I remember what my dad told me when I first called myself a “Social Justice Warrior,” “When you’re young, if you’re not a liberal, you have no heart, but if you’re a liberal when you’re older, you have no head.”
At fifteen, I was certain that both my head and my heart were following a noble path, and the applause I received was reinforcement enough to prompt me to hurl myself off the cliff of righteous advocacy. It only made sense.
As early as middle school, I was volunteering extensively and raised thousands of dollars for a Mexican orphanage that I visited after eighth grade. So, when I was asked to join a social justice group halfway through my freshman year in high school, I was unknowingly pushed into a trap as the left exploited my naivete.
As a participant in the social justice group, I was constantly meeting more “warriors,” including peers, professionals and elected officials. The cause of social justice advocacy quickly became so inherent to my nature and so fused to my identity that it dictated my every word, action and thought.
I became a “backpack button” advocate, squeezing every last pin that represented one social justice cause or another onto my backpack to flaunt everywhere I went. Every issue had to be equally important because, after being encouraged to constantly “check my privilege,” these people led me to believe that I was part of the reason for the oppression of millions and I could only be a good person if I took the utmost responsibility to help them.
Helping the oppressed meant being present at rallies and protests, social justice meetings and constant “educational” platforms. It meant lobbying and campaigning, harassing people on social media and making myself known as a social justice warrior who would not back down when it came to standing up for the oppressed.
Compared to many extreme leftists who associate more with socialism, I was still considered a run-of-the-mill Democrat. I volunteered for organizations such as Obama’s Organizing for Action and Planned Parenthood, while attending events like the Young Democrats National High School Conference. Passion for the causes of the left pulsed through my veins, leading me to become completely consumed by my perceived obligation to dedicate my life to “helping others” through social action. I lost my sense of self as these leftist advocacy groups convinced me that my entire being must be defined by my social justice mindset. I lost friends because I judged them, fought with them, and even detested them if they did not agree with my “heroic” viewpoint.
Looking back, it is clear to me how someone at such a formidable age could be brainwashed and guilted into thinking that she has a duty to overlook and even delegitimize her own needs and desires to help those who apparently cannot help themselves. The emotional appeal is particularly strong at such an age, when teens are just beginning to mature and learn about the world, while their bodies and minds are simultaneously being driven by hormones and rapidly developing brains.
Although, while there are more outspoken leftists coming from the millennial era, these appeals don’t only apply to youth. The bigger picture can easily be warped into a close-minded worldview- presented as the left’s ideal open-minded perspective- through manipulation of pathos, ethos, and logos.
It’s not hard to see how pathos, or the emotional appeal, can be used to manipulate the conscience: for example, one could simply tell a story of a family of illegal immigrants separated by the American government. The story is told with a clear “good guy,” i.e. the innocent and persecuted family, and thus the “bad guy” becomes the government. Of course, then, ethos, or the ethical appeal, calls on this person to see themselves as responsible for fighting the government to help the helpless victim. In the past, however, logos, or logic, could not be used as an equal weight support for this kind of social justice ideology. It is only in recent decades that the drastically increasing polarization and intense emotional associations with politics have allowed the left to present their utopian, feeling-based platforms under the guise of logic.
Of course, with such a seemingly noble cause as helping the helpless, it is not impossible to understand why the voters and politically active left wholeheartedly believe they are doing the right thing. However, I have come to realize that it is the Democratic party which has ultimately exploited these irrational Leftist ideals, using them to pull their members further from the right or even the moderate center. Even in my high school years, which was eight years ago, I boasted stickers and magnets such as “Not a Republican,” “Vote Blue no Matter Who,” and “Friends Don’t Let Friends Vote Republican.” It is now obvious to me that the hatred and insistence on separateness was a sign of the falseness of the self-proclaimed “open-mindedness” of the Democratic party.
In my experience, even now at the height of polarization, while Republicans tend to have a distaste for Democrats, Democrats feel a burning hatred toward Republicans. I remember when Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost the 2012 primary. We rejoiced that his career was ruined and hoped he suffered. We would make jokes about Republican Congresspeople losing elections, thinking in the back of our minds how much better the world would be without those “evil bastards.” We did our best to avoid even being in the room with conservative-minded people and preferred lobbying to Democrats who already agreed with us rather than confronting Republican elected officials. Republicans, according to my SJW friend group, are not people, whether they are Congresspeople or conservative-leaning voters.
It is important to note that the Republican party, and conservative-minded people in general, have a deep desire to help the helpless and needy as well. While my political ideology has changed, the root and reason that I did believe, and what I believe in now, is empathy. I hold kindness and compassion to be of the highest importance, and have found that conservatives offer practical, realistic approaches to tackle the daunting task of helping those who need it. However, conservatives choose not to do a disservice to both the categorized “helpers” and “helpless”– unlike the Leftists and Democrats who consider vast populations to be completely helpless– the right believes in the dignity, capabilities and worth of the people in this country, and does not degrade them to the position of being so low and pathetic that they cannot do basic things to help themselves. The Right applies logic to their authentic compassion and belief in people’s’ potentials, allowing them to create the most practical, realistic and dignifying long-term solutions for people of all backgrounds and abilities.
It took almost six years until I understood what I had fallen for, and began to climb back out of the hole into the light of reality. The story of how this transition was triggered, to begin with, is a saga in it of itself, but I am happy to present the fairy-tale ending: I have regained control of both my heart and head, and I am a proud conservative whose goal is still to make the world a better place.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.