Maybe I’m remembering this wrong. Maybe not. I met my best high school friends at the lunch table. Scott Oppelt, John Clancy, Christian Saller, Tom Newport, and . . . and dude with curly blond hair who was in Scott Oppelt’s band. John. John Martin.
I met them early in my junior year. We had just one thing in common: we were all transferees. We were not native DuBourgers. We transferred. We were traitors to our former schools. We shouldn’t be trusted. And we shouldn’t mingle with the natives.
Again, I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure we were “encouraged” to sit together with other transferees. We’d be more comfortable with our own kind.
Being Irish, I figured this was all for the best. The Irish seemed to do much better when we all lived in the Irish ghettos. Once we moved to the burbs and joined golf clubs, we sort of lost our Irishness and all the benefits and forgiveness that went with it.
I think I was a pretty good DuBourger, for a transplant. I spent some time on the board of education in 2004 and 2005. And I’ve done a couple of summer alumni plays to help the school. So I wasn’t like a complete traitor.
Even though I was “encouraged” to sit with my fellow transferees (traitors), DuBourg was good to me. I had to sit out a year of sports, but that gave me time to get into theatre, which earned a college scholarship. And a really awesome group of friends, including the best girlfriend any high school guy could hope for.
To this day, I am a DuBourger, and I always will be. I love the place.
But there’s still that “go sit with your kind” thing that sticks with me. I wasn’t totally welcomed at DuBourg. I was accepted. They got used to me. But I was never a native.
The conservative world is a lot like DuBourg High School. Some of us are thrilled to death that Eric Grietens and Ben Carson have crossed the Rubicon to join our side. They remind me of past converts like John Dos Passos, Whittikar Chambers, and James Burnham. And Ronald Wilson Reagan. (Reagan, by the way, never repudiated or apologized for his four votes for FDR.)
But a lot of Missouri conservatives seems irritated that we’re attracting converts. Matt Hay, Bev Ehlen, and Ike Skelton are people I admire and respect, but they seem angry that these men have declared themselves conservatives. And when the recent converts get something wrong, they make the fundamental attribution error, ascribing the converts’ missteps to unfixable character flaws and not to situations that change. Situations, but for God's grace, we might all face. Worse, they want to punish Eric Greitens for statements he made eight years ago when he was a Democrat. Did they punish Reagan for his votes for FDR and Truman? Did they demand he repudiate his former positions?
As an immigrant, I can tell you immigrants make a lot of mistakes. We don’t know all the history and the nuances of the new culture. But we chose to be here. We chose this group. That should give the prior members pride, not frustration.
If the conservative movement has too many members, if we want no more conversion, someone please say so. And show me the 49-state wins as evidence.
Until then, let’s welcome the converts warmly and guide them in their conversion and formation. They need our guidance and wisdom, not our doubt and scorn.