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Beware of the facts: They can get in the way of ideology

I entered Dulaney High School in 2003 as a staunch Republican thanks to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. My opinions mirrored those of hawkish conservatives; I felt that anyone who presented a threat deserved military retaliation.

My parents, moderate Democrats, greeted my opinions with the shaking of heads and sighs of incomprehension. But there was no moving me from my beliefs. I wanted to stand behind whatever was needed to protect the homeland and President George W. Bush’s words made me think he was the man to do that.

My classes — particularly American Government freshmen year — indulged my interest in politics. Liking writing, I combined the two and started blogging, later attracting the attention of conservative columnists David Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.

At school, I took my passions to the two places available for opinionated students, the newspaper and debate team. For the next year, I voiced my vendetta against liberal editorialists through letters to the editor and, after joining the staff, rose to the rank of opinion editor my junior year and copy editor senior year. The debate team elected me president my junior year.

Not only did I like getting under liberals’ skin, people rewarded me for it.

Too bad my curiosity about the world invaded.

Having a love for history, I enrolled junior year in Advanced Placement U.S. history. Tales of U.S. imperialistic actions in Panama, Hawaii and the Philippines shocked me.

With a defense budget of more than the rest of the world’s military spending combined and 725 American military bases across the globe, modern America eerily mirrored the “military-industrial-complex” Dwight Eisenhower warned against in his presidential farewell address.

And revelations of covert actions executed by the Central Intelligence Agency in Iran, Cuba and elsewhere made me realize the American government created the problems we face today. Call me naive. But cut me some slack. I was 12 when terrorists turned planes into bombs.

Patriotism fueled me, not history.

I started tuning my radio less frequently to conservative commentator Sean Hannity, who claimed that Saddam Hussein held weapons of mass destruction months after it became obvious that no such things existed. It was troubling to believe I may have been betrayed.

And I abandoned my blog, toned down the rhetoric of my editorials and stopped devouring political books by Coulter.

The convictions that once seemed so invincible fell apart in the face of history.

No political commentator or politician had anywhere near the effect Mrs. McDaniel, my history teacher. She acted as a journalist of history, presenting the facts without interjecting her own opinion.

Along the way, those facts made me learn to question authority.

As graduation approaches and college applications stack up on my desk, I try to approach issues with an open mind and what I think is right.

And I use common sense, not ideology, to make decisions.

Looking forward to a career in opinion journalism, I feel assured that my words will no longer come from a preconceived stance due to the chatter of politicians and commentators, but from my mind and heart.

Justin Snow is a senior at Dulaney High School and an intern at The Baltimore Examiner. Next fall, he plans to enter college and major in political science and journalism. He can be reached

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