It Don't Come Easy

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Often, I derive inspiration for my writing from songs — certain titles or lyrics just seem to wander into my brain and jangle around it until I find a way (and the time) to sort them out on the page. Ringo Starr’s “It Don’t Come Easy” has been doing just that of late (not the lyrics, just the title) as it relates to the concept of change — particularly changing minds.


I’ve been thinking a lot about political discourse — how fractious and perilous it most always seems to be. We’re a far cry from the spirited — but generally good-natured — debates I recall from my younger days. I suspect that’s in large part due to the primary way we communicate now — online and via social media, rather than face-to-face. It fosters depersonalization — dehumanization — and breeds disdain. I’ve been an observer of and participant in online political sparring long enough to understand that few minds are changed and few hearts won over via such mediums.

And yet…mine was.

You see, I used to be a liberal Democrat. I was raised on politics. My parents were very involved — in Young Democrats, campaigning, etc. In fact, my dad had just gotten home from the infamous Democrat Convention in Chicago in 1968 (he was inside the convention, not out among the rabble-rousers) when my mom informed him he’d need to take her to the hospital — to have me. We frequently discussed politics around the family dinner table. I attended countless political events with my parents. There’s a newspaper clipping of a four-year-old me “assisting” with the opening of the local Democrat headquarters.

Susie Moore – Democrat Campaign Headquarters – Lafayette Township – St. Louis County, Missouri – October 1972

Point being, I was pretty thoroughly steeped in it. And since everyone in my family (save my dear Republican grandmother) and most of the people around me seemingly had similar views, it wasn’t until I was an adult that I was forced to grapple with and test my own views.


Not surprisingly, I majored in Political Science (with a minor in History) as an undergraduate. I don’t recall there being too many times in college when I was confronted with non-liberal views. Yes, this was during the Reagan years, so I was familiar with (though vaguely leery of) Republicans and conservatives. And certainly, we learned about political parties and philosophies in my courses. But I rarely — if ever — found myself having to defend my views. From my perspective, they were fairly mainstream. (And, to be fair, they were rather moderate, compared to today’s progressive Democrats.)

That changed somewhat when I went to law school. I had a very conservative friend, who loved to debate — and we’d often do so while passing time in the lobby of the school between classes (and games of Euchre). I had a boyfriend who was pro-life, while I was, at the time, pro-choice (in the “I would never have an abortion myself, but I don’t believe it’s my place to dictate that to others” camp), and I recall having a rather heated argument over the issue. I don’t know that either one of us came away from that experience feeling better about it. It stayed with me, though (clearly, as here I sit writing about it 30 years later).

I do know that my reaction, whenever I was challenged, was to get very defensive. It took a very long time for me to realize that much of that defensiveness was born of my own uncertainty — and my fear of being wrong. I once expressed it like this:


What I realize now is that it wasn’t really them I was fighting. It was me. My inner voice — the one that yearns for common sense, order, practicality, efficiency and logical consistency — was whispering to me that perhaps the world didn’t work quite the way I’d always thought; perhaps my perceptions were…flawed?

That’s a bitter pill to swallow for a perfectionist like me.  Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong, it turned out could

I suspect very few people are perfectly at ease with being wrong. Pride, fear — they’re wrapped up tightly in protecting our perspectives and beliefs. Once you pull one of those threads loose, it could all just unravel, leaving you feeling exposed, vulnerable, and even unsure of who you are anymore.

So what was it that tugged at me enough, to get me to reexamine my views? A host of things, really — not least of which were September 11th and becoming a mother. But if I had to point to one critical turning point for me, it was this:

And yet, I remained “pro-choice” (for others.) I wasn’t fully ready to wrestle with the issue; to look it — or, perhaps myself — square in the face and dig down to the heart of the matter. Then the Terri Schiavo case took over the national news. Reflexively, I took the position that, while I sympathized with her parents’ desire to keep their daughter alive, legally the call belonged to her husband (absent concrete evidence of wrongdoing on his part). And if he (and the courts) believed she wouldn’t have wished to continue life-prolonging measures, then they oughtn’t be continued. The topic became one of intense debate on a political message board to which I belonged, and I found myself embroiled in daily debates about it.

Repeatedly, I laid out the defenses of my position, anxious to prove myself right. But…why was I so anxious? The situation didn’t involve me or anyone I knew directly. And nothing I said or did about it would make any difference. I was just an anonymous person on the internet; one of many voices shouting into the void. But I kept at it. As did those with whom I was arguing. I challenged them, and they challenged me — some harshly, some with a gentle and abiding faith. And all the while, I felt an internal tug of war. Something was pushing back, against and past my lawyerly adamance. I lived in a constant state of disquiet during the weeks and months the debate over Terri Schiavo’s fate raged on. [emphasis added]

Shortly before the final court decision was rendered, I experienced a sea change — in my heart and in my soul. My “defenses” dissolved and I embraced the notion that all life has value, that “All who are among the living have hope.” I recall that feeling — that knowledge — washing over me and taking hold like few things have done in my life. Part of me wondered why I’d been so resistant to it previously, aside from simply wanting to be “right.” I finally determined it had far more to do with not being “wrong.” Because if I was wrong on that, then I was wrong in my views on abortion, something I’d been adamantly defending for years.  And acknowledging that, coming to terms with that, inevitably meant embracing a deeper form of heartache than I’d been prepared to do. Because if one values all life, then one necessarily mourns its loss — and assumes a certain amount of responsibility for defending and supporting it. There’s an attendant investment in our fellow human beings that comes along with it. It requires more of us than nuanced, legal/academic and safely disinterested arguments. It is hard.


Why do I share all of this? To acknowledge that changing minds is indeed hard. But it can be done — I’m living proof of that. If my stubborn mind can be persuaded, so can others.

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