Kin Lane

Why Did You Go From Young and Liberal to Old and Conservative?

I have been fascinated by the people in my life who used to be what I perceived as liberal while they were younger, but ultimately became very conservative as they have aged. It is something I just haven’t been able to wrap my head around until recently, and honestly I feared for quite some time that without an answer to why this happens I might also slowly, or quickly, slip into a more conservative state of being. Which isn’t something I am too worried anymore as I’ve learned to better unpack who I am and develop more self awareness, which is something that has also helped me better understand why some in my life have slipped into a more conservative and less tolerant state of being.

I Did Not Understand What Liberal Is and Isn’t

There are numerous folks who I considered to be very liberal who revealed their hardcore conservative views during the Trump administration. I’ve learned over the last decade that the foundation for this lies mostly with me in that I actually didn’t understand what a liberal was and perceived hippie and varying grades of liberal-like beliefs as being true liberal, rather than just conservatives with a liberal sheen. Looking back, these folks weren’t actually very liberal to begin with, they were just younger and more accepting of the world around them. Going with the flow, and able to roll with what the world was throwing at them, but as they got older, their true nature revealed itself. It was always there, but I took the fact that they smoked pot with me and went to Grateful Dead concerts as being liberal, when they weren’t—-they were just following the pack in the moment. I have come to the realization that my education on this subject didn’t go very deep, and is something that still needs a huge amount of learning and listening to get me up to a more aware state of what is liberal and what isn’t.

Toxic Masculinity Does Not Age Well

As I get older and work harder to unpack my views of the world which were programmed by pop culture and the people I grew up around, I have learned a lot about just how toxic my views of masculinity were and still are. I’ve realized just haw fragile my reality was when it comes to being a white man, and how many things in the world were completely defined by my fragile insecure reality. As I have gotten older I have done a lot of hard work to unpack all of this, but along this journey I also realized just how scary it must be to be getting older if you are operating within a world shaped by toxic masculinity. Every other man is a threat in this reality. Nonconforming gender and sexual views are a threat. Black and brown men of a color are a threat. All of this adds up over time and eventually if left unpacked is something that will leave you in a very besieged position. If you aren’t in the business of beginning to unpack your shit in your 30s and 40s, then by your 50s and 60s, you are left seeing most things in the world as a threat, making conservative and right wing propaganda a pretty comforting narrative.

Isolation Is Only Going to Make it Worse

I’d say the last part of why people I know are becoming more conservative is that they are increasingly isolated as they get older. It gets harder to make friends as you get older, and you tend to get more set in your ways when it comes accepting what is going on out there in the world. Along the way you have probably ended up owning your own house and piece of land which makes it harder to pick up and move and experience new people and places. If you haven’t unpacked your privilege and complicity in white supremacy you have probably subscribe to the narrative that living in a smaller white community is better, which only adds to your isolation. If you live somewhere where you don’t see people of color, you grow less comfortable around them, when you do see them in your increasingly besieged state, you will view them as a threat. A state that compounds with each year you spend in isolation not dealing with any of your baggage, until you reach a point where you are so conservative that there really is not turning back, and the hard work of challenging your reality becomes too much for your terrified and fragile self.

Focusing on the Work I Have to Do

The handful of folks I have in my head as I write this aren’t really part of my life anymore. I have long stopped being able to engage with them in any healthy way. They’ve made it clear that they view the world as dangerous and somehow I am compromised and untrustworthy with my liberal beliefs. I finally saw that arguing and negotiating with them wasn’t about being right or wrong anymore—-it was simply about me doing the hard work of challenging their reality. Something I don’t really have the time for, as it is a full time job challenging my own reality and dealing with that physical and emotional mess. I would be more than willing to do this work together with someone, but they’d have to be willing, which is something I don’t find as a quality of any aging conservative. As I approach fifty, I am left hopeful that my elder years will not be as a “conservative old man” as I once viewed them as, and that I can actually live a pretty open, intellectual, and enriched life listening and learning from a range of diverse voices from around the world. I don’t fear getting older because I know that getting old doesn’t mean you have to become more conservative and rigid in your views, that this is just one possible path you can choose along the way, and I am choosing to educate myself more around what it actually means to be liberal, continue to unpack my toxic masculinity , and ensure that I don’t end up isolated from the beautiful world around me.