On changing one’s mind

Many were shocked when the former “Southern Avenger” came out in favor of taking down the Confederate flag.

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Anyone who’s paid attention to my career shouldn’t be.

In April 2013, I wrote at The American Conservative:

The 20-something me would consider the 30-something me a bleeding-heart liberal. Though I still hate political correctness, I no longer find it valuable to attack PC by charging off in the opposite direction, making insensitive remarks that even if right in fact were so wrong in form. I’m not the first political pundit to use excessive hyperbole. I might be one of the few to admit being embarrassed about it.

This embarrassment is particularly true concerning my own region, the South, where slavery, segregation, and institutional racism left a heavy mark. I still detest those on the left and right who exploit racial tension for their own purposes. But I detest even more the inhumanity suffered by African-Americans in our early and later history. T.S. Eliot said, “humankind cannot bear too much reality,” and it is impossible for those of us living in the new millennium to comprehend that absolute horror of being treated like chattel by your fellow man, or being terrorized by your neighbors, because of the color of your skin.

In July 2013, I resigned from Senator Rand Paul’s office after a controversy over my past as the Southern Avenger.

Four months later, in November 2013, I wrote at Politico Magazine:

I’ve learned, though, that it’s impossible to compare the uniquely evil circumstances of the Civil War to literally anything in modern politics. That those who use antebellum language to discuss contemporary issues have to spend half their time explaining why they’re not racist should tell them something.

In August 2014, I wrote at Politico Magazine:

I will regret the stupid things I said as the “Southern Avenger” for the rest of my life and have denounced them.

As editor of Rare Politics since January 2014, I’ve approached subjects differently than the Southern Avenger might have.

I’m a libertarian conservative.

I believe libertarians do themselves a disservice when they associate their philosophy with the Confederacy.

I believe in states’ rights. I want states to have the right to legalize marijuana, make their own marriage laws and to possess sovereignty on a variety of issues. Statists have long sought to undermine local control by equating federalism with slavery and Jim Crow.

Why not separate federalism from the issues of slavery and Jim Crow?

I care more about principles than symbols. It’s hard to imagine a worse American symbol to associate with individual liberty than the Confederate flag.

Why not separate individual liberty from the Confederate flag? Why have some insisted on combining the two? Why did I ever do that?

Most importantly—I care more about people than politics.

I’ve heard countless arguments for many years about why the Confederate flag doesn’t stand for slavery or racism. Some arguments are valid. No doubt, double standards and hypocrisy abound on both sides of this debate.

But whatever your favorite talking point for defending the Confederate flag, it does not change the fact that millions see it as a symbol of racial terrorism. It does not change the fact that black Americans have many good reasons for seeing it as such.

Do they have a point? Or is the libertarian or conservative thing to do to keep denying them their point?

And if so, to what end? What are we trying prove? Whose minds are we changing?

What are we changing?

No one wants to be wrong, but there’s a limit to being “right.”

It’s far more important to be decent than to be “right.”

Being decent means considering others’ views, particularly black Americans who hold very negative views about the Confederate flag and who have good reasons for those views.

You can reach more people by talking to them as people.

You can reach more people by not immediately insulting them before you try to reach them.

What do you think?

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