When the Walls Have No Windows

This post won’t win me any hometown fans, but I find the topic interesting.

I am from Mahopac, N.Y. It is a hard-nosed, (largely) blue-collar town just north of Westchester County. I would say, conservatively guessing, 80 percent of inhabitants are Republican. Probably 85 percent.

With this blog and Facebook and all, I’ve had much debate with my fellow Mahopacians over the past few months about politics—GOP or Dems, Palin or Obama, etc … etc. And I would say there is a background divide: With certain notable exceptions, those classmates/people who are college educated and who attended non-local schools (with some level of difficulty for being accepted) almost always vote Democrat and lean strong liberal. Those who have not attended college, or who went to a two-year school or a local Pace/Mercy/Puchase/etc, then stay in the area, almost always go Republican.

Why? I’m not sure—but I have a theory that will result in my flogging.

I’m not an overwhelmingly smart man. I know this … have accepted this. But, despite that, I have made an effort to see the country and, best I can, the world. That’s one thing I got at the University of Delaware (not Harvard by any means)—the idea that there’s a whole lot out there, and you have to try and see it/grasp it/embrace it/understand it. As a kid I was surrounded by few blacks or Hispanics or gays or Muslims or … well, anything other than white Christians. Hence, one of my life goals was to get to know people who didn’t look/sound/think like me. That sort of exposure is invaluable, because it paints a much more accurate—and textured—image of the world. If you just listen to Fox or read, oh, the Post, you might think the majority of urban blacks are welfare-sucking slogs. Of course, they’re not. If you just listen to Fox or read, oh, the Post, you might believe gays to be evil and immoral. Of course, they’re not. If you just listen to Fox or read, oh, the Post, you might think all taxes are total wastes of money. A suggestion—go to the city, and visit Covenant House or the local YMCA or Boys Club or 8,000 other entities that depend on government funding to survive.

I certainly don’t consider Mahopac Republicans I know to be bad people, and no one should be fully defined by political decisions. But I do believe—strongly—that many of these folks are sheltered and lacking exposure. They stay in one place, save for the yearly vacation to Florida, Vegas or the Jersey Shore. They don’t need to meet people of different races/sexualities/ethnicities/religions, because they know what they know, and that’s enough. They are told by Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney and Jim DeMint that they are “the real America,” and they believe it because, heck, who doesn’t want to be the real America? Then, as those same politicians dissolve their unions and give massive tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans and focus on “the death tax,” they applaud because, well, Obama is a socialist Muslim, and socialist Muslims are bad.

Not that they’ve ever met one …