Sunday, November 02, 2008

Education Is A Full Time Job

Last night I found myself in Darkest New Jersey once again. Now Darkest New Jersey is not all bad. For example, I was able to buy gas for $2.35 a gallon. That can go a long way, which is good because New Yorkers in DNJ generally have a long way to go.

But there are drawbacks. Last night a woman confessed to me that she'd had it with the direction this country was taking. She told me she worked for an insurance company, but that her medical insurance was capped at $750 a year. That's three visits to a doctor, she said, and that's it. Also, the recent meltdown had left her 401K in very precarious shape, and she was nervous. She said her investments were very conservative, but that hadn't much helped her.

Her problem was that she had an issue voting for a Muslim for president. We were in a church, and she felt Muslims did not worship the same God that Christians did. She couldn't stand to see Obama Barack take the oath of office on a Koran. I told her that Obama was a lifelong Christian, that she was confusing him with a Senator (correction: it was Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota) who took the oath on a Koran, and that there was zero chance Obama would do this. I told her this repeatedly and eventually she said that not only did she believe it, but that she would now vote for Obama.

It would've been great if I could have also had her read this column by Maureen Dowd, but I'm fairly certain that would've been too much for one session. It's odd how certain prejudices seem more socially acceptable at certain times. In 1988, George H.W. Bush (with the help of hapless, wooden Mike Dukaukis) was able to frighten Americans into voting for him by plastering Willie Horton all over the airwaves. Eight years later, with that particular brand of racism no longer so chic, Bob Dole stood up at the Republican convention and announced those awful teacher unions were dead set on destroying the universe. Mr. Dole made a point of saying it wasn't actual teachers but the unions, secure in the knowledge his target audience would not make the connection that teacher unions were actually groups of teachers.

Four years ago I was in DC, watching people march in "defense of marriage." Actually they were marching to protest gay marriage. If they'd really wanted to defend marriage, they'd have protested adultery or divorce. But that wouldn't have garnered much support. More importantly, it wouldn't given Rove and company a sideways opening to tap into prejudices against gays, which was what the whole thing was really about.

It would be nice if we could all look at one person at a time here in the land of the brave and the free. In what promises to be a historic election Tuesday, we may get a little closer. When Tim McVeigh bombed a federal building you didn't hear a whole lot of buzz about those awful white people (and you shouldn't have). Everyone, Muslims, and even teachers, ought to get the same benefit of the doubt.

Back to work.
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