small business. I worry terribly about the children and pray for them. I have no political affiliation and believe we need to make changes now to the system we have; as it has been abused. I am going to be watching “Changing of the Gods” when it comes out on 2/22/22 and you can too, I know there will be some politics in it, but I think I can handle it…(you can sign up to watch free sign up before 2/7 at http://www.changingofthegodsseries.com/rick)
    we have more in common than we know. and yes I believe the divisive nature currently takes attention away from where it would best be….

    • I keep reminding my children who are grown but not very political. My quote to them, “You can ignore politics, but it doesn’t ignore you”. Below Dwight makes a great point, look at the party platforms. Classic liberals from years gone by hated authority, nor they want to control everything. The modern leftist today is tomorrows totalitarian and we can see it here in little Vermont after 35 years of leftist policies.

  9. As for the right/left split in this country, it is not contrived, but organic. One’s world view determines one’s identity. World view deals with the questions: Who am I, where did I come from, why am I here, where am I going? To verify my assertion, ask these questions of your old tribe and your new tribe. In the same way, it is no wonder that most “conservatives” find their home in the Republican party. Just compare party platforms. What is most troubling to me is that whatever side one identifies with, most can not give a cogent answer as to why they identify that way.

    In other posts I have railed against ad homonym attacks and name calling. They serve no purpose, but stir up baseless emotions. This tactic in only used if one lacks a credible argument, which to the opposing side appears as weakness, as well as crude, tactless and uncivil.

  10. This is truly the most important message today. Humanity needs to rise up together in order for truth and liberty and virtue to prevail for all. Thank you so very much for sharing your journey and wisdom. What did Jefferson say- the two-party system will divide us- now is our chance to really unite for what matters most for all of humanity and our descendants- true freedom.

  11. Having a political stance “etched” in a persons soul would, I think, make them excruciatingly susceptible to emotional manipulation, thus, blocking consideration of the Other. The whole point of propaganda is to sway in one direction and plays on emotion, not on anything else. But I’m very, very curious: what, specifically made the author into a ‘Trump detester’? His style? His utterances? His unpopularity in the MSM? “Celebrity hatred” of him? Just because he was The Other? What, exactly? Why not, instead, strive to evaluate policies and leave the emoting and virtue signaling behind?

    • For me it was simply ‘leftie energy’, media and not questioning dogma.

      In all fairness the GOP/Republican party was gung ho for the WMD/Iraq thing. I never bought into that so it left a bad taste in my mouth for them. Bush/Cheney will always be dishonest slime to me.

      • I voted for Bush as the choice between two evils. I can’t stand what George Bush has become and he really did nothing except keep us in a war that wasn’t necessary to begin with. Anyone who talks out of one side of their mouth seems to be either a wise guy or a criminal. In Dick Cheney’s case he appears to be both and his daughter didn’t fall far from the tree. All 3, establishment candidates for the Washington machine.

    • I so very much appreciate all the comments on my essay and the discussions that have ensued! And, jitheryann, I really do appreciate your being “very, very curious” about my mention of being a “Trump detester”. Here’s the thing about that: This piece that I wrote is making the point that we need to be finding commonalities from which to try to mend and grow as humans who are all in the same boat together, trying to stay afloat. If I get into my reasons for being a Trump detester, that is sure to incite backlash, arguing, and more division. It IS a discussion I would like to have with one or two people in a relaxed environment, because I have similar questions I’d like to ask, if I ever found any time to do that, but I really don’t want to try to have that discussion here and now.

      This whole awareness evolution I’m going through is very delicate, and the way I’m able to do it is to focus on and marvel at all the stuff we have in common, and how I’m able to feel so good about so many people I previously might never have had occasion to come into contact with, or would have wanted to. And this enables me to open my mind and heart to other ideas and opinions.

      To reiterate a major point I was trying to make: generalizing about the Other, especially about intentions of others, can be really dangerous and I think is often incorrect. We each have reasons for believing what we do, and an enormous number of factors that have led us here. And my point was that most of us – on any side of any issue – are not homogeneous automatons following a script (although re the vaxxes, it sure seems that way!)(mass formation?). In general, there are nuanced differences, even in the most ardent defenders of any position. That’s why I have a hard time with generalized put-downs, wherever they are coming from and wherever they are aimed.

      Thanks to all SO MUCH for your interest in what I have to say!! – Deb

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