By Lawrence J. Fedewa – Wednesday, June 26, 2017
This country is in the most disruptive turmoil since the end of the Vietnam War. The most visible antagonists seem to be the President on one side and the media on the other. By “media”, I mean everyone from news organizations to comedians, to movies, to the theater. Everyone who has access to any form of media seems to have a grudge against the President. On the other hand, his so-called “counter-punching” especially through his tweets, adds fuel to the fire with nearly every tweet. (Fighting for the national soul by “tweeting” should at the least tweak our sense of humor.)
So, why not? At least more than the usual suspects are passionately involved in political dialog. A whole new population is suddenly watching every step the media will let them see. A side effect of this newfound political passion, however, is the abandonment not only of objectivity, but even of common sense. At the extremes, we have attempted assassinations, riots and domestic terrorism. Less dangerous perhaps, but nearly as disturbing is the utter contempt many on both sides hold for the other. This is not the America we want to live in.
What has happened to us? How did we come to this sorry state? What we have at this moment in American history is a clash of cultures, a true culture war. It did not happen overnight. This “war” has been brewing for a long time. What is different about today is its eruption into the open, into everyday life and discourse.
The root cause of America’s culture wars is a tendency throughout our history towards a sort of Puritanism, which leads its followers to seek a higher moral goal with a singleness of purpose that overlooks all objections, trivializes opposing views, and demonizes its opponents. Such was the fervor of the Abolitionists in the 1840’s and 1850’s. Slavery was evil, of course, but a war which cost over 600,000 casualties – a whole generation of young men – was also evil. That war led to the Jim Crow South.
This same singleness of purpose again carried the day when the crusade against drunkenness led to Prohibition in 1917. Clearly, drunkenness is an evil thing, but the attempt to eliminate it by outlawing alcoholic drink not only did not solve the problem, but it led to the rise of organized crime.
The civil rights movement of the 1950’s was almost the opposite of fanaticism. It staked out the higher moral ground in a manner which decried the violence of war, and sought to convert a nation through heroism and self-sacrifice. This approach had the effect of unmasking the hidden fanaticism of the opposition, and led to the opposition’s downfall in less than a decade. As the movement evolved, however, the non-violent discipline began to deteriorate and was lost altogether when its Apostle was assassinated. What followed was riots and a legacy for some of racial hatred, which is as fanatical as its opposition.
This is one of the legs of the current culture warriors. The moral high ground of racial equality was joined in the 1960’s by another movement that also started quietly. This was the Peace Movement which grew out of opposition to the Vietnam War. It too evolved into violence, executed mostly by the extremists in the movement, who resorted to blowing up buildings, inciting riots, and harassing members of the armed forces. When Martin Luther King Jr. came out against the Vietnam War in 1967, the two movements began to merge. Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society gave political expression to what became modern liberalism and the hallmark of the Democratic Party.
The opposition consisted of several unrelated groups. There were those who believed in the War, resented the “peaceniks”, and reciprocated their hatred and contempt. Another segment was the opponents of the civil rights movement, especially in the South. An overlooked population which also resisted the liberals was the working class of Middle America, whose sons were fighting the War, whose satisfaction with the way things were in 1950’s America was evident in their nostalgia for the “good old days”, and who resented being preached at by the liberal activists. Finally, there were the true conservatives whose political and religious sensibilities were genuinely offended by the expansion of the federal government and the disregard for conventional morality so often demonstrated by the liberals.
All these opponents of the liberal movement were merged into a political coalition by the Republican Party, and they elected the president of the United States in all but ten years in the forty years between 1968 and 2008. But the Republican coalition nearly died out in 2008, and that scared them all. They got their resources organized by 2010 and began to take back power by winning the House of Representatives.
But the scare continued to exacerbate as they watched in increasing horror the aggressively liberal president attack and change the Constitutional balance of power and his elevation of the principle of equality to heights of absurdity. Their contempt was palpable. So, in 2016 they elected the most unconventional president since Abraham Lincoln.
The liberals have always believed in their own moral and intellectual superiority. Their recent dogma begins with elevating “diversity” to extraordinary levels, including bathrooms. In true Saul Alinsky fashion, the end justifies any means at all, including lying, inciting to riot, public scorn, and fake news based on illegal (and unsubstantiated) leaks to the press. Assassination is a short step away for the fanatics, as we have seen recently. They honestly believed that they had won the culture war with the popular Barack Obama and that they had clear sailing towards a truly European-type socialist USA. Had they not fielded such a flawed candidate, their dreams might have come true.
In the end, however, the most stereotypical Republican to appear on the scene in a hundred and fifty years was elected president. All the bile and contempt for everything he stood for in their minds (whether true or not) has been spewing out in a torrent of a hatred borne of anguish. And everything the liberals said and did just angered their opponents that much more.
So, what is next? Looking back, America survived the Civil War (barely), Prohibition, two world wars, the Cold War, 9/11, and Barack Obama. The Republic can survive the Donald J. Trump era too. Neither Barack Obama nor Donald Trump can destroy America. Forget all the doomsday talk and get on with the business of running the country. And keep your sense of humor handy too. It is not in the interest of the Republic to waste four years on hating our neighbor. As the Christians among us remember, Jesus told us to love that darned neighbor!
© Lawrence J Fedewa 2017