Who's brainwashed in America?

Posted: Mar 23, 2004 12:00 AM

Ask some non-religious liberal friends how they would describe a person who attended only fundamentalist Christian or ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools from preschool through graduate school. "Brainwashed" and "closed-minded" would be their most likely answers, and they would often be right. Most people assume that any person who is exposed to only one way of looking at the world for all of his or her life can hardly be regarded as open-minded.

Now ask those same individuals how they would describe a person who attended only secular schools from preschool through graduate school.

Your friends would probably look at you with incomprehension. What kind of question is that? After all, they and the great majority of people in our country attended secular schools, and they consider themselves perfectly normal and open-minded.

"Brainwashed"? "Closed-minded"? Such terms cannot possibly be applied to the secular or the "progressive," only to the religious and conservative.

But, of course, such a response is logically untenable. If a person is to be considered brainwashed for having only received a religious education, a person who has received only a secular or liberal (as in politically liberal) education should be regarded identically.

In fact, when secular people and those on the Left deny this, it actually illustrates that they probably have been brainwashed. The secular/Left immersion they underwent has been so effective that it has rendered them incapable of realizing that they have been so immersed.

This is one reason it has become more and more apparent that the most closed-minded people in American and European society today are not the religious but the secular, not the Right but the Left. The majority of even fundamentalist Christians and Orthodox Jews are exposed to far more secular thought and behavior than the secular are exposed to religious thought and behavior. Virtually all religious Christians and Jews study secular subjects, have been taught by secular teachers, read secular books, and watch secular films and secular television. Virtually no secular people have studied religious subjects, been taught by religious teachers, or read religious books, let alone watched religious films or television, neither of which exists in any number.

The same holds true for liberals and conservatives. Virtually every conservative reads a liberal newspaper, watches liberal newscasts, reads liberal magazines, and has been taught in liberal schools by liberal professors. Few liberals have read a conservative newspaper (there are almost none anyway), read a conservative magazine, studied in conservative schools or been taught by a conservative professor (of whom there are also almost none).

So who exactly is more likely to be provincial and ignorant of other ways of thinking? The question is rhetorical. That is why the late distinguished University of Chicago professor Allan Bloom wrote his best-selling "The Closing of the American Mind," not about religious or conservative America but about secular liberal America as embodied in its temple, the university.

That also helps explain why the secular Left (not yet a redundant phrase, but getting there) so often hurls epithets -- "racist" (for opposing affirmative action), "homophobe" (for opposing the redefinition of marriage), "sexist" (for opposing medically unnecessary abortions) -- instead of offering reasoned responses.

As befits a person who has almost never been exposed to opposing ways of thinking, sustained argument is not possible.

Just as many liberals and secularists can only imagine a religious person being brainwashed, not a liberal or a secular one, they likewise can only imagine religious extremism, never secular extremism. One can easily be too religious, but never too secular. Yet, we have far more secular extremism than religious extremism in our society.

The ACLU is one such example. The organization recently threatened to sue the National Park Service over two little plaques at the Grand Canyon that had Psalms written on them. That most Americans do not consider a lawsuit over something so trivial a manifestation of extremism only proves how effective the secular brainwash is.