The Next Phase Blog offers social commentary on a very wide variety of topics but I have generally avoided three of them: politics, guns and religion. As it turns out, however, it has become increasingly difficult to write social commentary without addressing issues of politics, guns, and religion.
Why? Because those three areas, the core of America’s culture wars, have come to dominate the news. Every day.
Culture Wars in the News
One cannot keep up with current events without understanding the huge political divide in this country.
- Almost every week we hear about another mass shooting—often in our schools—by young men armed with military-grade weapons that even the police are afraid to confront.
- We see evidence that America’s hard-won freedom of religion is threatened by Christian nationalists—extremists who would repeal the First Amendment and enshrine Christianity as the official state religion.
- An unprecedented attack on our legal system would place some politicians above the law, allow the federal government to interfere in state prosecutions, and instigate violence against as state attorneys general as well as the U.S. Department of Justice.
- Many states have passed anti-abortion laws so strict they are almost hostile to pregnant women and girls. Religious zealots in the South Carolina legislature introduced a bill that would allow executions of women who have abortions.
- OB-GYN doctors in states with punitive new anti-abortion laws are leaving so they can practice medicine without fear of prosecution and incarceration. Some hospitals have closed their maternity wards, creating “maternity deserts” where women can’t easily obtain medical care during pregnancy and birth.
- Guns have become the primary cause of death among U.S. children.
- Sex-obsessed Republican politicians are focusing their efforts on drag-queen story hours, transgender youth, instead of the real issues this country needs to address.
America Has Lost Its Mind
It’s hard to keep up with the culture wars as misogyny, gun worship, religious tyranny, and legislative mischief sweep America. Citizens of other democracies find it hard to believe that the most powerful country in the world has so lost its mind.
The interesting thing is that most of the culture wars don’t affect our day-to-day lives. We all can turn off the TV news and go to work, the supermarket, the gym, the mall, our favorite restaurant where we encounter other Americans who seem to be normal, pleasant, convivial people. The incongruity astounds.
The reason for the inconsistency is that we don’t talk to strangers about guns, politics, and religion. Why would we? Here in Massachusetts, we go about our own lives and let others go about theirs. We don’t ask strangers what church they go to so we can decide what category to put them in. That’s their business and they are welcome to it. We also have strict gun laws, so we don’t encounter armed civilians in the streets.
Lawn Signs and Flag Suits
Lawn signs go up around elections, of course, but it has been years since a candidate put his/her party affiliation on the sign. We see “John Smith for Governor,” and “Jill Jones for State Senator” but have to do some homework to find out what party they belong to.
Up here, too, we don’t see Confederate battle flags flying from pickup trucks or people wearing American flags on their bodies. And from what I’ve seen of the bodies that do, this is a good thing. Up here, well, no. Just no. Boston may not be a fashion center but we do have better taste than that.
Despite that, the divide exists. I find myself being careful about what I say and to whom. I don’t have a bumper sticker on my car because I don’t want to come out of a store and find that it’s been keyed by someone who disagrees with my view. Neither do I wear buttons or pins. Once upon a time, these were popular means of expressing your views. Now, they might earn you a confrontation with an angry someone you would rather avoid.
That doesn’t mean I’m silent—just careful. In a country filled with angry people who feel compelled to wear guns to Starbucks or carry an AR-15 to the mall, careful is prudent.
In the Grip of the Culture Wars
Does this mean I will write more about guns, politics and religion? In some posts, I will have to, even though I would really rather not. We are in the grip of the culture wars—trapped in a country where Republicans would rather talk about drag queens and bathrooms than gun violence, healthcare, national security or the economy.
They don’t understand us and we don’t understand them. But at least we haven’t reached the state of open warfare. Yet.