Professor hopes to start dialogue with film

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(Host) The goal of the film “Red State Voices” is to explore the minds of conservatives.

The film is presented as a challenge to the people who live in blue states.

VPR’s Susan Keese has the story of a Vermont philosophy professor who hopes he’ll start a dialogue.

(Tinkling piano plays “America the Beautful”)

(Keese) First of all, this film isn’t a technical masterpiece. Neal Weiner is its creator. And he’s a philosophy professor not a cinematographer.

He teaches at Marlboro College, in one of the bluest corners of Vermont, which he considers the bluest state in the country.

Weiner calls himself a middle-of-the-roader. But virtually all his friends here are liberals. He opens the film by telling how distraught they were after the 2004 elections.

(Weiner) “It wasn’t just that George Bush won. What really burned was that the election seemed to turn on people who said they voted for morality. Abortion and gay marriage were the key moral issues”.

(Keese) Weiner says liberals tend to stereotype conservatives as ignorant and unsophisticated. And so he set out for Virginia with his video camera.

He interviewed thoughtful, educated conservatives to break those stereotypes and challenge his Blue State friends.

(Man in movie) “I’ve always thought it takes more courage to be disciplined than it does to be a free thinker and do what you feel like. That’s easy. To me it’s the easiest thing to do is to think for myself, be completely independent, completely disregard the impact on my family the society as a whole.”

(Keese) That’s a former military man. His was one of the conversations in the film on topics ranging from gay marriage to urban sprawl.

Filmmaker Weiner talks about abortion with a worker in a crisis pregnancy center.

(Woman) “It allows men to have all the sexual partners they want. She gets an abortion and he doesn’t have to be responsible, and the woman pays the price, physically and emotionally.”

(Keese) In another conversation, Weiner brings up the fact that many people who want to ban abortion actually favor the death penalty.

(Young man) “Yes, it does seem to be a great paradox doesn’t it?… And the ironic thing is the liberals are on the opposite side of the spectrum. They’re for the death of an innocent child… and they’re for the life of… someone who has caused great evil and trauma in society.”

Weiner says it’s a philosopher’s job to encourage people on all sides to think more deeply about their own assumptions and beliefs.

(Weiner) “The truth is it’s uncomfortable – To have the things you most deeply believe, especially political and moral things, questioned, especially if the questions actually do raise some level of doubt. People s first reaction is to protect whatever they have rather than to engage in a genuine dialogue.”

(Keese) The movie’s been shown a half a dozen times in Brattleboro and the reaction is not always positive.

Weiner hopes someone else will make a blue state voices movie to challenge red states.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.

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