Penny

In my last post I talked about Robert DeNiro’s apt description of the mind of a writer. One of the things I’ve always wondered is why there aren’t more openly conservative poets and writers. I have a few thoughts of my own, but I’d like to hear what you have to think.

I’ve shared a poem or two over the course of this blog, but I don’t think I’ve ever posted one that really makes a political statement. If you want a peak into my mind as a 21 year old kid, and the reaction I had after exiting the military and entering the college classroom, here it is. My writing has improved since then (I’m 34, so I would hope so!), but I don’t mind giving you a glimpse of my younger self.

In Defense of Dead Presidents and the American Way of Life.

Bees make beehives and we make buildings
Don’t lament the ingenuity within this sleek machine I’m driving;
It’s an extension of our being
Natural, like honeycomb or busy bees consumed by some activity
To better their day-by-day existence.

Let’s return to the lush green-wooded yesteryear
Where tribal chants and chieftain rants
Were aspects of everyday living.
Or better yet let’s not,
Intertribal rape and head lice were never that appealing.

American Empire, or so they say
Rapes third world resources from exploited labor—
Fire those lads lined up and ready to work long hours
Making meager earnings three times their peers!
Let’s pull out and prop up tin pot despots with aid that will never get there.

Curses! Western Civilization
With your claims of moral superiority
Ah yes, I’m aware of your duplicity—
Behind those technological wonder kids and wonder cures
Churned out from rule-of-law freedom spawn is something sinister I’m sure.

Back home things are horrid
The burger and fry flippers scream foul
Ten, Twenty, why not Thirty!
Let’s hike that minimum wage stand back and see what happens
Never mind the economics.

What’s wrong with the summertime soldier and sunshine patriot?
Let’s redefine patriotism to include
Malcontents and misfits and anti-war mentalities
Dead set on peace at any cost
Although rooms for rape, rooms for torture, rooms for worse are tricky.

I had been ill for quite some time—
Green tea tasted great but did little to quell my disease.
I asked my son to pray for me, but his principal said no.
Dejected, I turned to God and in a dream
He told me to see a doctor—who knew.

America, you make me sick
What with your so-called religious freedom, I’m persecuted at every turn.
I informed my priest I was heading to Saudi Arabia.
I would’ve went too! (if it were legal)
Christians can’t be citizens.

Mom and Dad say it’s not healthy
To be so wry, so angry, all the time.
The soul, like worn copper pennies.
It’s hard, I tell them, when notable poets and award winning scholars
Invent ways to trash Abe Lincoln.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

16 comments

  1. Maybe it’s a left-brain-right-brain thing. Maybe it’s because the publishing business is dominated by liberals –both in novels and screenwriting forms.

    Being a conservative I’ve written more than a few items containing conservative themes and observations.

    One here was inspired by several ultra-lib professors I had the displeasure of having in college and the hordes of unwashed hippies that have taken over the campus at UVM ..

    http://vermontverse.wordpress.com/2012/01/29/aging-hippy-blues/

    Another is a real life observation of a guy who lives down the road and his suffering family…

    http://vermontverse.wordpress.com/2012/09/06/theres-a-hole-in-daddys-nose/

    1. The fact that you came on this blog, both yesterday and today, and have offered up “the liberal publishing industry keeps good writers like me down” is absolutely astonishing. Given the bootstraps mentality of Doug and other writers who comment here, do you expect them to pull up a little chair and grab a little teacup at your pity party? The VT farm kid whose parents paid for an undergrad and MFA degree? You have a great education at your disposal.

      One of my favorite fiction writers is Tom Clancy, who happens to be more conservative (and dead) than all of you put together. Two poets I like, Frost and Yeats, are also conservative. What are you talking about? Maybe it is harder. If so, pull up those bootstraps and get to work.

      Doug and Carl are writing books. I’m starting a business which may include writing an e-book. Some of us take leaps, Jim. Take yours. You don’t want to look back at the end of a wasted life and regret. That taste is too bitter for words.

    2. Eh, that came out a bit rougher than intended. I read some of your stuff, Jim. Previously and today. It isn’t bad at all. I like your country lyrics the most. I meant what I said. Don’t hide behind excuses–get to it. Move to Nashville. Apprentice under Shane McAnally. I think you’d be surprised how far you can go.

    3. Years ago there was an article in Poets and Writers. It came out after I graduated and the writer implied that conservatives were just bad writers. Something stupid. They asked one of my professors, Amy Bender, what she thought. I can’t remember what she said, but it was something fair. She said she didn’t believe that was the case…but didn’t know why. She was one of my favorite professors at USC, and then seeing that article gave me a new respect for her. I wrote her a “thank you” email shortly afterward.

