I waited tables back in grad school, at a catering venue on Long Island. I’d recommend for any young adult to get their first glimpse of the real world by working at any place with a kitchen and dinner guests because, even at the six-star establishments, you’ll get all walks of life. I worked with college kids who later went on to medical school, blue-collar townies who were applying for their carpentry apprenticeships, and busboys who would be spending the rest of their lives at this joint. I also heard a variety of opinions.

During one of my shifts, I was setting up a cocktail hour station with an employee named Kelly (fake name). Kelly was born and raised in Bay Shore. She had a local accent and conservative politics to go with it. She was one of the nicest people in the whole place, but her Facebook page was full of “Obummer” memes, while I was still stuck in my Jon Stewart-esque liberalism at the time. This was around the year that Occupy Wall Street was becoming a thing, and I found myself in political limbo. You see, while I was totally on board with Stewart and Colbert in lampooning the boomercon Tea Party’s awkwardness, I was disappointed that they later withheld judgment on the twentysomethings who spent their days defecating in Zucotti Park. I also was noticing that Obama’s “Apology Tour” had led to nothing but continued disdain from Iran, as well as more terrorist attacks on American soil. The lie of John Kerry’s diplomacy was now inexcusable.

“I don’t know what the hell I am anymore,” I said to Kelly. “These protestors aren’t convincing anyone with their behavior, but these corporations are making obscene amounts of money.”

Kelly began to challenge me.

“What do you mean, ‘obscene amounts of money?’ How is it ‘obscene?’” I paused for a second, since I hadn’t really thought about why that word was so often used by the media to describe profits.

“Well…You know, they just make so much, and they could be using it for so many other things.”

Kelly then began my now decade-long journey of awakening with a two-letter, one-syllable word.


After I gave a perplexed double-take, she continued. “So what if they make a lot of money? They earned it, and they have the right to do what they want with it.” I again paused in thought, but pushed back a few more times.

“But they could be giving more of that money to charity, or improving education…”

“But why is it up to you how they spend their money?”

I may not have conceded defeat during that conversation, but she definitely got the wheels turning. I also knew of a few other conservative waiters who seemed nice enough. One was an Italian guy from Lindenhurst with a Joe Pesci accent and a no-bullshit attitude. And yet, here he was working along fine with a Jewish guy (me), black people, Latinos, Asians, Muslims, a gay couple and a lesbian couple. This wasn’t how Tony Soprano actedI needed to dive further into what the hell was going on here.

That evening, I returned to my parents’ house where I glanced at the pile of mail on their kitchen table. At the top of the heap was an issue of the JAMA medical journal. This was something I had always felt exemplified everything the left stood for—science, intellectualism, academia, open-mindedness, research, progress. And then it dawned on me.

Sure, there are government (taxpayer) grants that fund research, but what about all those corporations that create foundations for the same purpose? How many hospitals wouldn’t be built if not for rich people? In fact, every time I’ve been in any hospital, there’s at least a wing or two which have been contributed by a wealthy donor. And those medical schools that train doctors and scientists…Who serves on their Boards of Trustees? And who are the biggest source of donations from their alumni networks, even if just so they can brag about it later at the yacht club? And even when looking at tax revenue, the rich were obviously doing the heavy lifting there. Though I still believed in the need for some government at the time, there was no denying that millionaires and billionaires also played an important role. Maybe I would eventually be reassured that the political right was still full of shit, but at this point the jury was still out.

It was then that I came across a rant from Adam Carolla about OWS, and it blew my mind that the hardened high school dropout from The Man Show was talking about the power of creation, while the enlightened leftists only spoke of destruction. It was almost as if the hippies had lied to me all this time. Maybe not everyone on the right was John Lithgow in Footloose. Maybe I simply hadn’t met enough of them, and clearly you should thoroughly know your enemy before you decide to hate them. At least in Carolla’s case, he was sounding a lot more like Jack Nicholson toward the end of Mars Attacks. And maybe, this whole time, I had been sounding a lot like Brian from Family Guy.

A change in one’s mindset doesn’t occur overnight, and I’ve weaved in different directions over the years before finding the specific worldview that works for me, but along the way I’ve noticed that most people never even take the first step. Even those who are firmly confident in their principles often fail to understand why they believe what they believe. One thing I’ve heard Dr. Jordan Peterson mention, is that the “woke” movement was so successful at first, because conservatives hadn’t ever thought to articulate why free market capitalism is more ethical than socialism, or why Free Speech should be unfettered, or why it’s important to acknowledge the differences between men and women, or why children should not be led to surgically alter their genitals. Who would think that we need to explain any of this? Who has that kind of spare time anyway?

It might be impossible to predict which fundamental aspect of humanity might need to be spelled out next for neo-Marxists, but regardless of their tactics, I’ve learned that having a solid understanding of one’s beliefs is the key to competing in the big debates. If conservatives or even moderates want to win the culture war, it’s imperative to know how one thinks about things like politics, and why. It is only then that the holes in your opponents’ arguments can be found.

In my personal experience, I’ve determined the first step is to ask yourself an important question:

How would I know if I was wrong?

To be continued…