BLACKSTONE GLACIER, Alaska -- If you travel by boat to the end
of Blackstone Bay, black rock cliffs striated with green moss will rise
hundreds of feet above you, with waterfalls made partly of ice plummeting
into the dark green water of the bay. You may be mesmerized by the glaciers,
enormous expanses of black-streaked blue ice with long frozen tongues that
lick the sea. And then, if you're traveling with an Alaska state
representative like Capt. Fred Dyson, your thoughts will be turned back to
I thought of Dyson, a Christian conservative, while reading
columns recently written by Gary Chapman, director of the "21st Century
Project" at the University of Texas. Chapman evidently believes that "red
meat conservatives" -- and Fred Dyson is one -- "want to wipe out any
vestiges of liberal thinking that still show a pulse in this country."
Again: "liberalism, for true and faithful conservatives today, is ... a
traitorous philosophy and attitude that must be eradicated once and for all,
Such generalizations are worth mentioning only because many
liberals believe them. But talk about hysteria! The only statement in
Chapman's overreach that may be true is this: "Conservatives of today
terrify most liberals."
It's certainly true that Dyson could terrify some weak-kneed
passengers on his ship of state. He happily drives his boat, The
Dawntreader, amid the little icebergs that calve off the Blackstone glacier,
and laughs when they bang hard into the hull. And yet, Dyson is delicate in
his legislative lobbying, talking with opponents so he understands their
position well and knows when he can accommodate concerns and when he has to
ram them like errant ice.
Dyson, like many Christians, once was not. As a college student
four decades ago, he was "a very skeptical, militant agnostic", who was
"chasing a Christian gal in Houston. I saw her faith keeping her out of my
bed, and wanted to sway her." But then he went with her to hear an
evangelist "who spoke of God's love being unconditional. That interested me,
because I had thought that God only loved good little boys, and I sure
wasn't one. ... The next night, I stayed up reading through the New
Testament, and passed from unbelief to belief."
The convert had to overcome some obstacles. Dyson recalls that
his college roommate "spent the next 18 months trying to destroy my faith.
Once he told me to close my eyes, and then he dropped a naked girl in my lap
and went out. I sat her on the couch and said: 'This won't work, honey. It's
nothing about you.'" And in recent years, that is what Dyson has said to
Alaska liberals: We can be friends, but we're not going to sleep together.
Dyson's alliance-building has led to some good legislation. One
successful bill he introduced removes from sexual predators the easy defense
many used: saying they did not know that the victim was under age, or that
the victim said she or he was of age. The new act requires perpetrators to
show that they took some action to verify the victim's age.
Another act requires people to report any attempted sexual
penetration of a minor. The hope is that onlookers, instead of ignoring
cries for help or even cheering evil from the sidelines, will come to the
aid of a child under attack, or a teen suffering a gang rape.
Dyson is one example of a common pattern: Most conservatives
today are bicultural, with some understanding of both conservatism and
liberalism, and most liberals are not. That's not because conservatives are
smarter than liberals, but because most of America's media and academic
leaders offer a liberal worldview. Conservatives can run from it but can't
entirely hide, so they learn that liberals come in many different shapes and
sizes. Liberals, without the benefit of such exposure to conservative views,
miss seeing individual trees and tend to assume the existence of a vast
Before generalizing about conservatives who want to eradicate
opponents, take a ride with Capt. Dyson.