I Was An Angry Conservative Asshole

We all have things we aren’t proud of — I have many

Jason Weiland
11 min readJan 4, 2023
Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Trigger Warning: This was a difficult story to write and it talks honestly about subjects like mental illness, drug abuse, self-harm, racism, and Republicans. If you are highly sensitive or suffer from mental health issues, you may want to hit the back button and read something else.

As a young adult, I was a hateful, mean-spirited, angry bastard. I carried a gun on my hip and voted for any Libertarian and Republican candidates as long as they were going to protect my guns and all the freedoms I thought I was entitled to as a white man and an American.

But this story is not political, and I’ve written before about how I educated myself and changed everything I believed in, including being a cowardly racist.

Something happened to me that changed my attitude and my beliefs. I made a complete 180 and turned from a terrible example of a human being to someone I can be proud of. I sold my arsenal of guns immediately, but the rest took years and the assistance of others who didn’t see me as the enemy and helped me analyze and liberalize the ugly, hateful beliefs I used to stand for.

A combination of my environment growing up and a severe mental illness made me an evil person who didn’t care about anyone but himself. But as repulsive as I was, I was able to change.

There Once Was a Young Boy

I grew up in a very strict religious household. We were Jehovah’s Witnesses, so we had no political affiliations, didn’t celebrate holidays, and didn’t go to college. We didn’t expose ourselves to “worldly people,” instead, being content to mingle with other Witnesses.

I still went to school, but I didn’t fit in because I didn’t salute the flag or go to Christmas parties and birthdays, and I sat in the library and read encyclopedias instead of learning about evolution or sex in health class.

I didn’t have friends because I was different. I didn’t learn how to be social by going to school dances, or any after-school activities. I didn’t even play sports.

The one thing I do remember competing in was an academic competition, and only because it was during school hours. I remember winning almost everything I entered, and afterward walking down the hall with my ribbons and people calling me freak and faggot.

I was different.

And there was more about me that people didn’t know, not even my parents because I spent enough time in the library to learn what most normal people thought of people like me — people who heard voices and were anxious about everything. I’d also heard people in my congregation laugh about crazy people, and overhead an Elder say that demons most likely influenced people diagnosed with schizophrenia because of what they watched and listened to.

I knew if anyone found out I heard voices, they would label me, and everything I did would be scrutinized to find the reason that demons could control me. They would disfellowship me, and my family wouldn’t be able to talk to me anymore.

That is a lot of shit for a kid to handle.

But it wasn’t demons influencing me; it was the people I associated with in my congregation. We lived in the deep south in the late ’70s, and the town we lived in had a set of train tracks running through the middle. The POC lived on one side and white on the other.

Black people were treated poorly, and even as a kid, I could see it was wrong. But I heard it from the kids at school when I tried to talk to a girl sitting next to me who was black, and I heard it from the Elders in my congregation when they sat and listened to the old folks complain about the n****** without batting an eye.

I also heard it from the only group of kids I was allowed to hang out with. At our meetings, I stood in the back and dropped the needle on whatever song we would be singing that day. Usually, as I was setting up the sound system, the “popular” witnesses would gather around, and in soft voices, tell the most shocking jokes they could come up with. At first, my brother and I watched with our mouths open as they told jokes about lynching black people, raping young girls, and anything else as long as it was the worst debauchery imaginable.

My brother and I didn’t have any jokes, and there was no internet then, so we laughed and egged them on. I knew what we were doing was wrong, but I didn’t want to make waves because I had my own secrets to hide, and I had to appear like I was one of them.

When the Elders found out what was going on, there was an “investigation.” They didn’t like what they found out because the kids telling the jokes were the children of the Elders themselves, so they placed the blame on my brother and me, even though we were the ones who told the truth.

The jokes stopped, and none of the cool witnesses wanted anything to do with me anymore, but the damage was complete. Between what I heard from the people at school, and from the people in my congregation, I began to look differently at people who were not like me.