      Now that I’ve gone off on a tangent, I can get back to the original point I wanted to make. When I was in college I was outnumbered. There wasn’t another openly conservative writer in my program. I wrote stories and poetry, but I didn’t get political because I just didn’t have the energy to have that fight. My personal opinion is that there are probably more conservatives than we realize, but they just choose to not get too political.

      I would agree with you that the industry doesn’t favor the conservative worldview and I think there is something to be said about left brain/right brain kind of stuff, although it’s hard to quantify. I think one of the reasons I often feel like a weirdo within the conservative movement is that I have that creative streak in me. In many settings I actually get along quite well with liberals. I guess that’s why I’m a Gemini…

    4. I know the feeling. Pretty much everyone in the creative writing club I was involved in during my brief time in college were vocal liberals and I actually quit because it was devolving into a political club instead of a writing club, as the instructor never missed an opportunity to make snide comments about McCain-Palin (this was late 2008) and conservatives in general, while lavishing nothing but praise on Obama and condemning those who weren’t voting for him as “racist.” In that club, I was never vocal about my beliefs. In the others I was, and as mentioned, I was docked points for expressing dissenting views.

      But yeah, Jim, in this case I agree with Lightbringer: take a leap and pursue your dream of being a songwriter, if that’s what you want to do. One of the reasons why I’ve been spending more time writing my book lately is because I don’t want to look back and have regrets about what could’ve been. I want to get this done.

    5. Haha. It looks like writing classes/clubs in Minnesota aren’t all that different than California, Carl! Yeah, like I said, I just … didn’t have the energy to get into all that side-stuff. I just sort of started to daydream when my professors or classmates went in weird political directions. I remember during one class I had a professor who was like, “Are all you guys ready to vote for Kerry next week?!” and I just looked at her like, “How presumptuous of you.” Who does that?

      Anyway, I’m glad that you’re working on the book there, buddy. Just keep chipping away…

    6. Ha. I didn’t speak up in the writing club because I was the lone conservative in it. Everyone in the class was a vocal liberal and I would’ve been outnumbered if I would’ve involved myself in a debate. I would either start daydreaming or toward the end, start walking out of the class when it got to be too political and eventually just not going altogether. I felt that a writing class should be about writing, and not politics.

      I’m not surprised one of your professors said that. One of my professors (an Arkansas Democrat) stated in her introduction speech at the beginning of the term that “I don’t care y’all is votin’ for, but I’m voting for Barack, like I assume most of y’all are.” (Yes, she really talked like that). This was a writing composition class but most of the time it devolved into an Obama love-fest and we spent more time discussing racism than we did anything composition-related. Ugh.

      Minnesota is a progressive state (unfortunately) but that’s mostly the Twin Cities and college towns. The smaller towns in the rural areas, like where I live, lean more conservative. We frequently elect unqualified candidates to local and national office (Mark Dayton, Al Franken, Amy Klobuchar, etc.), which is just embarrassing. I’d love to move out of this state to a more conservative state and/or somewhere warmer, because I’m sick of snow and below-freezing temperatures.

      As for my book, I’ve just stopped making excuses and am actively working it to get it done.

  2. Your frustrations with the non-military world are evident here. Was it difficult adapting from the regimented military life to the liberal world of college?

    I have wondered how many on the experiences it seems you and Carl have both had whether or not some of the students only joined in the Liberal discussions so as to fit in with their peers? A lot of people have difficulty being an individual of their own views contradict those of their social group.

    I have often seen it in classrooms that if each student is asked the answer to a question the few near the end will normally give the most popular answer, even if they know the correct one. I always gave the answer I thought was correct (which lead to a few “teacher’s pet” comments)

    I asked someone once why they gave the wrong answer when I could see they had the correct one written down. He said “sometimes its easier to be wrong in a group than correct on your own.”

    1. Actually, the biggest problem for me was doubt that would creep in. In the military it’s weird because although you’re potentially doing very dangerous stuff (you can injure yourself or die during a training exercise if someone isn’t paying attention, especially in the infantry) there is also a safety net. Your meals are taken care of. You have a roof over your head. You live with your coworkers, so if you have a decent relationship with them…they’re there for you. In the civilian world, in many ways you’re on a high wire without a net.

      What’s more painful: dying on the job surrounded by friends, or dying professionally while all alone?

      I’m a pretty confident guy…always have been, but I took some pretty big risks to put myself through college and then graduate school when I moved out to Washington, D.C. I was accruing debt I wasn’t always comfortable with it. To me, there can be “good” debt (e.g., spending money on education you believe will increase your human capital) but I’m still not particularly fond of it. I always just thought of it as betting on myself, and since I know I’m going to work my butt off it’s basically a really good bet — one I’d be stupid not to take.

