We had friends over, friends we hadn’t seen, it turned out, in 8 or 9 years. To talk to them, you would think they are pretty conventional liberals – they are concerned about all the usual liberal matters but in fact they are Republican. Not wanting to spoil our evening, I did not press them but they did hear our view of things.
What struck me was that they had read both of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s major books and one said, “You’ll never get me to believe that Islam is not a religion of violence.” To me, that was a repudiation of all that she had tried to teach her whole life. All they know of Islam is what they read in those books. All I could do was to point out that Hirsi Ali is a highly political figure and they should keep that in mind.
In the NYT that day, they had printed Kristof’s “Test Your Savvy on Religion” column. I read off a few of the questions and could tell they were surprised. These people are deeply committed Catholics but by no means close minded. So how explain their vote for a party that embodies the narrow-minded bigotry routinely displayed by that party?
Fear comes to mind. They are in their seventies and the world has moved very fast. That might be it. Also the Catholic church in this area is very conservative and the bishop forbade religion teachers in Catholic schools to teach about any religion except Catholicism. The teachers at my school had been doing a pretty good job, I thought, of trying to open the minds of children who had been raised to believe our country is Christian and no one else need apply. But no more.
Have these things affected my friends? I don’t know. I do wonder if the abortion issue has forced lots of people into the Republican camp. If so, how do they reconcile all their other values with what the GOP stands on. One example: these folks would definitely be with the illegal immigrants in resisting unfair treatment. I didn’t get a chance to discuss that issue with them and they most likely do believe our immigration laws should be enforced, but not at the expense of children being ripped from their families and the other abuses so many Americans would like to visit on illegals. Yet they vote for a party that uses the issue to foment racism and bigotry and fear.
I doubt I’ll have a chance to pursue this with them. Perhaps with some other people I come in contact with. But here is what I think is going on: they do reconcile their values with the GOP platform. In their minds, they pay attention only to the fear-mongering and distrust anyone who plays down the fear factor. They were not interested in confronting the issue of Fox News and the way it lies. I’m guessing they watch Fox. UPDATE – my wife reminded me they don’t have cable t.v., so no Fox.
If you do not yet understand the cognitive dissonance I feel, I have not done a good job in limning their personalities; “sweet” would be the best one-word description.