I was on my way to becoming the worst version of myself.

Son, You’re a Man Now

Disillusioned, I started spending more time with my head in books, and I began learning about the “real” world. I had begun to see the world outside my little bubble, and it was frightening.

They said people of color were killing and raping everyone. Hippies were destroying the very fabric of America. Liberal college graduates were trying to convert everyone to communism, and the only way we could be safe was to arm ourselves.

All these things I accepted as facts and the voices in my head made sure they kept the fear of anyone different tumbling through my brain.

Eventually, I got in trouble with the Witnesses, because I experimented with liquor and cigarettes. For me, that spelled the end of my relationship with a God and anyone who was part of organized religion.

I moved out on my own soon after because being free to do whatever I wanted to be was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

Over the next few years, I would meet women, try every drug I could get my hands on, and be as debased and immoral as I could possibly be. With the little money I had, I started buying guns and carrying them with me everywhere.

By then, I had moved on from the deep south to Native American country and found that, even if they were different, and some of the white people I knew told me they were animals, these people were gracious and kind. They were human and didn’t deserve to be disrespected.

There were also a lot of Spanish and Mexican people, and even though their culture was different, and they spoke differently, they welcomed me in and treated me like a brother.

I ate, drank, and smoked weed with these people every night, and I started to see that being different was not bad. I even married a Navajo woman, and we had lovely children together.

Stupid Politics

Early on, because of the media, I started worrying that the police would come and take my guns, and of course, the voices said that they absolutely would if given a chance. One day, I met a guy who said he was a Libertarian, and I guess he could see I was a mind ripe for the picking.

We sat and partied with his other friends who talked about the 2nd Amendment and gun control, and how we needed to vote to protect our rights. They gave me pamphlets and stories written by famous confederate generals to absorb.

I was becoming indoctrinated but didn’t know it, and the only thing that saved me from that life was I moved away and never talked to those people again.

I had sold the guns for money, but I knew I would get more because I needed to defend America from the Liberal pansies when they tried to force communism on us. I mostly stayed away from politics, but I did vote Libertarian or Republican whenever an election came up.

My various mental illnesses got worse, and I eventually broke down and had to get help for depression and anxiety. I was careful not to mention anything about the voices because I watched TV — I knew what they did to people like me, and there was no way I would end up in a straight-jacket and a rubber room.

A Turning Point

Time went by, and even though my wife and I had two kids, we split up. My job moved me all over Arizona, and even though my illness had me by the throat, I still worked all the time. I made good money and started buying guns again. My closet looked like an armory, and I often went out shooting.

But I was still fueling the chaos in my mind with drugs; the harder, the better.

One night, I was at a party with work friends. The table was full of mixed drinks and a whole pile of meth, which I kept going back to again and again.

Sometime around 4 am after everyone else had quit fast-talking and fell asleep, I left and walked back to my apartment. On the way back, the voices were screaming at me, and they were confusing me.

It got so bad that I started screaming myself. I had completely lost my mind. I must have taken off my shirt because I was never able to find it. I remember running through woods, and down the middle of the road.

I made it back to my place as the sun was coming up, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that the cops were following me. Paranoia turned to panic, and I locked my door, ran into my closet, and barricaded the door with a dresser.

I checked all my guns to make sure they were loaded, and hid under a blanket, rocking back and forth and crying. I couldn’t control what was happening to me. I couldn’t control the fear.

The voices were still screaming, and the drugs were like gasoline on a fire. I convinced myself the police were right outside, and the voices were shrieking at me not to let them take me alive. I tried to put the barrel of a gun in my mouth, but it was a Desert Eagle .50 cal, and I chipped a tooth. So, I put the barrel under my chin and started pulling on the trigger.

Then, the phone rang. This event happened before cell phones, but I had dragged the handset into the closet with me when I went in. I was sure it was the police, but I was so confused by this time I answered anyway.

