Being forgiven for our past sins — or, maybe, O’Donnell has grown up *UPDATED*

I know this will come as a surprise to all of you, but I was not born wise or well informed.  I blush to think of some of the behaviors in which I indulged, and the ideas that I held, when I was younger.

When I was a very little girl, I picked up from the secular people surrounding me the idea that there is no God.  Not only did I refuse to say the Pledge of Allegiance, although I was scared enough of the teacher that I still moved my lips, I also thought all believers were fools.  I held to this belief for many, many years.

After reading Gone With The Wind for the first time, when I was 11, I came away with the impression that slavery wasn’t really such a bad thing, as long as you treated your slaves nicely. It took me a while to shake this belief too, especially because it seemed to me that the way many American blacks lived, whether in San Francisco’s Bayview/Hunters’ Point, LA’s Watts and South Central, or Michigan’s Detroit, wasn’t a great improvement over the life of a slave.  The concept of freedom, versus mere material welfare, eluded me.

At around the same time, as a child who grew up watching the Vietnam War on the news, as well as all the antiwar protests, I thought the American military was evil, and that Communists weren’t so bad.

When I was 17, and California voters pass Prop. 13, I thought it was outrageous that people should want to keep their own money when it could go to the government, which would spend it for the people’s own good, only it would do it better.

When I was 18, I voted for Jimmy Carter and was deeply saddened when he lost.

When I was a 20-year old student attending Berkeley, and I heard that Ronald Reagan had been shot, I agreed with my fellow students that he deserved it, a sentiment that earned me a harsh and well-deserved scolding from my parents.

When I was 21 and living in England, I wore a keffiyeh, because it was a cool fashion statement.  That same year, I listened in silence as a British Arab man told a terrible and cruel holocaust joke, because I was too socially intimidated to speak up.

When I returned to America in the early 1980s, I was fascinated by MTV, and watched it obsessively, believing that somehow those videos, with their rocking beats and alternatively meaningless or crude images, could enrich my life.

Throughout my teens and 20s, I hated Christian proselytizers, because I thought they wanted to hurt me, a Jew.  It took me decades to understand that they were acting out of great spiritual generosity, and that they would respond immediately and respectfully to a politely given “no.”

Also throughout my teens and twenties, I was mean.  I was an awkward, geeky bookworm, with a quick wit that I used to great effect to hurt people before they could hurt me.  I always had friends, but woe betide anyone who fell on the cutting side of my tongue.  A physical and moral coward, I nevertheless believed that, when it came to insults, the best defense was a good offense.

I was young and I was stupid, stupid, stupid.  I cringe when I look back at the things I did and thought.  What’s really sad is that the only thing that stopped me from making even worse mistakes was my cowardice.  I didn’t really live life.  I observed it from the sidelines, and simply managed to collect a whole bunch of bad ideas as I went along.

The good news is that I grew up.  During those same years, I managed to learn a lot.  At Berkeley, because I couldn’t understand the Marxist cant that permeated every non-science class, and therefore ignored it, I managed to learn about history and art and literature.  At law school (despite a miserable semester with Elizabeth Warren), I learned how to revere the constitution, respect the law and, significantly, analyze data.

Being a lawyer was also a great gift.  It exposed me to activist judges, something that taught me that, without a rule of law, businesses crumble and anarchy arises.  It was frustrating to know that, if I was representing a bank or business in a San Francisco court against an individual, the bank or business would always lose, no matter how rigorously it followed the law, while the individual would always win, no matter how sleazy or careless.  The same held true in employer/employee cases.  I understood that judicial activism increased the cost of doing business, drove businesses out of the Bay Area (and California), and made it virtually impossible for business people to have reliable predictors to control their conduct.

