I am standing waist-deep in the Pacific Ocean, indulging in the polite chit-chat beloved by vacationing Americans. A sweet elderly lady from Los Angeles is sitting on the rocks nearby, telling me dreamily about her son. "Is he your only child?" I ask. "Yes," she answers. "Do you have a child back in England?" she asks me. No, I say. Her face darkens. "You'd better start," she says. "The Muslims are breeding. Soon, they'll have the whole of Europe."Thus begins an article on the New Republic's website, written by Johann Hari, a reporter for the Independent newspaper in London. (Registration is required, but I found working logins on www.bugmenot.com for the registration-leery.)
I am getting used to such moments, when holiday geniality bleeds into--well, I'm not sure exactly what. I am traveling on a bright-white cruise ship with two restaurants, five bars, and 500 readers of National Review. Here, the Iraq war has been "an amazing success." Global warming is not happening. Europe is becoming a new Caliphate. And I have nowhere to run.
I'm sure that there are folks around of a liberal persuasion who are as completely divorced form reality as the conservatives on the cruise where, albeit with a different bias. But I'm struck at how badly the cruise passengers seemed to need their worldview affirmed:
One of the Park Avenue ladies declares that she gets on her knees every day to "thank God for Fox News." As the wine reaches the Floridian, he sits back and announces, "This cruise is the best money I ever spent."Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be an isolated sentiment; I keep seeing evidence that a lot of conservatives want to live in fact-free, ideologically pure cocoons. Look at Conservapedia, which claims to be "A conservative encyclopedia you can trust. The truth shall set you free." - but can't even get the first battle in the American Revolution correct:
The war began in April 1775, when Paul Revere's midnight ride alerted the Massachusetts militia that British troops under the command of General Thomas Gage were moving to seize an arms depot in Concord, Massachusetts. The militia held a bridge at nearby Lexington, and the "Shot heard 'round the world" was fired, although it is unknown which side fired first. After this short skirmish, and the subsequent Battle of Lexington, delegates from the Thirteen Colonies met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and convened the Second Continental Congress to draft a Declaration of Independence.(Amongst other errors, the North Bridge is in Concord, not Lexington.) Look at the battles to throw evolution out of science classes, and the "Creationist Museum" which blithely asserts that, yes, there were dinosaurs on Noah's Ark. Look at Domino's Pizza magnate Tom Monaghan, who's about to open Ave Maria, his private Catholic city in Florida (with every pharmacy in town asked not to carry contraceptives by their landlord - Monghan).
Sigh. I continue to have faith that the United States, and humanity as a whole, will muddle through these trying times. But nitwittery like the above tries that faith sorely.