Opinion | Susan Knopf: Educated becoming more liberal
For the Record
Apparently, a trending idea is that college-educated people are becoming more liberal. So says a 2015 Pew Research Center study, cited in a 2016 NPR story and more recently in an opinion piece written by David Brooks of The New York Times. For the record, in any survey, including a well-crafted Pew Research questionnaire, the person asking the questions shapes the conversation. Our political conversation has been shaped by questions or, more appropriately, challenges to our legal rights by the so-called “Christian right.”
The right to a safe legal abortion was Supreme Court settled law. No more. Nine states have passed more restrictive abortion bans. A new Alabama law forbids abortion except when the mother’s life is at risk. This surge of right wing political power is moving educated people to the left. Educated people are not becoming more left. The left is being defined by the right, which is moving farther right or backwards.
The Atlantic paints a terrifying picture of the Christian right, which believes the American liberal is more dangerous than Russia, Iran or North Korea. They believe President Donald Trump is their man, and they are in a fight for survival.
Committed Christian and famed artist Makoto Fujimura says, “Culture care is an act of generosity to our neighbors and culture. Culture care is to see our world not as a battle zone in which we’re all vying for limited resources, but to see the world of abundant possibilities and promise.”
Many people believe Jesus’ message focused on social justice. Theologian Michael Lerner wrote in his book “The Left Hand of God,” “The unholy alliance of the Political Right and the Religious Right threatens to destroy the America we love. It also threatens to generate a revulsion against God and religion by identifying them with militarism, ecological irresponsibility, fundamentalist antagonism to science and rational thought, and insensitivity to the needs of the poor and the powerless.”
The Christian right labels people as liberal for making different life choices. People who are broadly educated, through books and experience, find themselves defined as liberals. Truly educated people understand it is not our individual prerogative to proscribe how someone else should live.
The Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
It’s funny how this freedom conversation is often flipped on its head. In this column, we met a man who believes brandishing a Confederate flag is his First Amendment right; and it is. Often some of the same folks waving the flag of the vanquished slave-holding South also believe a woman shouldn’t have the same personal right to choose a medical procedure for her own body.
The reality is those fighting against a woman’s right to choose only pretend to be talking about saving human lives. If they really wanted to save human lives, they would dispense birth control to help people avoid unwanted pregnancies. They don’t do that. The so-called pro-life people line up on some very interesting and frankly conflicting politics. They are anti-birth control, they are anti-abortion, they are anti-public assistance and they usually advocate for school vouchers, which have been demonstrated to harm public schools.
So what are they concerned about? Forcing their values on others and keeping women in their place. Apparently the Declaration of Independence literally gives rights only to men. They seem to want to turn back the hands of time to a simpler, slower, more tightly controlled time — a whiter time.
Educated people aren’t more liberal. Truly educated people are moving forward, spending less time worrying about controlling the lives of others and spending more time enjoying the fruits of their labors. Those working to turn back time, reverse established law, are redefining the political middle as the radical left or liberal. I liberally object to this mischaracterization of our citizens’ core beliefs.
Those who challenge those core beliefs say Democrats just don’t get Trump. Let me say we get it. We just don’t want to go backward. Trump supporters and right-to-lifers, we get you, too. You can go back in time in your own little space, but not in the big world the rest of us live in. You can be homophobic, immigrant-phobic. That’s your choice. You just can’t choose for the rest of us.
Susan Knopf’s column “For The Record” publishes Fridays in the Summit Daily News. Knopf has worn many hats in her career, including working as an award-winning journalist and certified ski instructor. She moved to Silverthorne in 2013 after vacationing in Summit County since the 1970s. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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