Earning and spending money taught me that capitalism, if properly policed (not controlled, just policed) enriches people, rather than impoverishes or enslaves them.  Living as a responsible adult (rather than a child at home or a cocooned student) taught me that government, even with the best will in the world, is an inefficient engine that moves slowly and that inevitably crushes individuality.  I realized that I prefer to keep power diffuse, amongst myriad people with different ideas about the world, rather than aggregated in one, all-powerful being, whether that being is a person or an ostensibly republican government.  This made me a strong anti-Communist and, indeed, an anti anything totalitarian.

I learned that the old saying was right, and that I could truly catch more flies with honey (especially true honey, not false words of flattery), than I could with vinegar.  I came to regret very deeply the verbal hurts I had inflicted on people.  You will seldom catch me being mean, in act or word.  (Although I admit to slipping when the migraines hit or the kids fight.)

I found it impossible to cling to my prejudices about God and religious people.  The more I learned about science, the more I asked myself, “How did it begin?”  I accept the scientific record and scientific conclusions all the way back to the Big Bang — but what came before?  Could all this something truly have come from nothing?  I don’t know that there is a God, but I’d be an arrogant fool, faced with those questions, to deny a God.  I’m not a believer, but I try to live a moral life as an open-minded non-believer.  I respect believers.

As for Christianity, I learned that people can hold beliefs different from mine, and still be truly, deeply good people, whom it is often an honor to know.  My history studies helped me to understand that the Inquisition is over and that, for the past two hundred years, Christianity has been a uniform force for good in the world.  There are, of course, bad people who profess to be Christians, but Christianity as a belief system is a good thing and we should be grateful for it.  (I also learned, which few Jews accept, that the Nazis were not a Christian movement, but were a violently anti-Christian movement, something that helped me open my heart and mind to Christianity.)

Watching our military during the First Gulf war, and meeting military people as I got older, I began to understand that ours is an exceptional military:  a volunteer organization, controlled by the Constitution, and peopled by ordinary Americans.  Well, “ordinary” in that they’re neither the dregs, nor the aristocrats, as is the case in other, class-based societies.  Instead, they’re people like you and me.  Except, unlike me, they’re brave, even the ones who just joined to pay off their student loans.  Oh, and they’re patriots, which isn’t that common.  And of course, they’re awfully polite and frequently so kind.  But other than that….

So here I am:  someone who was profoundly stupid as a child and young person, but who had the capacity to learn and who did, in fact, learn and grow.

You know where this is going, don’t you?  Christine O’Donnell, of course.

I get the feeling that Christine O’Donnell was a very lost soul when she was young.  The latest evidence of this fact is that Bill Maher is boasting that he has tapes of her admitting to practicing witchcraft (although, frankly, this should endear her to the Left, which loves its Gaia-worshipping Wiccans).

When O’Donnell hit Christianity, she hit it hard, taking a lot of extreme positions (masturbation being the one that has the Left most atwitter) — which is normal for a convert.  The zealots usually come from the recently converted, the ones who still have enthusiasm and who also feel that extremism is an act of repentance.  She’s had financial problems, too, although that leaves her in good company, since it seems that this is a common trait in federal employees.

But O’Donnell has grown up.  Or at least she says she has and, for now, I choose to believe her — because I grew up too.  I wasn’t as silly a youngster as O’Donnell, but I grew up in the 70s and early 80s, which gave me a couple of advantages:  I had a slightly more friendly pop culture (TV still hewed to traditional values) and my youthful idiocies didn’t get captured forever on video tape.

Here’s the difference as I see it between O’Donnell and Obama:  Both of them had idiotic belief systems when they were young, because that’s what a lot of young people do.  But Obama’s belief systems hardened into true-blue (or do I mean true-red?) Marxism, whereas O’Donnell grew up.  She held to her core conservative values (no abortion, small government, etc.), but seems to have abandoned the worst excesses of her youth.

More than that, her conversion to maturity seems sincere.  She has indeed walked away from her immaturity. Yes, O’Donnell is still a pugnacious, somewhat volatile young woman, but she’s not a Wiccan now, she’s not going to set the masturbation police on you, and she’s not going to force all Americans to worship in her church.

