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What Color is a Conservative? My Life and My Politics by J. C. Watts, Jr. with Chris Winston


Rating: (Recommended)


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The recently retired Oklahoma congressman, J.C. Watts, wrote a 275-page biography that came out in recent months. Titled, What Color is a Conservative?, this biography reads like a series of sermons on how to do the right thing as you try to live your life. Given Watts’ background as a preacher, the tone and content make sense. It’s also telling that he’s divided up the 275 pages in an interesting manner. High school ends at page 94. That reinforces Watts’ key point: the important lessons in his life were learned in his childhood, from his parents, growing up in a small town.

Here’s an excerpt from close to the end of the book (pp. 241-2) about an issue that may well describe Watts life and politics clearly:

I was absolutely stunned to read recently that political correctness has gotten so out of hand that one Manhattan private school announced a new diversity-sensitive policy: it decided to ban Mother's Day and Father's Day. In the past for these special days, the children had made small presents in school for their parents. News reports said the decision to change its policy came after a gay man, who had adopted a child with his male partner, complained about Mother's Day.

The head of the elementary school explained the decision to reporters, "The reasoning was several-fold. One, [Mother's Day] didn't serve an educational need and, number two, families are changing.

Some children were very uncomfortable."

As the New York Post put it so succinctly, "When did the biblical commandment—'Honor thy father and thy mother'—become a threat to children's emotional well-being?"

Unlike some in the conservative movement, I don't believe that bashing anybody accomplishes anything. I may disagree with the gay community's views and lifestyle, but bigotry and hate are not the answers to the differences that divide us but neither is a blind adherence to political correctness the way to restore values to our children or strengthen our families.

For many of us, our views and principles are the product of our upbringing. As I have said often in this book, my value system can be traced directly to a little town in eastern Oklahoma where my parents taught me right from wrong, personal responsibility, and the importance of family and faith.

The Watts family may not have had much by today's standards, but we were rich in the things that mattered. If most kids could grow up "poor" as I did, we'd all be a lot better off. Instead, too many children learn their values on television. Rich and poor alike are cheated of their childhoods growing up too fast with too little parental involvement. But perhaps most important, our children are forced to live in a relentlessly secular culture. They have been robbed of much of their religious heritage by the complete banning of religion from public life, especially in our schools. Don't think for a second that our kids haven't gotten the message. They can discuss almost anything in school except "Thou shall not kill" and "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Talking about the abiding truths of our Judeo/Christian faith makes too many adults very, very testy—sometimes to the point of legal action.

And that sends a very clear signal to kids: Religion is either somehow bad or at least irrelevant to their lives. I deeply believe when these transcendent truths are driven from people's lives, negative results will soon follow. Contemporary history very much supports that assumption.

I am not saying that all our kids are bad. Far from it. For every troubled kid who gets his picture on the cover of a national magazine, there are millions more trying to make their way in this world in a decent and positive way. They are working in school and they are getting up in the morning wondering what they can do to make Morn and Dad proud of them. But we should all be concerned about the number of children growing up without a sense of right and wrong, anesthetized by a culture of materialism and moral relativism.

All this finally brings me to our entertainment industry. Let me be very clear. Hollywood creates many wonderful films. Some are nothing short of astounding, others are just fun. My kids and I watched Beauty and the Beast, Home Alone and Remember the Titans over and over. But this industry also bombards our children with epics of blood, sex, and moral ambiguity at best. Some are overt, such as Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers. Others are much more subtle.

When it comes to Hollywood, our kids aren't getting the right message. Faith tells us that we were born to succeed, to achieve our goals, to be happy. Our children look around them and see killing, drugs, free sex, and corruption glamorized. Movies and television tell them sex without love or marriage is okay. We preach abstinence, and our teenagers see the president of the United States, who uses the Oval Office for sexual trysts, lionized on MTV. Record and video game companies tell them that violence is cool. And they see few people—in Washington or in the media or at home—willing to stand up and say this kind of behavior is wrong. Those are the messages our children are bombarded with every day.

Yet many in the entertainment industry, which makes billions of dollars a year from our children, will not accept any degree of responsibility for the outcome of their products. If movie producers and directors got the same treatment that corporate CEOs get when faulty products cause serious harm, maybe Hollywood might finally come to its senses. Instead, they cling to the totally discredited argument that children are not affected by what they read, see, and hear. This is obviously untrue, and any parent who has had to buy Pokemon cards, Beanie Babies, $80 running shoes, or carloads of Coke knows better.

Sometimes, Hollywood's artistic endeavors do change the world for the better. I truly believe, for example, that the entertainment industry played a positive role in improving race relations in our country. Remember Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

But the time has come for Hollywood to admit that if it can inspire people to do good, it can also inspire people to do evil. And if it continues to create these valueless, degrading, and even dangerous films, it should pay a price. Am I suggesting censorship? No. Our freedoms should be inviolable. Some folks believe they can whittle away the First Amendment without threatening the Second. They are wrong.

As interesting as it was to read about Watts’ early life, it will be even more interesting to see how he spends the next dozen or two years. If you can handle the preachy tone throughout What Color is a Conservative, go ahead and read about Mr. Watts’ life thus far.

Steve Hopkins, January 1, 2003


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The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the February 2003 issue of Executive Times


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