War is hell. But in realizing that any one war is over, a fresh hell may be revealed. Take for example, the now infamous battle of videotape formats. Old timers and VCR war veterans will remember that when VCR’s made recording TV programs and playing movies at your leisure a possibility, there ensued a bloody battle between VHS tape and something called BETA. That war and its casualties (BETA was the technically superior format) is long ended, yet here we are suffering through another skirmish between standard DVD and Blu Ray. Good Lord, when will the violence cease?!
Whether it means peace or not, events last week conspired to bring an end to the entire notion of a “culture war” raging in America. You might have thought otherwise, hearing about what was happening. There certainly seemed to be plenty of people hoping to project a sense of great division in America. But just as a child acting out his frustrations at an amusement park is not solid evidence of bad parenting, so is childlike behavior from adults not proof of division and opposing “cultures.” It might just be people behaving badly. Rudeness and vulgarity, last I checked, is not a philosophy or political view.
“Culture war” has been a term used to suggest that political strife in America was the result of a conflict of values, and that conservative/traditional values were at war with values considered progressive or liberal. While many purported that the “roots” of this were to be found in the social turmoil of the 1960’s or a clash of rural vs. urban values, in case after case the metaphor just didn’t hold up. Not everyone who lived in a rural setting was against safe legal abortion, just as not everyone who was a hippie in the 60s became a liberal politician. But that’s applying logic to a stratagem intended to obfuscate and create tension.
The events of last week had nothing to do with a clash of values. You tell me where you sense “values” represented by the following actions: Late night obscenity-laced telephone calls to the homes of Democrats supporting healthcare that included threats to both the elected representatives and their families; a white powder sent to the Queens New York offices of Congressman Anthony Weiner (later found to be non-toxic); bricks thrown through windows. Then my personal favorite…
From the Washington Post on March 22 “As lawmakers debated their way to a vote on the legislation, dozens of GOP lawmakers walked from the chamber, crossed the Speaker’s Lobby, stepped out onto the members-only House balcony — and proceeded to incite an unruly crowd.” As you’ve heard and read, the balcony Republicans led chants and held up signs reading “Kill the Bill.” There were also signs mocking Nancy Pelosi and reports that at various times, the Republicans made throat-cutting gestures on Pelosi’s photograph. Uh, to represent ‘killing’ the bill.
The crowd below was undeniably ugly in perhaps more than one sense of the word. As the Washington Post further reported, “Democrats, to show they wouldn’t be intimidated, had staged a march to the Capitol from their office buildings, covering the ground where on Saturday African American Democrats were called racial epithets and spat on by protesters. Pelosi, carrying the speaker’s gavel, linked arms with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who was harassed Saturday but is no stranger to abuse from his years in the civil rights movement.”
Regarding crowds, please allow me one quick sidebar. On Friday March 26th, NBC TV news reporter Lee Cowan filed a report from Tucson, where Sarah Palin was campaigning for John McCain. Never mind the inanities from Palin’s speech there, Cowan’s story made it appear that Palin can draw crowds and that “her voice seems to echo everywhere else.” But in the final shot of the video package, Cowan stood behind the crowd. It appeared to me that there were barely 300 or so people in attendance at the smallish hall.
That rude and potentially violent crowd at the Capital may have been over-perceived in size and may not necessarily represent any kind of a “movement.” Still, one dimension retains its measurable depth: The level of ignorance represented. And the jackpot is that, for all their seeming unhappiness, they don’t understand who the real enemy is… even as they looked up to those on the members-only House balcony who were conducting them like musical robots in a mechanized band.
My contention is that, as of last week, the use of the phrase “culture wars” is over because to have sides in something involving thought-through differences in cultures would require both sides to demonstrate some level of discriminating taste. When you believe that anyone waving a sign with a slogan on it is your ally, regardless of where they are standing, you’re not discriminating. When you spit or use racist epithets or send powder or make obscene phone calls, you clearly demonstrate that you have no taste. If struggling needlessly with the notion of a “culture war” has come to an end, then I’m concerned about what replaces it. Blunt-force ignorance and the inability to accept that we have a new President and that he is going to bring change is not a ‘movement’; it’s just fighting and scratching to get back the old wrong world you and your mentality were comfortable in. Well, sorry. There will now be sustained discomfort for you in the new post-“culture wars” afterlife. No matter how much your supposed friends on the balcony goad you on.
Mirror Contributing Writer[email protected]