Culture warriors need neo-Reconstruction
The upcoming presidential inauguration is an opportunity to bring Americans back together. Over the last few weeks I’ve seen more than a bit of neo-conservative media covering the so-called “war on Christmas.” In fact, on Oct. 6, neo-con state Sen. Glenn Grothman gave a public address “It’s time to get off the bench and into the cultural battle.” With the advent and hope of a new, post-partisan, political culture we need to move past the “war on Christmas,” and all the other divisive culture wars, and back toward that more perfect union, an America that works for everyone.
Yet, like Civil War re-enactors, these culture warriors stay employed by marching around in eye-catching uniforms and firing weapons that create an exciting spectacle – even though they’re only shooting blanks. They keep fighting battles long since lost, reviving hopes long since rendered obsolete. Here’s what I mean.
When I was a university student one of the fraternities held an annual ball at which members dressed up as Confederate officers. It was charming, and culturally interesting, and I understood why boys whose great-great-grandfathers died during the Civil War would want to pay their respects by getting smashed on whopatooli punch and waving swords, but the Old South also embodied toxic ideas superseded by the inevitable Union victory.
Those boys never liked to be reminded that the Civil War ended in 1865. Today’s culture warriors don’t like to be reminded that the socalled war on Christmas ended in 1791 when the First Amendment was ratified, guaranteeing that the government could no more subsidize Christmas then it could Ramadan or Wiccan equinox dances.
Christmas is only one example of a mock battle fought for distraction. Abortion is another one.
Abortion is still protected under Roe v. Wade. Even if the Supreme Court reverses itself, a significant majority of Americans believe abortions should remain safe, legal and rare – and will vote that way. We can keep fighting this battle, but it would be better if we get to work preventing the unwanted pregnancies that lead to abortion in the first place.
The unplanned pregnancy rate among American teenagers is twice as high as Canada’s and five times higher than the rate in France. We need to do something about this now, not wait for a Supreme Court decision the ballot box will overturn. We can only do something by working together to find common ground.
The culture warrior’s favorite target, of course, is taxation. Taxation, in their playbill, is always cast as the wicked carpetbagger. The children all shout “boo!” but the adults in the crowd know that Ben Franklin was right. Taxes are inevitable. The question is not whether there should be taxes, but whether our taxes are being wasted. Nobody in their right mind wants the government that wastes money.
The late U.S. Sen. William Proxmire, a liberal Democrat in the best tradition of Wisconsin progressivism, was famous for rooting out waste with his “Golden Fleece Awards.” Conservatives and liberals alike are responsible for building Bridges To Nowhere. Fighting about whether there ought to be taxes is simply another way to divide us and keep us from moving forward. State Rep. Pat Strachota’s call to make the state budget transparent by putting it online is a step in the right direction – a step that did not depend on her political ideology, but on her good sense.
The Union prevailed in the Civil War and it can prevail in these un-civil “culture” wars as well. So, let’s put down the Enfield rifles and cavalry sabers and get to work reclaiming our government. The story of America, our story, is the story of a people struggling toward a more perfect union – not away from it.
In a post-partisan Wisconsin we must work together rather than fire off our muzzle loaders over anything that makes us different. Every one of us wants tax reforms, educational reforms, and smarter ways to make the state attractive to the next generation of businesses – regardless of which side of the fence we say we’re on during an election.
As Americans, we will never agree about everything, but divided by labels and side issues we won’t get much done. Setting aside differences to find common ground is just common sense.
That’s the message of this new president, but it’s a message as old as the Republic: the struggle for a more perfect Union. E Pluribus Unum: out of many, one. Let’s get to work.
I'm going to give them a couple of weeks after the Inauguration and then it's, sigh, back to Gettysburg.