The recently finished Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which featured a straw poll won by Texas Representative Ron Paul has given me some pause to consider a larger phenomenon that was driven home to me, a quarter-century ago in college. I was taking a survey class in American History, and the professor, Gary Ostrower, asked the class for a show of hands from all those who considered themselves non-conformist, individualists, however we might want to consider ourselves. Of course, everyone raised their hands. Then he asked, "How many of you are wearing blue jeans?" The only person who wasn't was a young woman who was, as the term went in 1985, a Madonna-wannabe (seriously, this chick had it all, right down to the blown-dry peroxided hair, the lace gloves, the whole nine yards; I kept expecting her to break out in "Lucky Star" at any moment).
Since then, I have been quite conscious that even my own unique perspective is, really, not only not unique, but not even mine. I can trace pretty much anything I think or profess back to other folks who I hold to be smarter, more clear, and probably more consistent than I have ever been. I would never claim otherwise.
All the same, the mish-mash that is "the way Geoffrey Kruse-Safford thinks and lives" is, I believe, something uniquely my own. Rather than fall in to certain traps, including holding on to ideas I no longer accept (toodles, Richard Rorty . . .), I think finding a boringly orthodox Christian who is leaning ever and ever over the edge toward accepting large parts of Marxist thought is, in the experience of most human beings, interesting to say the least.
At CPAC, the triumph of libertarianism was tempered by a strain of homo-hatred and Islamophobia that was almost breathtaking. Yet, if there is any consistent theme that emerged, even and above the reflexive dismissal of pretty much anything Pres. Obama has done, it is the near-unanimity that conservatives represent the triumph of true freedom of thought.
One of the internet stars of the libertarian right is Pamela Geller. She gained mainstream attention this past summer for her nonstop shrieking over the non-existent "Ground Zero Mosque". A self-professed disciple of Ayn Rand (an odd thing to be, all things considered; her website is titled "Atlas Shrugs"), Geller is also one of those conservative Israel-lovers who will tolerate not a single breath exhaled in favor of possible compromise on matter relating to maintaining the murderous status quo. She combines this with a vile, ignorant bigotry against Muslims that is kind of anti-poetry in motion.
One right-wing activist whose work goes back to the Reagan years is Grover Norquist. His pet project is the elimination of income taxes. He is monomaniacal on the topic, but he is also a pretty funny, reasonable guy. For all he cops the outsider attitude, he is and has been for decades an Establishment player. He is also married to a Muslim. For this, the Muslim-haters like Geller and former National Security "expert" Frank Gaffney have insisted that he is actually an agent of . . . The Muslim Brotherhood.
These conservatives, who pride themselves on their Randian individualism, are so confused on what Rand actually wrote and what it means they rush to denounce pretty much anyone who doesn't think like them (a trait they share with their founder who did not suffer non-sycophants gladly).
I would be remiss if I left my criticisms be solely of our right-wing herds of independent minds. The left, too, suffers from much the same thing; the difference is the left holds little power. All the same, try going to a large website like Huffington Post and writing sanely about the Christian faith, and watch what happens.