      However, some days the whole process can be scary. That’s where, for me, having faith in God comes in. I’ve always found that when I put my faith fully in God’s hands…things worked out just fine.

      During undergrad I would often bite my tongue and not saying anything, or I’d give the most “moderate” answer I could to avoid rocking the boat. In some classes I pushed it with the professors if I thought they wouldn’t ding me for it, but in general I simply couldn’t afford to take that chance. I was relying (in part) on my Montgomery GI Bill to get me through that first year, and I needed to have a high grade point average. If I had one or two professors who docked me for my political opinion (and I had one or two who blatantly did along the way) I risked losing that money.

      Graduate school was very interesting. I was one of only three conservatives in the whole program. It was two years of being told “you’re an idiot” for believing what you do, sometimes nicely, sometimes not-so-nicely. But by that time I didn’t care. I swung back hard…and sometimes paid for it. However, on some levels I’m thankful to my peers and professors for being that way; getting forged in that fire made me sharper.

      I’ve always been an independent spirit of sorts. Even in high school I wasn’t one to give the popular answer when I thought it was wrong. I’ve always gotten along well with my peers, but I’ve always been sort of on the outside. It’s like they say: “Doug is a nice guy, but there’s something a little different about him…” I used to wonder about what that meant, but somewhere along the line I just embraced it.

  3. Thank you for the details reply Doug.

    There’s nothing wrong with being a little different. Its our differences that make us all unique and special.

    1. I was always a little different as well. I think part of that can be chalked up to having Asperger’s syndrome and lacking the social skills that many of my peers seemed to have. Some people thought I was crazy. In middle school, my principal openly told me that he thought I was a “disturbed delinquent” who was going to spend my entire life in and out of prison for simply defending myself from bullies who’d try to beat me up because they didn’t like “retard kids.”

      Although the path toward me becoming a conservative was set in middle school, around the time of 9/11, it wasn’t until high school that I really voice my opinions and as I’ve mentioned the past, I would often pay for it by having papers docked. I gave a negative review to Al Gore’s propaganda film “An Inconvenient Truth” and my science teacher docked me a whole letter grade. A teacher in my senior year docked me points when I criticized an anti-Fox News documentary she showed the class.

      I got along with everyone just fine (and I still get along with generally everyone I meet, unless they’re rude to me; I still talk to and have friends, even though my closest friends are spread out across the country and I don’t have Facebook anymore), although there a few kids who turned on me after they discovered I was a conservative. I remember how at a Veteran’s Day pep fest I called out some kid who was being rude and talking to his friends during the festivities and he went on some anti-American, anti-Bush, anti-military rant. I’m not a violent man, but the temptation to punch him was strong. Up to that point I had gotten along with that kid just fine, but he had shown his true colors that day and while he didn’t bully me, he managed to turn a few people against me.

      There was also some douche who moved here from Montana (not unlike a certain former troll who used to hang around here) in my sophomore year who would mock my conservative beliefs and developed an instant dislike of me. The feeling was mutual. He also liked to call me “racist” and “sexist,” regardless of what I was talking about at the time. He also had anti-American views and called the military “fascist pigs” on a regular basis. I saw him a few times after high school and every time I’ve resisted the urge to punch him on sight, because he would always make some nasty comments about me and whoever was with me. He mocked my mom’s weight one time when I saw him and that really set me off.

      A girl I had a crush on in high school asked me who I was voting for in late 2008 and when I replied, “McCain,” she called me a “racist pig” and I never talked to her again after that. That really stung, because I really liked that girl and I honestly thought I had a legitimate chance with her. We had quite a few things in common and I was on the Quiz Bowl team with her.

      But like Doug, having these experiences, has sharpened my own views and for that I guess I’m somewhat grateful.

    2. A girl I had a crush on in high school asked me who I was voting for in late 2008 and when I replied, “McCain,” she called me a “racist pig” and I never talked to her again after that. That really stung, because I really liked that girl and I honestly thought I had a legitimate chance with her. We had quite a few things in common and I was on the Quiz Bowl team with her.

      Well, it’s probably a good thing you didn’t go on a date with her, buddy. Think of how annoying it would have been to pay for a few dates on her and then on the third one she calls you a “racist” and never talked to you again…

      When I first got out of the military I started taking classes at the local community college. I had to take some math and science classes before transferring to USC, and there was a girl who would always sit next to me, talk to me, laugh at my jokes, etc. She was really friendly. So one day after class we were walking out and when we got to the parking lot I asked if she wanted to go out to dinner or a movie. She literally laughed out loud and walked away. After that she never sat next to me and pretended like I didn’t exist. It was the weirdest thing because I thought, “What the heck?! You sat next to me! You talked to me! You gave every indication that you were interested in me, and then had the nerve to laugh in my face when I asked you on a date?”

