I was a member of a cult, back in the 70s and early 80s. I understand how the cult mentality works. There are many cults, some more subtle than others. Don’t be too sure that you are not a member.
I left the hippie commune cult in 1984. It took awhile longer to leave the left, liberal, progressive cult. One way that you can tell a cult is, if you stray at all from the cult orthodoxy, you are risking your connections to friends and family.
I’m a conservative. If I disagree with my very few conservative friends and relations, about abortion, or the various wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc., or economic policy, or evolution, or the public school system, or Michelle Bachmann, or gay marriage, it is not a problem. My friendship or relationship is not on the line. These are gnarly subjects about which sincere, intelligent people can disagree. There is no conservative party line about any of these subjects. Conservatives believe in individualism, argument, and civility. That at least has been my experience.
On the other hand, if I disagree about any such subject with my liberal, lefty friends, of whom I have very many more than conservatives, I am very quickly brought face to face with excommunication, the loss of contact with people I love, and a decidedly cultish consciousness with which I am all too familiar. Blood is quickly up.
For example, I got into a discussion, with lefty friends, about Republican-promulgated laws that require a photo id in order to vote. This seems like a good idea to me. Anyone who is here legally can get a photo id, poor or rich, smart or stupid. You need a photo id to fly on an airplane, rent a car, get a job, get a driver’s license, cash a check, use a credit card, open a bank account, or rent an apartment. But if you have to show one in order to vote, that is voter suppression? How can anyone who is not captivated by a cult mentality believe such a thing?
There are exceptions. I do have lefty friends willing to tolerate my apostasy, just because we like each other too much to allow such nonsense to come between us.
I can’t help thinking about how it was when I was living in the unnamed cult. I shut up so good that I censored my own thoughts. Whenever the voice of common sense reared its ugly head, I dismissed it as doubt, proof of my unworthiness. Now, out here in the real world, I am sometimes being asked to once again practice self censorship in order to maintain my personal, family, and business relationships.
Ordinary people, like myself, sometimes have political opinions, sometimes don’t, but, either way, they don’t matter. How you raise your kids, conduct your business, deal with your relatives, socialize with your friends, has absolutely nothing to do with what you think about Obama, or John Maynard Keynes, or the various wars we are currently engaged in, or the health care system, or public employee unions, or the debt crisis, or abortion, or gun control, or any other such “issues”, except to the extent you need to have the correct opinions in order to maintain your relationships.
No matter what you say at parties, no matter how you vote, your politics is irrelevant. It is how you live your life that matters. I know so many people who are conservatives in their own lives, how they raise their children, manage their finances, etc., and yet are far left liberals in their politics. I don’t know anyone who is the other way around. People who are conservative in their politics, are, like most liberals, also conservative in their personal lives, out here in reality.
I believe that, to the best of my ability, as a citizen of this republic, I have a responsibility to be informed about history, especially the history of the United States of America, about the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, about the political history and rhetoric of the Democratic and Republican parties, about what is really going on in the world, politically, economically, philosophically, militarily. But, I can’t help thinking that my obsession with these things is not really that different from an obsession with sports as pursued by most apolitical American men, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
I know that not everyone takes that responsibility seriously, and they are not, nor should they be, required to do so. The more that do, the better off we all are, I think, I believe, as U.S. citizens, and as citizens of all the other nations of the world that depend, to one degree or another, on the U.S.A.
If we allow our political opinions to be determined by desire for acceptance in personal, familial, or economic society, or we just don’t really have independent, thoughtful political opinions, we are abrogating our responsibility as citizens of our nation and the world of nations. That is the real threat to democracy.