I’ve been hearing about the culture war for years. Anyone who even sporadically dialed in to Bill O’Reilly during his Fox years couldn’t help but encounter the term. It’s used frequently in Evangelical circles. It’s even served as part of the title for multiple books.
The typical narrative is that American culture is being threatened by those who wish to alter it to fit their agenda. The perpetrators have ranged, while I’ve watched, from hip-hop artists (Ludacris was particularly targeted by Mr. O’Reilly) to LGBTQKeyboardsmash activists to the awful people forcing Americans to listen to “Press 2 for Spanish”. The villains can be new commercial efforts like Amazon, as people watch Sears and Toys R Us closing. They can even be the growing numbers of e-sports players, undermining the traditional athletes. Or they can be the athletes themselves, kneeling during the national anthem.
The defenders of American culture will tell you they are steeped in patriotism. Some are fairly well versed in history and politics, and can explain at length on the dangers implicit in losing the culture war. All of them are correct in their assessment of the dangers. Unfortunately, most of them have become Quislings, Benedict Arnolds, Judases to the very cause they claim to support.
Being able to discuss political theory is the equivalent of being well-versed in Bible studies. There are some who will put it into practice, and some who will use their knowledge as an elitist standard. A person who knows only the Ten Commandments but actively tries to follow them is more pious than the person who can recite whole passages from the Bible but refuses to live by the lessons within.
This is exactly what we are seeing in the age of Trump.
It is happening because people are misrepresenting America. They do this while saluting the flag, admiring the eagle and mourning the fallen at Arlington. They are defining America not by her classical principles but rather by the transient nature of shared experiences.
I have some Yank magazines. They were produced by the Army enlisted, for the Army enlisted, during World War II. Nearly every issue contains a feature on that most overwhelmingly popular of American sports – boxing. Some contain articles on musical theater, which is no longer among the first hundred things most people think of when military men are discussed.
Many people who present themselves as soldiers in the culture war are failing to recognize – or worse, recognizing but refusing to publicly admit – that popular culture changes.
The only culture that is truly American is the system of governance we have, and the promise of individual freedom that we have historically attempted to spread throughout the world.
The true culture war was, throughout the 20th century and into today, between freedom and oppression. America stood for hope and liberty, and against communism and dictators. President Trump and his agenda directly refute this. He praises dictators for their ability to run a country at a young age, or repeats their revisionist history while casting America as a villain. His policies are to strengthen (in theory) America by tearing down all others, and to isolate America from those not already here.
This is not expanding freedom. We should be welcoming people from all nations – but only if they want to embrace the foundations of America. The tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free… not yearning for a handout of food or free education, but simply wanting the opportunity to work an honest day for honest pay.
President Trump, I believe, does not know better. There is little indication he has ever read the Constitution, or indeed any of our founding documents. He has demonstrated an astonishing lack of even basic civics understanding. This is independent of his moral turpitude. He is a politician unworthy of the post he holds. In that, he is hardly unique.
That said, he regularly gets blame for his excesses… but he hardly deserves to wallow in the ignominy alone.
Trump is a leader of the willing. People with experience and understanding of Constitutionalism regularly redefine what freedom is in their continuing efforts to promote the President. Those who argued for free trade now pretend that tariffs can be good policy. Those who explained optimal border security now demand an inefficient wall. Those who articulated the dangers involved in profligate spending praise infrastructure projects.
They bargain away everything they once held dear in the name of temporary gain, and not even temporary gain for the fundamentals of our Republic but only gain for the transitory popular culture.
And whether they are politicians, pundits, or simply keyboard activists, their followers fall in line behind them, mimicking their betrayal.