It was my mom.

I remember much of what we talked about, but I didn’t tell them what was going on. We chatted about me moving back to Tucson to be closer to my kids, and the sound of her voice calmed me. I put the gun down and cried quietly as my mom talked about finding an apartment close to them.

I hung up the phone, and I don’t know how, but I no longer felt fear, and I wasn’t confused. I knew what I had to do.

I unloaded all my guns and locked the ammunition in a metal ammo box. I put all the weapons in their cases and padlocked them. I never looked at them again until the day I sold them to an acquaintance. I wasn’t sad to see them go; I knew it was what had to be. I knew I was too mentally ill to be a gun owner, and no matter how much the voices yelled, I accepted the money and drove away without the guns.

And although over the years I smoked a lot of weed, I never touched another hard drug again after that night. It turned out to be quite hard because my body had already developed a craving for meth.

I quit my high-paying, stressful job, and moved back to Tucson. The next year would see me get back together with my wife and another little boy being born.

Life Goes On

Time went by, and even with my illnesses, I moved up the ladder in my career. I had gone to college and met all types of people, and college was the one thing that started changing me because I thrived with vibrant, creative, and intelligent people of all races and colors, and it got my wheels turning.

One of my best friends was one of the most chill and likable people I have ever met, and we became close. He didn’t know about the ugliness in my head, and if he did, he wouldn’t have wanted anything to do with me.

But I kept my secrets.

After bouncing from Tucson to San Jose, to Boston, I ended up in a company that was a dream. Fantastic people, company credit card, my own team of contractors — everything was perfect — except me.

I felt like I was walking on a narrow path on the side of a cliff, trying to hold on as a strong wind was trying to blow me off. The voices were brutal, and I started cutting myself again to quiet the noise in my head. I was a terrible mess, but I somehow held it all together for the sake of my family.

During this whole time of chaos, someone was walking beside me. And although he didn’t know the complete truth about what was going on with my head and my body, he knew I needed a friend.

Gabe and I became fast friends who worked together, laughed together, told dirty jokes, and could eat two large pepperoni pizzas with jalapenos in one sitting. We talked about our lives and the things we wanted from them.

I thought of him as my brother.

Gabe would speak to me at times about what it was like to live as a black man, maybe over beers or a dessert at a fancy restaurant, and I would listen. I listened because it was people like me who made him and other POC have to fight for the freedoms I took for granted.

I never told Gabe about my past misdeeds back then, and it is one of the great disappointments I have about myself because I know he might have understood. He knows now, since we have crossed paths again, and he has read my writing, but my silence back then has caused a rift that I can never fix.

I shouldn’t have expected he would fix me because I eventually learned that it shouldn’t be up to others to fix the failings of white people with privilege.

Then and Now

I’ve come a long way since then. I can’t say I am 100% bias-free, but when I fail, I always correct myself. I don’t own guns and am no longer conservative. I don’t believe liberals are trying to turn everyone communist.

I am remarried and have more kids. I moved my life and everything in it to the Philippines back in 2011.

I am very liberal and left-leaning now, although it’s hard to call myself a Democrat because they are still a little too centrist for me. I have spent years educating myself about the past and the lives of people different than me. I proudly stand up and show support for BLM and my LGBTQIA+ friends. I fight for women and children, and rage-post memes condemning conservatives and white supremacists.

I realize I’ve come a long way, but I still have a long way to go. Someone called me “woke” the other day, and I had to be honest and tell them I still feel like I’m sleeping. I still have so far to go, but I am going to spend the rest of my life becoming a decent human being, something I could not always call myself before.

I have been an ugly, hateful person. People tell me I should forget the past, but I remember it and let it fuel me to become a better person.

I was a gun-loving conservative and a racist, but I know I’m better now.



Jason Weiland

Personal essays and articles from a guy who never tires of writing about his life - jasonweiland.substack.com