the devil in dover
“I don’t live in such a world. I look at my father and wonder how many other Americans are like him. Why are we so divided?
In Dover, those on the side of the truth weren’t the ones marching under a banner of biblical fundamentalism and traditional values. “You can’t lie for Jesus,” I remind my father. No, the ones on the side of truth were the eleven parents who stood up to their local school board and said teaching their children about religion was their right, and not the job of the educational system.
But my father has closed his eyes to such a worldview. Rather, he wraps himself in his religion, retreating into a cacoon of denial. To him, the only thing that matters is whether I believe, whether I am saved.”
This book has a lot going for it. Lauri Lebo is a reporter from York, Pennsylvania, near the town of Dover where the trial concerning teaching Intelligent Design in public schools took place. The book details the content of the trial well and in riviting fashion. I am reminded of how important these issues are, how important it is to take civil liberties seriously, and how admirable it is when individuals take a stand when push comes to shove. The book is very well written, but has a couple of particular strengths.
The story is very much about the author’s personal experience through the trial, autobiographical as well as documentary. Lebo worked through the issues deeply herself, and built real relationships with the people involved, both the plaintiffs and defendants. Lebo’s relationship with her father, a fundamentalist Christian, is central to the story in the way it was strained as she attempted to talk with him about the trial, as the above paragraphs show.
As a journalist, Lebo also writes about the challenges of the profession, walking the line between “fair and balanced” reporting, and reporting that deals honestly with the events. I highly recommend this book; to learn about the issues involved, but even more so to learn about the way personal relationships are strained by politics and beliefs, and the ways one person worked through them.
To read a real review (which prompted me to read the book), check out the Spanish Inquistor’s review HERE. But don’t check it out if you would not like to see the blasphemous and topless logo on his site.
“I thought about calling my father. I’d fought with him almost every day of the trial. I’d wanted him to condemn, as a Christian, what seemed obvious to me to be deception. But he refused. I’d grow angry and hang up on him. The next day, I’d pick up the phone and try again. How do I explain to my faither why this was so moving? How do I tell him we shouldn’t be afraid of this? How can I describe what I witnessed?
I wanted him to know the parents’ stories: Cyndi Sneath, who testified that she might not have a fancy education, but her eight-year-old son, Griffin, dreams of being an astronaut; of Bryan and Christy Rehm, who teach Bible school and sing in their church choir, but who are called atheists by their neghbors; and of Fred Callahan, a gentle, reserved man dismissed as intolerant. “What am I supposed to tolerate? he asked. “The small encroachment of my first Amendment rights? Well, I’m not going to.”
I wanted my father to understand Steve Harvey, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys and a dutiful Catholic who says we can only try to believe in God. On the morning of that last day of trial, he nervously paced around the block, smoking cigarettes and praying “our Fathers.”
Surely if my father were here, I thought, I could convince him. But not wanted to risk a fight, I ddint’ reach for the phone. I thought there would be plenty of time to make my father understand.
Now, sitting in the Chinese restaurant, my father watching me from across the table, I realize that he never will.”