If we take her at her word, the O’Donnell of today will go to Washington, D.C. to cut government spending, shrink government’s size, and push for a more Constitutionally run government than we currently have. And there’s nothing crazy or immature about that.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

UPDATE:  I seem to be in good (and forgiving) company, as this related post shows.

UPDATE II:  David Swindle has taken my post and run with it.  He makes the point that O’Donnell’s positions on lust, porn and masturbation are “serious” not “extreme” if you have truly embraced Christianity.  I think he’s absolutely right.

The fact is, though, that the media is selling O’Donnell as “extreme” to Americans who aren’t always that serious about Christianity or who are, like me, fairly conservative, but haven’t fully shaken off a lifetime of urban liberal thinking.  I therefore used the word “extreme” in this post in relation to point of view of people who could be swayed by the media’s attack.  In fact, I agree with David’s take about the smooth and reasonable integration of O’Donnell’s faith and her morality.

The one other thing that informs my use of the word “extreme” is the fact that, as someone older than both David and O’Donnell, the whole “spilling your guts on video about your sexual (or wiccan) beliefs” is just a little freaky to me — and that’s a generational thing.  We didn’t do that when I was growing up probably because, in that pre-video, pre-MTV era, we couldn’t do it.

UPDATE III:  If you’ve read UPDATE II, above, you must read Zombie’s wonderful post mixing up quotations from O’Donnell and Carter.  Both are Christians, but you can tell the O’Donnell posts, because she sounds smarter and less narcissistic.  Oh, and the Left loves Jimmah.

UPDATE IV:  Please visit the Anchoress on this too.

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  • Earl

    Good post, BW….I tend to agree about CO’D.
    And I am immensely grateful that when I was growing up, so much of today’s technology for immortalizing stupidity wasn’t available.
    There *is* that college “Funnybook” photo of my first beard – it’s out there somewhere…(sigh) I haven’t seen it in years and years, but it could still be deployed to embarrass me….I doubt anyone cares anymore, but I sweated bullets about it for 22 years teaching at my alma mater.  It seemed impossible that some disgruntled student wouldn’t dig it up and post it somewhere, but it didn’t happen, to my great joy!
    They won’t cut O’Donnell a break on this – in fact, a lot of the lefty types really ARE “spooked” by anyone who takes their religion seriously (unless, they’re…you know….Muslim, or something – then, not so much) and so they’re going to try and make everyone else a bit afraid of her, too.  I don’t think it’s going to work, though….people are wising up.  And the candidate needs to concentrate on what she’ll be doing (and NOT doing) in D.C., contrasting this with her opponent’s record of “accomplishment”.  If she does this, and the GOP will solidify behind her, she’ll win going away.


    What a beautifully written and thoughtful post. You have delivered the essence of Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur. Few of us [none, I think] observe the ritual of *kapparot – but you have in your own way. In lieu of a chicken, you swirl the wonderful world of words above your head and onto the screen. You have shared the woman that was and more touchingly, the woman you have become. Life is a long journey and in spite of a bumpy start, you got off that dusty bumpy trail and hit the highway with introspective hindsight and very clear foresight.


    Kol Neidre

  • phillips1938

    I find it interesting that when real people appear on the political scene (Palin, Angle, ODonnell) the Left goes berserk.

  • richard diamond

    Beautifully written. You’re rapidly becoming a national treasure. Happy New Year and may you be inscribed in The Book of Life for a healthy and prosperous year.

  • Ymarsakar

    Extraordinary and fascinating work, Book, on the post.

    People post videos on youtube as a sort of social get together or greet. Much as people back in the day met together with neighbors for picnics. It’s a way to socially connect and keep abreast of the current goings on. The fact that youtube comments are full of nutjobs as well as the more average person, essentially filters out the shy or those with thin skin. At the same time, there is much social acceptance or approval for those that strive to seek it out.

    It is an interesting phenomenon all in all. How humans, in the age of information itself, still desire, above all else, social relationships. Humans will never be without a hierarchy, because humans need a hierarchy to tell them where they belong.

