One night when I was eating, Ronald Reagan was too.
The news was on and he was at some state dinner, up on the dais, listening to a guy at the microphone. He held a forkful of food to his mouth, put it in and started chewing.
That's the exact moment I stopped hating Ronald Reagan.
I owned punk rock albums with his face, disfigured, on the cover. I’d been chanting “Ronald Reagan/he's no good/send him back to Hollywood” pretty much every weekend for, what, five years at that point? People made dart boards with his face on it, burned him in effigy, put on Ronald Reagan Halloween masks and did goofy street theatre at our demos.
My then-boyfriend was sitting right beside me, muttering something, smoking my cigarettes again. Could he tell?
I just stared straight ahead, trying to keep my bearings as the bizarre sensation of Not Hating Ronald Reagan rushed through me like a shot of whatever that was the dentist gave me once.
I wonder if a lot of ex-leftists like me and Kathy have moments of personal history like this, moments in which the earth stands still, and you feel like you are going to fly right off at the shock.
I've had more than one. I've had two, in fact. Both of them were more religious than political. The political thing for me grew out of the religious thing.
Oh, no wait. I've had three.
One when I was seventeen, walking down Pandora street in Victoria, mulling hatefully over how evil the Catholic Church was in all its evil, oppressive, evil, patriarchal evilness. I was heading for the Cultured Cow for one of my favourite things: a bowl of their absolutely smashing clam chowder and a prawn sandwich, when I stopped at the crosswalk at Fort street. While I was waiting for the light to change, and I was grinding my teeth over the Evil Catholic Church, a thought popped into my head: "I might be wrong."
What did I actually know about the Catholic Church anyway? Not a lot, since I had attended parochial schools run out of one of the world's most squirrelly dioceses. I had to admit that I was, possibly, not in possession of all the facts.
After lunch, I went to the library and found some books about Catholicism. I can't remember what they were, but they led to others. And then more. And...well...as you see.
The second was the day I realised, after many years of looking at books about Catholicism, that the Church was right about EVERYTHING. Ghah!
I had been reading about the international population control movement's efforts to force people in the developing world to not have children. They did things like secretly sterilising people without their consent by lying to them about innoculations. I still didn't agree with the Church on birth control, entirely, but I couldn't deny that if people wanted to have children, they had a natural right to do so. Probably one of the most fundamental of all natural rights, in fact. The continuation of the species is kind of important.
I went to see the film Schindler's List. Do you remember the scene in which the Nazi soldiers shot the one-armed machinist? At that moment, the entire thing came together like a thunderclap over my head. Here was the ultimate result of the utilitarian philosophies supporting the population control thing, the abortion thing, the artificial contraception thing. Murder of innocent people because they were no use to the state. The Church was right. The world was wrong.
The implications were...well, rather large.
I started to shake, and continued to shake for the rest of the film. Afterwards, I called my friend Bill, the atheist, and told him to meet me downtown at the Railway Club, and to bring his cigarettes. After a couple of hours of scotch and smokes (imagine! Smoking inside a bar!), Bill said, "Well, if you have worked it out and found to your satisfaction that the things the Church teaches about life are true, you are morally obliged to live as a Catholic. You have to start following their rules."
Bill was a pretty logical guy, and that was tough to argue with.
Tough, but for me, nothing is actually impossible to argue with.
I went to confession the next day. After that, I spent three years in a ferocious struggle with God. He won, of course.
The third was much simpler.
One day, I was complaining about the inadequacies of the conservative Catholic analysis of The Collapse. My friend said, "Hilary, you don't think you're a conservative Catholic, do you?"
"Well, yeah. What else?"
"Don't be silly. You're a traditionalist"
I checked it out on the internet, and hey! whaddya know? So I was!