Note: this appeared in the October 16, 2023 edition of the Life, Under Construction newsletter, published every Monday and Thursday. For information on subscribing, click the button below.

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So I did a thing…

I appeared at Marquette University on Thursday for “Marquette University Civic Dialogues Program To Co-Host ‘The State Of Modern Conservative Politics’ With Charlie Sykes.”

I thought it went well with only a few bumps. Charlie was his usual probative self, drawing out what he could get from the panel, and Dr. Julia Azari provided some welcome perspective as an academic.

Unfortunately, the two Republican boys, the future of the Republican Party, were not as well prepared. I actually felt sorry for one of them, Olman Chaheine, the chairman of the Marquette College Republicans, and at one point I found a half-compliment for former President Donald Trump to give Chaheine a break.

It wasn’t a matter of homework as much as Chaheine and Michael Behrens, president of the Federalist Society at Marquette, lacked experience on being challenged on their beliefs. As a result, I don’t think either one of them could answer a question that was outside their safe zone.

Neither of them knew the basic facts such as whether people died as a result of January 6, or even what happened that day, as well as more recent statements by Trump. At one point Chaheine, I think tired of Sykes and I bashing Trump, asked Sykes to name his source for a comment Trump made about Hezbollah. The audience shouted out, “his tweets!”

And therein lies the problem for the Republican Party future. The activists are so sheltered, they’ll never hear the truth that could set them free – because none of them want to escape the cage of their own making.

Afterwards, I joined the group for a dinner that was supposed to foster dialogue. The three young ladies I was seated with gave me some hope for the next generation – they seemed better informed than the two young men on stage and were eager to hear different view points. One of the young ladies told me that she recently had to break up with her boyfriend after she met his family – diehard election deniers.

Over at another table sat a student who was a philosophy major who was curious about when critical thinking skills could be taught. His school system believed in rote memorization, and he saw that as contributing to our current crisis.

Maybe. I could only give him my own example, growing up with free inquiry and encouraging that in my own children. I could read any book I wanted while we were a little more restrictive with our children. I said, “That’s a long way around to saying I don’t have an answer to your question.”

As I was leaving for the evening, I was stopped at another table who wanted to ask me about the acceptance of gay marriage within the conservative movement, a subject we very lightly touched on at the forum.

Without going into details of my own position, I explained how I believe gay marriage and the sudden appearance of the transgender issue accelerated the Republican Party’s movement on the subjects and empowered the more radical wings of the party. I mentioned Mike Pence and said to the table, “There is a significant faction of the Republican Party that agrees with Pence on everything, including allowing God to make public policy decisions.”

One of the ladies at the table asked me then how do we not become what we most hate, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr warned, but instead learn to include everyone.

I pointed out to her that Evangelical pastors are quoting the Bible about Jesus’ commandment to “love your enemies” and being told to keep that liberal stuff out of church.  “So I don’t have an answer for you. I wish I did. I’d write a book.”

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