  • Gringo

    When I was a 20-year old student attending Berkeley, and I heard that Ronald Reagan had been shot, I agreed with my fellow students that he deserved it, a sentiment that earned me a harsh and well-deserved scolding from my parents.
    I was visiting old family friends  when for the first and only time I heard the “Reagan deserved it” reaction to the President being shot. The person who said it was not a wet-behind-the-ears college student, but a professional and mother in her mid-thirties.  A nephew concurred with that opinion. I was so shocked that I made no reply, but also so shocked that I still remember it. At the time I had no fondness of Reagan, having been gassed by National Guard people in antiwar demonstrations in Berserkeley back when Reagan was governor. Nonetheless, my then-negative opinion of Reagan did not extend to approving regicide.
    What is even sadder is that in this case,”Reagan deserved it” came from someone of no mean accomplishment. The professional and mother has gone on to write over 10 books, one of which made oblique references to our hometown.

  • David Foster

    Great post! Somehow, you seem to have avoided “confirmation bias”…the dangerous but common psychological mechanism by which people search selectively for data confirming the beliefs that they already hold. It is a phenomenon well-known to accident investigators, and it has a lot to do with the continuance of irrational political beliefs. I’m not impressed with Christine O’Donnell, though, and in normal times I would probably, if I lived in her district, vote against her. But these are not normal times, and at present, the need to break the power of the Democratic Party is of overwhelming importance to the future of the country and the world.

  • NavyOne

    First a post about Fleet Week and now this. Beautiful. . .

  • Gringo

    What is amusing about all the brouhaha about O’Donnell’s previous statements is that Mr. Coons, her opponent in the Senate race, also had his moment, as he wrote in the Amherst College student newspaper in 1985 about his time in Kenya turning him into a “bearded Marxist.”  IMHO, anyone who had become a Marxist that late in the game was a fool. Pol Pot’s genocide in Cambodia was old news by 1985. IIRC, the news about Mao’s Great Leap Forward famine was out by 1985. In any event, the renaissance in agricultural production in China after collective farms were discarded was old news by 1985. By 1985 the USSR was five years into its invasion of Afghanistan. Cuba had troops all over Africa in 1985- Cuba had many more troops per capita fighting in Africa than the US ever had in Vietnam. For anyone who cared to research, the news about the Sandinistas was out. Who killed so many top leaders of the Salvadorean guerrillas? Not the military’s death squads, but the guerrillas themselves. The news was out. Coons was an ignorant fool, albeit a fool with an Amherst pedigree.
    Book, I concur with others that you have written a fine essay about how thoughts and opinions has in one’s youth evolve over time.

    An article Democrat Chris Coons wrote for his college newspaper may not go over so well in corporation-friendly Delaware, where he already faces an uphill battle for Vice President Joe Biden’s old Senate seat.
    The title? “Chris Coons: The Making of a Bearded Marxist.”
    In the article, Coons, then 21 years old and about to graduate from Amherst College, chronicled his transformation from a sheltered, conservative-minded college student who had worked for former GOP Delaware Sen. William Roth and had campaigned for Ronald Reagan in 1980 into a cynical young adult who was distrustful of American power and willing to question the American notion of free enterprise.
    Coons, the New Castle County executive who is running against GOP Rep. Michael Castle for the state’s open Senate seat, wrote of his political evolution in the May 23, 1985, edition of the Amherst Student.
    The source of his conversion, Coons wrote, was a trip to Kenya he took during the spring semester of his junior year—a time away from America, he wrote, that served as a “catalyst” in altering a conservative political outlook that he was growing increasingly uncomfortable with.
    “My friends now joke that something about Kenya, maybe the strange diet, or the tropical sun, changed my personality; Africa to them seems a catalytic converter that takes in clean-shaven, clear-thinking Americans and sends back bearded Marxists,” Coons wrote, noting that at one time he had been a “proud founding member of the Amherst College Republicans.”

