Tuesday, November 3, 2009
There are only two kinds of Americans, and these two groups will probably never see eye-to-eye on anything. In fact, their views are so foreign to one another, they seem to be occupying parallel universes. I'm not talking about Liberals and Conservatives, or blacks and whites, or men and women, or Mac users and PC users, or New York City and the rest of the country. No, I'm referring to the difference between the Cultural Warriors and everyone else.
What do I mean by “Cultural Warriors?” Well, the “Culture Wars” are a series of unresolvable arguments about topics such as drugs, abortion, gay rights, public displays of religion, America being a “Christian Nation” or not, gun control, and whether George W. Bush or Barack Obama is closer in spirit to Adolf Hitler. These arguments are just as pointless as the “Yankees suck/Yankees rule” debate. No one is going to be convinced by the other side's arguments, and there's never going to be a defining event that proves the rightness of one position or the other. The Culture War is a lot like the War on Terrorism and the War on Drugs in that it isn't really a war, it makes some people very rich (in this case, political pundits), and it is never going to end.
Cultural Warriors are people who have volunteered to fight the Culture Wars for one side or the other. They stay on top of the issues, they read blogs voraciously, they comment on the blogs, they protest and counter-protest whenever they can, and they never waver in their convictions.
Cultural Warriors include people like Glen Beck and Michael Moore, the portly, constantly smirking Hector and Achilles of the Culture Wars. Rush Limbaugh and Jon Stewart are well-known recreational drug users and Cultural Warriors, although Stewart sometimes lightly rips the Democrats if there's a joke in it. Sarah Palin is Xena, Cultural Warrior Princess, and Ann Coulter is a male version of Xena. Wonkette and Redstate are two of the many Culture War fortresses on the Internet. And if you think the Culture Wars are a new phenomenon, remember that Ayn Rand and Father Coughlin could out-demagogue anyone on Fox News or MSNBC with one side of their mouths.
While the two sides disagree about nearly everything, they both rely on one core belief: there are no noncombatants in this war. That is, everything is a political statement for one side or the other. There is always something outraged about, and every new outrage is a skirmish that will determine the winner. A sculpture of the Ten Commandments outside a courthouse will force judges to rule by the law of the Bible; schoolchildren singing a song praising the President is a 1984-style indoctrination. If the other side's politicians are having an affair, they're hypocritical scumbags; if our guys get caught having an affair, they're victims of character assassination by the media and the other party. These arguments are not ever resolved because they can't be resolved. Instead, we go onto the next issue, which is always just a cable news cycle away.
Cultural Warriors, thanks to their numbers and their noise, can drive the public debate and make a whole lot of money if they get their own show, but they never make policy decisions. Partly, this is because they hardly ever hold office (Palin even resigned as governor to take part in the Wars), but mostly their suggestions are not adopted because they don't make suggestions. They aren't interested in the nitty-gritty details of laws and governance, unless those details can support a point they want to make. If a fact or report disagrees with their already-resolved opinions, the find a way to cast doubt on that fact or opinion, or they simply ignore it.
The problem with this hyper-politicized viewpoint is that it is incredibly limiting. Veteran Cultural Warriors are all bile and bias, so they assume that everything in the world is biased. This makes them unsuitable scientists, because scientists have to draw conclusions from facts, not facts from conclusions, and good scientists have to be able to recognize when a hypothesis has been proven incorrect. Cultural Warriors will never produce a worthwhile work of art, because their ideology prevents them from understanding art. Everything is considered from a political standpoint, so they lose sight of aesthetics and treat everything as a form of propaganda. Conservative Christians flocked to Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ not for its virtues as a film, but because Gibson is one of them and wants to further their message, much like dyed-in-the-wool Liberals enjoy Michael Moore's movies. This is the sort of art that a Cultural Warrior produces--political in the shallowest possible sense, guaranteed to be enjoyed or hated depending on the party affiliations of the viewer, and boring to look at.
Meanwhile, a whole lot of Americans go through life without considering the political ramifications of Christmas displays in public buildings or renting movies at Blockbuster. Some people are not bothered by the biases of Fox News and MSNBC because they never watch those channels. Mind-bogglingly, some people don't even think of politics as all that important. These people are easy to ignore because they don't blog, don't appear on television, and many of them don't even bother to vote. You can criticize this sort of attitude as being apathetic or unappreciative of the rights given to us by modern democracy--then again, given the state of political debate in this country, there's something to be said for ignoring it and hoping it goes away.
For an example of Cultural Warriors fighting over Whole Foods in the most ridiculous manner possible, watch this video: