I have mocked the idea of us being in the middle of a culture war. I was wrong.
It’s not about pressing 2 for Spanish, or saying “Happy Holidays”, or someone demanding to be addressed by pronouns created by grabbing a handful of Scrabble tiles. It’s not about hip-hop music. It’s not about Heather having two, three, or ten mommies. It’s not even about some imam trying to convert a bunch of prisoners over to radical Islam or communists trying to frame “democratic socialism” as something other than, well, socialism.
To give a nod to the other side of the political fence, it’s also not about Evangelicals trying to create The Handmaid’s Tale or favoring businesses over workers.
All of that comes later. In the cultural version of Maslow’s pyramid, those are not the base, and the base is what is rotting away. The base is simple decency.
I’m not talking about religion. I’m talking about the fundamental things which are common to our culture, the beliefs which are shared by religious and irreligious alike. I refer to the teachings of our parents, grandparents, and authority figures, lessons we learned as young children.
It’s wrong to lie. Hard work should be rewarded. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Be polite. For every finger you point at others, four are pointing back at you. Don’t waste money. Virtue is its own reward. Respect authority figures.
As we get older we learn that none of these are absolutes. This does not mean the core wisdom that the lessons hold is wrong. The teachings we received as children were meant to carry us successfully through life and ensure that we could function as members of a civil society.
People who eschew these lessons in favor of doing whatever they can to get ahead have never been cast as the heroes of life; rather, that is a standard trait of the villain in nearly every story.
The answer to “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” is now “What political party are they?”
We were all raised better than that.
The shifting standards of a political affiliation are enticing. “The madness of crowds” has been recognized since at least 1841, and “peer pressure” since 1971. Aristotle declared man a social animal more than two thousand years ago, and his observation has been proven correct.
People want to belong. We define ourselves, at least in part, by the groups with which we associate. That’s unavoidable.
For whose who truly wish to maintain an American culture, however, they have a choice. They can give primacy to the basic tenets of decency which form the underpinnings of “Western culture”, or they can set those aside in favor of the current views of their political, religious and social leaders who are merely striving to get ahead. If they choose the latter, they’ve already abandoned American culture and no amount of swagger over any lesser concern can change that. They are the agents of cultural rot, not defenders against it.