Tuesday, March 29, 2011
America's Second Civil War (Redux)
Class, Gender, Sex And Ideology Fuel The Second Civil War And This One Is Not Between The States But Between States Of Mind.
America was basically founded by two sets of pioneers. One group sought social freedom and an end to tyranny. They were progressives who questioned the status quo and defied a king. The others were seeking religious freedom and they were, you guessed it, conservatives and believed in freedom from tyranny and put God, country and family first.
Together, they changed the world.
And they did it because they had a wild land to conquer and they had to fend off enemies. They forgave each other their weaknesses and myopia. But even as they did, the conservatives drifted south to be in like company, leaving the progressives to the north. Good fences make good neighbors.
Later, after they had combined to kill and then take the lad of Native Americans, were at odds over the subjugation and enslavement of other human beings and denial of their humanity in search of commerce and easy wealth to find their newly stolen nation.
The conservatives felt slavery was justified by their God and the liberals felt it was unjustified sin and bad for a free society-- and economy. In the bloody contest that followed, it is ironic that today's liberals (Democrats) supported slavery and today's conservatives (Republicans) opposed it. In the end, the progressives won and slavery ended.
For the next hundred years or so, America slowly became more and more liberal and progressive as her power grew. But it was the conservative and religious values that held together our society and allowed us to overcome fear, adversity and even more domestic growing pains. And it was the liberal and progressive America that pushed her forward in the acceptance of other races of people forming the greatest heterogeneous society the world had ever known. We built a thriving workforce and made America a manufacturing powerhouse.
And then, the 60's.
After slavery ended, other lesser forms of oppression began and as long as they did not disrupt commerce, America tolerated them. And so the Blacks rebelled, culminating in The Civil Rights Act of 1964 which basically guaranteed the rights the Founding Fathers had given to white American citizens almost 200 years before. The difference implicit in the Act was the admission that America had failed to extend these rights to blacks and women.
At the same time, the counterculture movement (the white civil rights movement) supported Black power and also demanded an end to many of the traditions of sex and societal convention. They demanded free love, free sex and freedom of expression wherein anything goes. The last vestiges of Victorianism, religion-influenced culture and accepted gender biases were about to fall.
The Democrats who had divided the country a hundred years earlier with their support of slavery now led the charge for liberal freedoms and called for an end to America's adherence to old-fashioned values, customs and biases. The conservative religious side fought back warning that without their foundation, America would lose its delicate balance and the nation would fall.
They were both right in theory but terribly wrong in the way they defended their arguments.
For the next decade and a half, America plunged head first into self-indulgence. The family structure began to crumble thanks to no-fault divorce and the rising acceptance of disposable relationships. This was in part due to the acceptance of changes in sexual morality, which subverted Biblical teachings. People had always had premarital sex but it was a sin. Suddenly, it was a lifestyle.
From 1960 to 1980 America saw the liberals win the culture war and while Blacks and women made historic gains in education, business and politics, we also slid into the excess, vanity and the greed of The Me Generation. And despite the widely held belief that women and Blacks were innocent in this failure, we were all in the ship as it was sinking. White men were blamed with all of America's ills and given little credit for any of its good, but after all, they had murdered everyone.
Resentment followed and so it was not shocking when in 1980, after two decades of liberal sentiment dominating our culture, there was a backlash and the second war for America's soul began.
Under the conservative rise was the notion that we had sold out American values for greed, vanity and sexual self indulgence that went against the tenets of religion, the balance of freedom and civilized restraint. Also intertwined with this thinking was the silent idea that Blacks and women had ruined prosperity by being given opportunities based on guilt connected to past wrongs and not merit. Liberals felt that this was so much white male whining by people afraid to compete on a level playing field and who walked around with millions of deaths on their social tab.
So the battle began with no one being honest about what they believed because now after so much bloodshed and murder in the 60's, a new thing called Political Correctness ruled free speech and if you said anything that didn't support the idea that Blacks and women were just as good as any white man, you were excoriated, demeaned and could even lose your job. When this prohibition was extended to the handicapped, the old, gays and anyone who wasn't a white straight male, chaos ensued.
Conservatives were sure that Liberals believed that if white men were not forced to be fair, they would never be fair and would subjugate and enslave Blacks and women in new and improved ways and that in fact, minorities and women were superior to the evil white men.
Liberals were sure that Conservatives believed that white men were ordained by God to rule and everyone else should accept their second class status, believe in the white male God and never complain about His choice even if it meant you were discriminated against and forced to live below your talents and strengths.
Now that we had conquered the wild country, the two sides felt free to tear each other apart.
Conservatives won't admit that they lost the culture war and we have passed the point of no return. Americans will never go back into the sexless Victorian closet where women were once considered chattel. Blacks were never going to go back into pseudo-slavery. I dare say we would rather die first.
The Progressives won't admit the extension of liberal philosophy has turned the American family into a fractured nightmare, given rise to bitter divorces, created a generation of lost children and a relationship landscape that has devolved into juvenile sexual gamesmanship and that these facts have caused many of our society's ills.
And so with no more hearts and minds to win, our two intrepid groups, the progressives and the conservatives have reduced themselves to dirty tricks, lies, deceit and name-calling. And no one seeks to restore the balance that will save us because now any concession to liberalism or conservatism feels like defeat to a people who have enjoyed over 200 years of freedom and now believe they are never wrong about anything.
It's time for the grown-ups to take over. We have to ignore the extremists no matter how sweet their entreaties to our self-interest. We have to forgive good men and women who have made reasonable mistakes and not ban them from public service. And lastly, we must all take moral inventory and be brutality honest with ourselves and ask not which side we are on but why are fighting in the first place.
The delicate balance of Americanism has to return or we are lost no matter which side wins.