  • suek

    I’d have a real problem voting for O’D, so it’s a good thing I’m not from Delaware. She looks too much like Giget. Which got me thinking…all the stuff that’s coming out (I think the Wiccan thing is hilarious from the standpoint that the military has been required to establish a wiccan worship place at the AF Academy – so figure out the logical extension of ‘what kind of a crazy person would be a wiccan”) is so typically lefty young college oriented.  And Brown – with his nude photograph for the women’s magazine.  The right-wing “establishment” is likely to find both somewhat objectionable and unacceptable – but they’re exactly the kind of thing the lefties have been saying “you’re old fogies” about for years.  So it seems to me that what we’re seeing is – more than anything else – a changing of the guard.  A handing over from one generation to the next.  The establishment GOP is going to have a bit of a problem with this – but the establishment GOP needs to realize that it’s _time_.  If they’re wise, they’ll be able to hold the reins as the new generation gets their footing.  If not … the baby will go out with the bath water.

  • Tonestaple

    Great post, Book.

  • Charles Martel

    I grew up in Southern California, where the Gidget was a real-life girl.

    She was a young teen—15 or 16, I think—who befriended a group of surfers at Malibu in the mid-1950s. They were older guys who took her under their wings and made her a mascot. Because she was small, and a girl (girls just didn’t suf in those days), they named her “the girl midget—Gidget.” The name stuck and Gidget (real name: Kathy Kohner Zuckerman) later wrote a fictionalized account of those sweet summer days that became the basis of three movies, a TV comedy series, and several TV movies.

    SADIE, you’ll love this. Gidget’s romantic interest in her book is a surfer named Moondoggie. In real life she never returned to Malibu to consummate the crush. Instead, she married Marvin Zuckerman, a professor of Yiddish.

    Gidget is now 69 years old.


    Charles, I loved it. I’ll now remember Kathy as Gidget Zuckerman, writer, senior and former Malibu mascot.

  • suek

    When I think Gidget, I think Sally Fields…
    I can’t say I know what the _real_ Gidget looked like – in fact, I don’t think I knew there was a real live Gidget.

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  • BombthePeasants

    I am posting this because I’m still anonymous, but I want everyone to understand the true dangers of pornography and compulsive masturbation. I lived most of my youth lost to this horrible world, unable to form any lasting relationships with the opposite sex, unable to enjoy real live women for who they were, because of the addiction I had to pornography. I wanted to kill myself many times, but I was too cowardly to do so. One night only 4 years ago, I gave my life back to Jesus Christ. I had attended church as a child, but had fallen away, because I had believed it to be little more than some old folk religion, for simpletons and losers. However, I had discovered a ministry through an online radio outlet, called “Reasons to Believe”, and by listening to them, I started to embrace their arguments for the God of the Bible. One night, after another night of debasing myself, I started to cry uncontrollably, and no matter what, I could not stop. I prayed fervently, for the first time in my life. I prayed for a mate, a companion, a wife. Not even 4-5 months later, I found her, through a good friend. It was not an intentional set-up, mind you, just my friend’s girlfriend inviting HER friend out to a restaurant-grill type place. She was a recent divorcee, with no children, who had given up on ever finding someone else. My addiction had left me without the ability to show joy in public, and I had absolutely no self-esteem, but since the night I had come back to the Lord, I had the ability to show joy like I never had before. We started dating, and a few short months later, we had gotten married! We had an Oktoberfest wedding, too, with me wearing lederhosen, and she in a dirndl (it’s that time of year!). Not long after that, we had our only daughter, who’s now 20 months old. My addiction robbed me of many years, and left us with precious few years left to build a family, and for that I will always carry regret, but it’s small, and I’m more thankful than ever to a loving God that I have the family that I do.

