Sunday, March 23, 2008
by Warren H Schmidt, Ph.D.
(Narrated by Orson Welles)
as i've said before, talking and writing about politics is usually somewhat difficult for me. issues that people debate about on television, at the workplace, or even within a circle of friends always seem to be far more complex to me than commonly made out to be. but there is something that's been traversing in and out of my thoughts over the last few years, most often as i read up on a couple religious discussion boards i frequent. i suppose it somewhat relates to the video above — the political issues of xenophobia, greed, etcetera — but i think it's more apt to say it's something more stripped down, pertaining to communication and respect, something more about.. well... "personality," i suppose.
allow me to take a sidestep tangent here for a bit... my wife and I are not church-goers in any sense of the word. i'm an atheist with no belief in an afterlife, and she's someone who is neither here nor there - someone who dislikes the idea of organized religion, but believes in the idea of a creator of everything (that's about as commonly theistic or religious as her mindset gets; it might suffice to say she believes in "The Force," for lack of a better explanation). so... think about us, and about how we will raise our future children. what do you think we'll do? do you think I'll teach them there is no god? think we'll answer questions like "what happens when grandma dies?" with stone-cold answers not fit for a child? conversely, think about a religious couple you know, also in their early 30s. a friend you have that "loves jesus," and is actively involved in his or her church. how do you think they'll raise their children? my guess is that most people would think both my wife and i as well as this other hypothetical couple will both raise their children ardently according to their beliefs, or lack thereof — me, raising my children by telling them belief in god is illogical, and they, raising their children by telling them god created them and everything around them.
and that is where i think most people are mistaken.
you see, the more i learn about the religious right i happen to be around in my daily life at work and at play (and in family circles), the more i realize they have a very peculiar view of our nation, and in turn, how they live their lives — their personalities. it's not very apt to call anyone "close-minded" anymore. it's a phrase that has almost lost its meaning; it's often anymore just a simple, sophomoric retort from a teenager to a parent, because mom or dad don't like pink hair. but these people are completely shut-in, close-minded to the core. the idea that a gay or lesbian teacher is involved in educating their child frightens them. the idea of a mexican-american family speaking spanish in a grocery store infuriates them. the idea that their faith doesn't have a monopoly in our collective lives causes them much grief. somehow, this all relates to this 6 minute animation from 1971.
in short, these people actively denounce the very freedoms this nation stands for. they have also turned a blind eye to the compassion, love, and grace that their religion has told them to embrace. the "go back to russia, you commie lib!" comments you hear from the most ridiculous of this mindset are completely laughable, but are also quite worrying. what is their ideal america? it's a very frightening question to ponder.
they can go ahead and fill their children's minds with black-and-white dogma, passing on their close-mindedness. we on the opposite side of the aisle will continue to let our children make up their own minds about spirituality, politics, and personality.