"Hollywood conservative" is regarded in most places as an oxymoron, and in Hollywood a "conservative" is an alien from outer space. But a few aliens are prospering.
Jon Voight, who bought the left-wing politics of the 1970s -- and won an Oscar for his portrayal of an angry and embittered paraplegic veteran of the Vietnam War (playing opposite Jane Fonda) -- is a thoughtful partisan for John McCain. He says Barack Obama's left-wing connections could be a strong bad influence in an Obama administration.
"Senator Barack Obama has grown up with the teaching of very angry, militant white and black people: the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Louis Farrakhan, William Ayers and Rev. Michael Pflegger," he writes in The Washington Times. "We cannot say we are not affected by teachers who are militant and angry."
A conservative movie star is no more entitled to attention than a liberal one, of course, but he cites his own experience as giving him the credibility to speak out. He was naively persuaded by Marxist propaganda when he was young, and he worries that the young dazzled by Sen. Obama's messianic appeal do not have sufficient smarts to see the dangers lurking inside the man's message, delivered through the megaphone of an obsessed and uncritical media.
Voight is focused on the youngest generation of voters who have been indoctrinated by politically correct propaganda; by and large this generation was never taught the importance of Western civilization in our cultural tradition. By zooming in on the fear that the senator's Chicago tutors did not encourage critical thinking and the ability to see the dangers posed by radical Islam and how this begets terrorists, Voight may be more prescient than he knows. The Gallup Poll finds the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee with a 36-point lead over Sen. John McCain among voters between 18 and 29 years old.
How many of the young voters took what they learned in high school and college to figure out the fundamental differences between cultures East and West? How many understand the perceptions that anchor the tough foreign policy that John McCain advocates for Iraq and the Middle East, and his lonely defense of "the surge"?
In "Smiling Through the Cultural Catastrophe," published several years ago, Jeffrey Hart, a professor emeritus at Dartmouth College, writes of the importance of the great books of the West to educate minds to probe the roots of democracy. He describes the dynamic conversation in the West and how it moves between "Athens and Jerusalem," between the classics of literature and the Bible from which our philosophical, literary, democratic, moral and spiritual inheritance springs.
This conversation -- some call it dialectic -- is not perfect, but its dynamic influences some of our most lasting ideas. Our freedoms are grounded in the openness with which society debates the important, the critical and the lasting.
Islam, by contrast, compartmentalizes its thinking so that powerful ideas propounded from different traditions, whether science, government, literature or religion, are forced into rigidly segregated divisions governed by religious law. Although many of the scholars of Islam preserved the classics and Biblical wisdom along with new scientific information, they ultimately lost the right and ability to debate: "A proposition might be true in science and philosophy but false in religion." Hart laments that American students are losing by default the ability to recognize such distinctions.
Nor is this a concern only in the United States. A recent poll in Britain, conducted by the Centre for Social Cohesion, a think tank, revealed that a third of Muslim university students in Britain say it's acceptable to kill in behalf of Islam and want a worldwide Islamic government based on sharia law. The Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, based in Washington, shows how Saudi textbooks, freely distributed throughout the world to Saudi-sponsored schools, emphasize teachings of the Wahhabi sect of Islam that prescribes a worldwide theocratic dictatorship.
The war of ideas is as important as the war on terrorism in the debate over who is best qualified to be president. We'll hear a lot from the candidates over the next three months about their differences on school choice, vouchers and No Child Left Behind. Such specifics are important. But we should hear their different perspectives on the war of ideas.
Hollywood has an important part to play. A group of Hollywood actors, producers and screenwriters, who call themselves "Friends of Abe," after Abraham Lincoln, now meet to articulate a strong counter image to Hollywood's radical left, to show a proper appreciation of those who serve in the military that defends us all. Jon Voight and his like-minded are not yet a voice in the wilderness.