    IN conclusion, when I see people denigrate those who crusade against the evil that is pornography and prostitution, I burn with a white hot fury. It DOES rob lives, destroy families, and make people slaves. Who knows how many children would be alive and carrying on my name, had I not fallen to the terrible evil that is pornography addiction? How many other men are suffering, who carry on outwardly normal seeming lives, but die a little each night they go home alone and denigrate themselves? How many women go out each night, wondering why they can’t find a suitable mate, knowing that they’re not ugly people, but because pornography has destroyed the image of a normal woman, and they cannot compete with the Barbie dolls onscreen? And what about those young girls, who physically look great, who, in a fit of utter stupidity, have photos or movies made of them in various states of undress, and actually help trap those men? And for those of you on the fence, have you no sense of the destruction Sin visits upon us all?

  • Texan99

    While I don’t believe pornography is as dangerous for most people as it obviously was for BombthePeasants, it’s nevertheless clear to me that it’s a turning away from life and never the best path.  I’m glad BtheP found his way out the trap he was in.
    About O’Donnell:  I really wish Delaware voters had been given a better alternative to Mike Castle, but they were not.  Whether O’Donnell wins or not, and (if she wins) whether she proves to be a terrific Senator or not, she at least has made the point to the GOP establishment that they’re going to have to get more serious about running candidates who are responsive to small-government concerns.  A frustrated and rebellious electorate is otherwise going to hand them some candidates that present real strategic problems.  Get with it, GOP leadership!  I can’t count the number of my GOP friends who won’t contribute to the national party leadership any more, and who instead contribute either to individual candidates or to more focused groups like Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservative Fund.  A lot of us have had it up to here with GOP leaders who refused to back Toomey, Rubio, and the like.

  • suek

    In line with my previous comment, I got directed to this blog.  It seemed relevant:

    Comments are good too.
    BtheP…the problem isn’t the direct physical one, the problem is that the actions are entirely self centered.  We’re supposed to outgrow that.  It’s perfectly normal as toddlers, but our world is supposed to expand and include others as we get older.  If somehow the maturing process is halted by discovering the pleasures of sex before we’ve included others as more important as our selves, then it becomes the trap you’ve described.  Religiously speaking, masturbation has been forbidden for exactly this reason – especially in marriage, since it’s the exclusion factor, not the sex factor that’s a problem.  Sex is extremely powerful – that’s why (imo) it has been used by the lefties to destroy the family.  It hasn’t succeeded  – yet – but they’re still working on it.

  • jlibson

    I think this is one of the best posts of your that I have read. Very effective.

  • Bookworm

    jlibson (#22):  Turns out that confession is not only good for the soul, it’s good for my writing too!  Thank you.

  • Ymarsakar

    Pornography preys upon the weak. If you are of weak heart and soul, you fall to it just as people fall to cults, cons, Nigeria email scams, abusive spouses, political tyrants and mass murderers.
    It’s just how people are. They need someone to tell them what to do, if they themselves lack the confidence to tell themselves what to do.
    Now there are disparate paths leading away from this principle. You can either find someone that tells you what to do that improves you to a point where you no longer need as much help or command economy, or you can decide to follow evil down whatever path evil has in store, or you can do both.
    <B>A lot of us have had it up to here with GOP leaders who refused to back Toomey, Rubio, and the like.</b>
    It was long past time for a purge of that party. It has gotten too complacent and been left in the frige for way too long.

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  • Hube

    I concur with many of your previous posters. The witchcraft and masturbation comments … for the Left to concentrate on these is downright pathetic. There is more than enough of a sketchy background on O’Donnell that these two instances are just silly. As you (Book) may know, I’m a lifelong Delawarean. I voted for Castle, and am having a LOT of difficulties rationalizing a vote for O’D. (My Council submission this week is about her “con artist”-ness.) In the end I MAY (I certainly won’t vote for Coons!), but as a principled conservative/libertarian, I have a LOT of trouble seeing past her [very] sketchy past (present topic excluded).

  • Ymarsakar

    Keep voting for Castle. He’ll make things better for Delaware. Just like in the past.

  • Ymarsakar

    Course, should Castle write it in, he’d show himself to be a dyed in the wool member of the ruling class. Power at any cost. Career politicians are rather finicky on the Constitution these days.

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