      I was really mad because in my heart I knew I was meant for…bigger things. I’m sorry if that sounds egotistical or what not, but I really have always believed that. It was like, “Go ahead and laugh because I’m going to be the one who has the last laugh.”

      I determined that from that point on I wasn’t going to go out of my way to impress some girl. If anything, I gave off a “you need to impress me” vibe…and suddenly they began showing interest. I had one girl tell me that she became interested in me because I was the only guy in class who didn’t hit on her. My wife became interested in me because early on after we met there were two instances where I could have tried something on her…and didn’t. She said she was shocked that I refrained. I guess my point is: Forget the dumb chicks and know in your heart that you’re a “good catch.” If you really believe it, the right girl will find you.

      This is unrelated, but a character in my book has Asperger syndrome. He actually plays an important role. My wife is helping me out with getting the details right. I’ll be interested in hearing your feedback once it’s published! Speaking of my book — back to the grind. I needed to take a break. 🙂

    3. “Well, it’s probably a good thing you didn’t go on a date with her, buddy. Think of how annoying it would have been to pay for a few dates on her and then on the third one she calls you a “racist” and never talked to you again…”

      In hindsight, I feel the same way. It would’ve been a total waste of time to go out with her, pay for dinner and have her call me “racist” repeatedly. That relationship would’ve been a waste of time. Besides, my sister already calls me “racist” on a regular basis (that is, when she bothers to talk to me at all), so why would I want a girl i was dating to do the same?

      “When I first got out of the military I started taking classes at the local community college. I had to take some math and science classes before transferring to USC, and there was a girl who would always sit next to me, talk to me, laugh at my jokes, etc. She was really friendly. So one day after class we were walking out and when we got to the parking lot I asked if she wanted to go out to dinner or a movie. She literally laughed out loud and walked away. After that she never sat next to me and pretended like I didn’t exist. It was the weirdest thing because I thought, “What the heck?! You sat next to me! You talked to me! You gave every indication that you were interested in me, and then had the nerve to laugh in my face when I asked you on a date?”

      I know that feeling, where girls I liked blew me off when I asked them out. It’s happened to me multiple times. Usually, they would sit next to me in class or at lunch, take to me, laugh at my impressions of people (the Ahnuld one was always been popular). And then when I’d ask her if she wanted to hang out, she’d laugh and say, “why would I go out with a dork like you?” Similar things would happen on Facebook. I’d friend a girl or two from work, have conversations with them on there but they wouldn’t even acknowledge me at work. It was distressing, to be sure.

      “I determined that from that point on I wasn’t going to go out of my way to impress some girl. If anything, I gave off a “you need to impress me” vibe…and suddenly they began showing interest. I had one girl tell me that she became interested in me because I was the only guy in class who didn’t hit on her. My wife became interested in me because early on after we met there were two instances where I could have tried something on her…and didn’t. She said she was shocked that I refrained. I guess my point is: Forget the dumb chicks and know in your heart that you’re a “good catch.” If you really believe it, the right girl will find you.”

      I think I sometimes I think I try too hard to impress girls I meet and that drives them away. And when I do manage to get a girl to say yes to a date, it’s always the ones who betray me at the top of a hat. My first girlfriend (in eighth grade) was a punk rock-type feminist who ultimately cheated on me with a football player. My second and most recent girlfriend was temperamental and prone to getting angry at me for no reason; I was friends with her for a few years after our relationship, but she ultimately blocked me on Facebook after I disagreed with her on abortion; she’d undergone a brainwashing by her college professors and became a feminist nutcase. But yeah, I’m going to forget the dumb chicks. I know in my heart that I’m a good catch and feel that sooner or later, the right girl will find me.

      “This is unrelated, but a character in my book has Asperger syndrome. He actually plays an important role. My wife is helping me out with getting the details right. I’ll be interested in hearing your feedback once it’s published!”

      Interesting. I’d definitely read it, when you’re done.

    4. I’m looking forward to reading both of your books. Might even push them to the top of the reading pile

  4. It is nice to discuss topics such as this in a polite way. I often look back at my niece and reflect on her confidence. She once had a class where a liberal instructor asked faith and political questions to segregate the room; with each question she became more alone. After the questions she was the only one left on one side which was conservative and faith based. They then had a debate and my niece held her own and discussed the topics with the skill that I know she has. I do not know if she changed any views but I look at her confidence and I am inspired. Teaching at a University I know this can be a very big challenge. I treat everyone with respect and fairness in my class even if they do not agree with my views, I also try to inspire discussion and keep my personal views out but I sometimes let them in a little more than I would like.

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