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This post does not reflect the views of any organization. It is strictly my own opinion.

I’ll admit it. I’m a recovered neoconservative. It took years of education but I grew out of it. I’m just thankful that I saw my flawed logic at the young age of fifteen.

I was born at the tail end of the Reagan administration. Since birth I have been destined to be Nancy Pelosi’s worst nightmare. I was a meat-eating, flag-waving and gun-loving little girl. While the other kids in school were giving speeches about puppies and Disney movies, I was giving overly passionate speeches about the insanity of gun control legislation. My parents were Republicans and I thought that party affiliation must have been passed on through the bloodstream.

The first presidential election that I remember was in 1996. At the age of eight years old, I had made a “Bob Dole for President” sign and marched through the house with it. I naturally had done no research on his policy positions but he had an “R” after his name. That was good enough for me. My third grade class had a presidential poll and Bob Dole slightly won. I thought that the rest of the class must have been a bunch of tree hugging wusses. It never occurred to me back then that there were more views than just Republicans and Democrats. It wasn’t like you either loved Bob Dole or Bill Clinton.

The night of November 2, 1996, my mother woke me up to tell me that Bill Clinton had won the election. I remember having difficulty sleeping that night. How could this have happened? In my eight year old brain, Republican Bob Dole was some of a savior. I listened to my father’s talk radio shows and simply repeated what they said. I constantly complained about liberals and called them names like sissies and hippies. I believed in every word of the Republican platform without any independent thought.

I was thrilled with George W. Bush became president in 2000. Finally a Republican president! Things were going to change, right? I was 12 years old on September 11, 2001. I was sitting in my eighth grade science class when another teacher ran into the classroom and told us to turn on the television. I saw the burning Pentagon and the teacher immediately turned around the television. I lived 30 miles from Washington, D.C. so there were quite a few kids who had parents who worked in the Pentagon. After he watched it for a couple minutes, he finally told us “we have been attacked. For the rest of your lives, you will always remember where you were at this exact moment.” He was right.

I remember sitting at lunch that day with a bunch of 12 and 13-year-old girls trying to figure who attacked us. I had never heard of Osama bin Laden. Our school had never taught us anything about America’s intervention in the Middle East. I never thought that maybe, just maybe our foreign policy which has killed thousands and thousands of innocent civilians in the Middle East over the past few years had something do with it. I had no idea that America had hundreds and hundreds of military bases around the world in countries that were no threat to us and didn’t want us there.

The next few years were confusing. I wrongly believed that the 9/11 attacks were somehow connected to Iraq. I listened to the pundits on the television without doing any of my own research. I thought President George W. Bush was being courageous for starting a bunch of new wars. It showed that we weren’t weak. The terrorists hated us for our “freedoms.” George W. Bush was one of us. I wasn’t supposed to criticize a Republican president ever.

The “Patriot” Act was passed in October 2001. Some say that it wasn’t even written when Congress voted on it. It gave the federal government the power to spy on citizens through their phones, e-mails, medical records, financial records and more without a warrant. Weren’t Republicans supposed to be about limited government and freedom? This was clearly a violation of the fourth amendment. The Founding Fathers would been ashamed. As a devoted Republican, I tried my best to ignore it.

As I saw all these horrible deaths on my television, I slowly began to question our mission in the Middle East.  The wars had gone on for a few years. What exactly had been accomplished? Was it worth the deaths of thousands of our men and women and innocent Afghan and Iraqi civilians? I saw young men in my town come back from war with severe mental problems.

As Joesphn Sobran said “War has all the characteristics of socialism most conservatives hate: Centralized power, state planning, false rationalism, restricted liberties, foolish optimism about intended results, and blindness to unintended secondary results.”

Wait a minute. Weren’t Republicans supposed to be pro-life which means cherishing all life? On the Internet, I saw pictures of little children who were killed or disfigured because of American bombs. Just imagine if that was your child. How could this not have any unintended consequences? Isn’t torture immoral? Weren’t Republicans supposed to be for fiscal responsibility? These wars have cost us trillions of dollars. Doesn’t Christianity teach peace and not war? War seemed inconsistent with conservative principles. I should have known that Republicans used to be the anti-war party. See: Robert Taft. Back then I never dared said any of my concerns out loud.

The 2004 election opened my eyes. On visits to my grandparents’ house, my parents and my grandparents would always discuss politics for many hours. I overheard my grandfather criticize George W. Bush. My grandfather has always been a straight shooter who has never minced words. He didn’t hesitate to call Bush a liar and a fraud. I always assumed my grandfather was a Republican too. He spent nearly the last decade mad as hell at Bill Clinton. I then learned my grandfather was this funny sounding “L” word. Working many years in the federal government made him a libertarian. He learned that government only makes things worse.

At the age of 15, I spent many hours researching “libertarian” on the Internet. I loved everything I read. These were the people who truly believed in limited government and freedom. I became disillusioned with both parties and politics in general. I never dreamed at this point that I would make any sort of career out of anything political.

It was early 2007 when I first heard of Ron Paul. I was in an anti-Patriot Act Facebook group and someone left a comment that said “Google Ron Paul.” The Google search changed my life. He was a modern-day Founding Father who spoke the truth. He was anti-war and pro-freedom. He wanted the government out of our personal lives. I remember saying to a friend “I’m voting for this Congressman Ron Paul for President. I doubt he’s going to go very far though.” Boy was I wrong.

The support that Ron Paul got was amazing. I wasn’t the only one who was unhappy with our nation’s direction. It was refreshing to see such an honest and principle man running for the highest office. I organized groups on my campus to chalk “Ron Paul for President” on our sidewalks at night. I became known as the “Ron Paul girl” at my college. I remember my first time meeting Ron Paul in the summer of 2007 when we organized a rally in DC in less than 12 hours. We got about 50 people to show up with homemade signs.

I was on the Ron Paul messages boards nearly every day. I learned about the Austrian school of economics and the Federal Reserve. Things I would have probably never learned about if it wasn’t for Ron Paul’s presidential campaign. I attended many Ron Paul rallies in 2007 and 2008 in which we called Tea Party rallies. It was an amazing feeling to be surrounded by so many like-minded people. The anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, December 16, 2007 was one of the many highlights from the campaign.

I’ve learned a lot over the past seven years. The most important lesson is “it’s not the left vs. the right. It’s the state vs. you.” Party labels only make us fight. It’s unfortunate that so many people still have my eight-year old mentality that the enemy is liberals (or conservatives). It only distracts us from the real enemy. The left-right paradigm is false.

As Edmund Burke said “the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” I pledge to always speak up against evil no matter who is to blame. I will educate myself before expressing an opinion on an issue. I do my best to be polite and not use ad-hominem attacks. These days I stick to facts and logic. My main goal is outreach and education. I changed my ideas once I opened my mind and challenged my beliefs. I hope that you will not be duped by either political party. If you believe in freedom and peace, I hope you’ll join us someday.

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