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Writers and Editors (RSS feed)

What the 'Culture Wars' Are About

Subtopics: Row v. Wade, Obergefell v. Hodges, abortion, same-sex marriage, race and the 1619 Project, George Floyd, gun politics, separation of church and state, privacy, recreational drug use, homosexuality, censorship and banned books, climate change (in the wake of the 1997 Kyoto Treaty), pedophilia, gender identity, gay people, Trump and January 6th, academic freedom, teacher tenure, student rights, campus free speech, educational gag orders, whether the study of American history should be a "celebratory" or "critical" undertaking, separation of church and state, and orthodox Christian positions on premarital sex, contraception, out-of-wedlock childbearing, and divorce. Anything else?

Heather Cox Richardson (Letters from an American, 5-2-21) on Republican attitudes toward multiculturalism. 'On Friday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and 36 Republicans sent a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona accusing him of trying to advance a “politicized and divisive agenda” in the teaching of American history. This is a full embrace of the latest Republican attempt to turn teaching history into a culture war....

     "The prime object of Republican anger is the 1619 Project, called out in McConnell’s letter by name. The project launched in the New York Times Magazine in August 2019 to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the first landing of 20 to 30 enslaved Africans at the English colony of Virginia....

     'The 1619 Project argued that the landing of the Black slaves marked “the country’s very origin” since it “inaugurated a barbaric system of chattel slavery that would last for the next 250 years.” ...The Pulitzer Center, which supports journalism but is not associated with Columbia University’s Pulitzer Prizes, produced a school curriculum based on the 1619 Project; Republican legislators in five states—Arkansas, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, and South Dakota—filed virtually identical bills to cut funding to any school or college that used the material.'
Why Republicans are obsessed with pedophilia, gender identity, gay people, and abortion (Robert Reich, 5-7-22) "Voters, don't be deflected by “culture war” messages intended to deflect the public’s attention from how badly big corporations and the super wealthy are shafting them. Americans won’t understand how these economic abuses all relate to record amounts of income and wealth at the top, and what must be done to reverse this imbalance (break up monopolies, enact a windfall profits tax, raise taxes on large corporations and the super wealthy, strengthen labor unions, reform campaign finance, stop corporate welfare, and so on).
      "Oh, and by focusing on pedophilia, gender identity, gay people, and abortion, Republicans don’t have to talk about Trump and January 6."
With Rising Book Bans, Librarians Have Come Under Attack (Elizabeth A. Harris and Alexandra Alter, NY Times, 6-7-22) Caustic fights over which books belong on the shelves have put librarians at the center of a bitter and widening culture war. The reporters spoke to two dozen librarians and library associations across the country for this article. For more on the topic, see Banned and challenged books with links to articles on

---Lists of banned and challenged books

---What you can do to fight book bans and challenges

---Academic freedom, teacher tenure, student rights, campus free speech, and educational gag orders.
The Next Culture War (David Brooks, NYTimes, 6-30-15) "Christianity's gravest setbacks are in the realm of values. American culture is shifting away from orthodox Christian positions on homosexuality, premarital sex, contraception, out-of-wedlock childbearing, divorce and a range of other social issues... [Many] conservatives are enmeshed in a decades-long culture war that has been fought over issues arising from the sexual revolution....Consider putting aside, in the current climate, the culture war oriented around the sexual revolution....Put aside an effort that has been a communications disaster, reducing a rich, complex and beautiful faith into a public obsession with sex. Put aside a culture war that, at least over the near term, you are destined to lose."
---Okay, David Brooks, Which Culture War Should We Fight? (Joe Rigney, The Federalist, 7-2-15) "Isn't the sexual revolution one of the main culprits (aided and abetted by presumptuous Supreme Court decisions that insist on removing these debates from the democratic process, with Roe and Obergefell at the top of the list)?... But we social conservatives, and especially those of us who are Christians, recognize deep connections among these issues, many of them having to do with what sex is for, what marriage is for, indeed what people are for."
---David Brooks on ‘The Next Culture War’ (Rod Dreher,The American Conservative, 6-30-15) Should Christians fight? Retreat? Brooks suggests a third way
After Obergefell: A First Things Symposium (Various authors, First Things, 6-15) How should we respond to the ruling by the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage? What’s next? 
Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America by James Davison Hunter (published in 1992). An account of how Christian fundamentalists, Orthodox Jews, and conservative Catholics have joined forces in a battle against their progressive counterparts for control of American secular culture.The struggle to make sense of the battles over the family, art, education, law, and politics. On an increasing number of "hot-button" defining issues—abortion, gun politics, separation of church and state, privacy, recreational drug use, homosexuality, censorship—there existed two definable polarities.

     See recap of the discussion on Wikipedia. "The culture wars influenced the debate over state-school history curricula in the United States in the 1990s. In particular, debates over the development of national educational standards in 1994 revolved around whether the study of American history should be a "celebratory" or "critical" undertaking and involved such prominent public figures as Lynne Cheney, the late Rush Limbaugh, and historian Gary Nash." This Wikipedia entry is one of the most useful I've seen, including a wide range of references and useful discussions and explanations.
Deep Water: An Encounter with Whiteness (Deepa Iyer, Medium, 10-30-18) See also her Solidarity Is This about different aspects of the effects of white supremacist culture and From Silos to Solidarity: Learning from 2017’s Resistance Movements. We "must also sharpen our solidarity work: we must move beyond race as the single and sole organizing force to bring communities together; we must work within our own communities to lovingly challenge biases as we proclaim unity with other movements; and we must ensure that we are not caught in a cycle of rapid response and emergency postures that end up harming our own people and organizations."
Climate Science as Culture War (Andrew J. Hoffman, Stanford Social Innovation Review, SSIR, Fall 2012) "Today, there is no doubt that a scientific consensus exists on the issue of climate change....And yet a social consensus on climate change does not exist. Surveys show that the American public’s belief in the science of climate change has mostly declined over the past five years, with large percentages of the population remaining skeptical of the science."

     "The public debate around climate change is no longer about science—it’s about values, culture, and ideology. 'Climate change has become enmeshed in the so-called culture wars. Acceptance of the scientific consensus is now seen as an alignment with liberal views consistent with other “cultural” issues that divide the country (abortion, gun control, health care, and evolution). This partisan divide on climate change was not the case in the 1990s. It is a recent phenomenon, following in the wake of the 1997 Kyoto Treaty that threatened the material interests of powerful economic and political interests, particularly members of the fossil fuel industry."
Everything you wanted to know about the culture wars – but were afraid to ask (Andrew Anthony, The Guardian, 6-13-21) Politicians like to provoke them, academics like to analyse them. Yet most people don’t even know what they’re all about.The historian Dominic Sandbrook agrees that a culture war is under way but cautions against overstating its dimensions. He thinks that more often than not it’s a dispute between two sides of an educated elite. Scroll down for key flashpoints, mainly from UK viewpoint, but they include the murder of George Floyd and the European Union referendum (the issues surrounding Brexit were as often as not cultural at root).

 'Everything that gets labeled "far-left" in the US is common sense policy in the rest of the industrialized world. Guaranteed health care. Paid family leave. Government drug price negotiation. Gun control. It isn't radical. We're talking about the basics of a functioning society."
~ Public Citizen @Public_Citizen 

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