Criticizing W: Freedom Isn't Free
I spent yet another hot sweaty Texas afternoon in the parking lots of Whole Foods and an upscale shopping center in Dallas asking people how they feel about Texas Governor Rick Perry's decision to sign anti-gay and anti-abortion legislation in a church this past Sunday. I chose those areas after being told they were dominated by Republicans. I was hoping to ask moderate Republicans how they felt about the event, but the majority of the people I approached said they hadn't even heard about it. The few people who had were open to sharing their opinions, but asked me not to use their names. Here are excerpts from those interviews:
I spoke to this 40-something woman in the parking lot of Whole Foods.
What did you think about Perry's event?
I think there have been always been political events at churches. Look at Martin Luther King. I haven't had any objection to those kinds of events, but this really concerned me. It seemed to have crossed a line. It's almost an attack on the separation of church and state. I know that Governor Perry is unabashedly organizing churches for political reasons and I don't think this is a wholesome trend.
Are you a Perry supporter?
Do you identify with a political party?
I'm an independent.
How do you feel about gay marriage?
I think it's a civil issue and I have no objection to it. I don't see the necessity for church marriages personally.
Do you think the ban will pass in Texas?
Yes, for sure.
How do you feel about the religious right?
It's important for moderate Christians and Republicans to speak up because the far right is trying to define the party.
I'm having a difficult time finding outspoken moderates.
I'm not surprised. It's difficult to be anything but a party line Republican in this state and that's true socially and professionally. I don't want you to use my name because I'm afraid my comments would turn off a potential employer. Many people find it uncomfortable to speak out. I know several people who refuse to identify themselves in terms of party because it is so divisive here. I've lived around the world and in different states and I've never experienced anything quite like the climate here. There's a conformity here that's beyond belief. I was amazed that Bush was even elected and elected twice. I thought, don't you get it? The party line thinking comes out of the religious culture and I would hate to see the whole country go that way because we would become a fascist state. It would really scare me.
It would hurt your job search if a potential employer heard you criticize Bush?
Of for sure, it could hurt. If I were lockstep in agreement with the Bush administration, there would be no issue. You do learn to conform. It's very common. You learn the hard way. I consider it a rabid form of Republicanism. It's not like the east coast Republicanism of the first Bush administration. That was completely different. Those Republicans don't recognize these Republicans, but these Republicans are the ones who are dominating.
Have you experienced this kind of pressure personally?
I've lived here for 20 years. I experience it constantly.
Can you give me an example?
If I were outspoken, I would be shunned. If I were outspoken in the workplace, I would definitely be shunned.
What about in social circles?
It's the same. It's hard to find people who have open minds. There are subcultures, but they don't cross over. This is the game here.
I spoke to this 60-something woman in Highland Park Village, an upscale shopping area in Dallas.
How do you feel about the bill that requires girls under 18 to get her parent's permission before getting an abortion?
I'm not sure I agree with it. I think there would be different circumstances as to why a young lady would need an abortion without a parent's permission. I'm pro-choice. Roe v. Wade definitely has its place. I would hate to see it overturned.
How do you feel about the gay marriage ban?
I'm not in favor of it. I think gays have the same rights as everyone else.
How do you feel about Governor Perry's decision to sign those bills at a church?
That bothers me. I don't think the church should be involved in politics.
Did you vote for Perry?
No, but I did for Geoge W., although he's done some things on his watch that I haven't agreed with. I don't think he has any business being in Iraq.
Do you consider yourself a Republican?
I've always voted Republican and I've always considered myself Republican, but I'm not happy with some of the things that George W. is doing. I'm very much for the environment and I don't think he's done anything to help the environment.
Why did you vote for Bush again?
I had a hard time doing it. I even agonized over my ballot. I was uncertain. I was on the fence right up to the time I voted and when I walked out, I was not particularly proud of how I voted and that's not a good feeling. Ironically my daughter is a staunch Democrat. She is so liberal. She voted for Clinton both times.
Do you feel like the religious right is taking over the Republican party?
I certainly did around election time. That bothered me. Again, I want the definite separation between church and state. I'm a Christian, but I don't think George W. should flaunt his religion so much. The Christian right put him in office and that took me by surprise. I didn't see that coming because I just wasn't attune to how much power they had.
Did you watch the debates?
Oh, definitely. I thought Kerry was terrific. He outshone Bush so badly, particularly during the first one. It wasn't even funny. I don't think he could butcher the english language more than he already has. Some of things he says make no sense.
Why didn't you vote for Kerry?
I wasn't happy with how he handled Vietnam. Then again, he was probably right.
Can I get your name?
I'd rather not. My husband plays a fairly prominent role in society and it wouldn't be in his best interest if this came out. He doesn't disagree with me. We think very much alike.
Can you elaborate on that? I just met a woman who asked me not to use her name for fear it would hurt her job search.
You have to be very careful about what you say here. Depending on what circle you're in, it could come back to haunt you. Even though we're supposed to live in a free country and a free society, the government can still make life unpleasant for certain people.
What's it like in your social circles?
You don't criticize George W. because more often than not, people have connections to his family. If you do criticize him in the wrong circles, you'll be disowned and ousted. Although when it has come up at dinner parties, a few people expressed discomfort with some of his policies. I'll be happy when the next four years are over.