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  • Writer's pictureJeff Matthews

Intolerance Finds Its Voice

“They all behave the same, and they all look the same.”

With that sentence, Democratic firebrand and Party Chairman Howard Dean labeled the entire Republican Party—and, by definition, his own Democratic Party as well—according to today’s New York Times. In this, The World According To Howard, the political party to which I belong is “pretty much a white, Christian party.”

Well, he’s got me—Republican, white and Christian—although I’m not sure if I’m precisely the kind of “Christian” Howard Dean is talking about.

There is, you see, a very broad spectrum of Christians—ranging from Catholics to Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists, Congregationalists and Unitarians, with probably a few in between that I left out.

Catholics, of course, have the most rigorous and dogmatic faith; Unitarians, on the other hand, pretty much agree that some kind of God probably exists, more or less, somewhere in the universe, now and then, most likely. (I was best man in a Unitarian wedding: it was all very laid-back.)

Even within Christian doctrines, there are sub-spectrums: Northern Baptists—the people who came over with Roger Williams and settled Rhode Island—share a faith and a lack-of-organizational-structure remarkably similar to Congregationalists, of which I am one. In fact, during the summer I attend a small Baptist Church in Rhode Island, and except for the large baptistery (a Jacuzzi-like tub) built into the wall behind the altar, you wouldn’t know the difference between a Northern Baptist and a Congregationalist church service.

Southern Baptists, on the other hand, are most likely the kind of “Christians” Howard Dean has in mind with his “white, Christian,” label—and apparently Howard doesn’t like their kind.

Whether we Republicans are Baptist, Congregationalist or Episcopalian, one thing is clear in The World According To Howard: “Republicans are not very friendly to different kinds of people.” Dean’s brand of weirdly intolerant liberalism struck me as particularly interesting this morning, having attended a fundraiser last night for a local elderly care center with which I am involved.

This was an old elementary school converted into a welcoming center that helps care for a relatively small number of elderly people during the day, while their children are at work. They come from families that can not afford home nursing or do not want their parents in nursing homes. The facility generates a great amount of local support within our community, precisely because it works, and thus has touched many lives.

I sat at a table with a couple who are good friends of mine who happen to be a member of the Political Party that is “pretty much a white, Christian party,” according to Howard Dean. Except they somehow missed the indoctrination seminar, because they are, in fact, Irish Catholics—not the Southern Baptists of Howard’s stereotype.

Furthermore, across the table from us was another long-time friend with whom I served on the board of a local senior housing commission a few years ago. She and her husband are both Democrats, and, as it turns out, white—somehow crossing Howard’s color line. I am not sure of their religion—they share an Irish Catholic surname, but, of course, she may in fact be a Southern Baptist or possibly Jewish by birth.

Gosh, just thinking about the whole thing the way Howard Dean thinks about things, I’m not sure how it is possible that the six of us—Republicans, Democrats, Catholic, Congregationalist and possibly Jewish—even bothered sitting together, given all the differences we have.

It’s a wonder we even attended the same function.

Just thinking about it makes me ponder whether I should stop being friendly to Manny, my friend, who happens to be non-white, and, therefore, “different.” On the other hand, Manny is a Republican, so he is one of “our kind,” according to Howard.

Maybe I should straighten out the whole mess by informing Manny that he signed up for the wrong political party after his boat trip across the Florida Straits, Manny being both non-white and Republican. Also my pal Art—who is both Jewish and Republican.

Or, perhaps, in the interests of his new brand of intolerant liberalism, Howard Dean can come to my town and explain to all of us why it is we shouldn’t live together and work together and give time to a local elderly care facility together, given all our differences.

Then we could be functioning about as well as Washington, D.C.

Jeff Matthews I Am Not Making This Up

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