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The End Point of a Cultural War Matters
By Mark Shepard, Bennington Vermont

November 28, 2008

In the aftermath of the recent election, numerous pieces have been written with varying opinions on how Republicans can work their way back toward the majority they had not long ago. Some, like Peter Beinart in his November 3 Washington Post opinion piece titled, "Last of the Culture Warriors" suggest it is time Republicans abandon their fight on the cultural issues of our day, which Beinart identifies as "abortion, guns and same-sex marriage."

Beinart compares the present cultural war with those fought previously and notes that those wars came to a close during economic times so difficult that economics overwhelmed the attention of the electorate, shoving cultural issues aside. He then suggests that todayís tough economic climate is repeating that process as cultural issues are taking a back seat and people are voting their wallets. Beinart argues that when that happens, those cultural issues fade into history. To be sure, in this election economic issues were a larger factor in the minds of Americans when choosing our next president and, given our present economic situation, that is no surprise.

However, to conclude that cultural issues will fade to irrelevance requires a post-modern, no-absolutes viewpoint and fails to consider just why America became stronger following the earlier cultural wars Beinart sites. Without such consideration, his suggestion Ė that similar economic election drivers will end the present day cultural war Ė is either demonstrably incorrect or the American culture itself is on a downward spiral. You cannot throw away the foundation of America, without throwing away America.

Those earlier American cultural wars ended with America, in many ways, more closely aligned to natural law and our nationís creed penned by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

By contrast if the present cultural war ended with Americans relinquishing the right to self-defense against those who intend to harm us, including a power-thirsty government, accepting the killing of pre-born children who might inconvenience our lives, and redefining marriage by stripping away its tie to procreation, America will have rejected natural law and Americaís creed. The acceptance of fraudulent ideas, which are not based in self-evident truth, will not result in a stronger America, but rather will leave America weaker. If not corrected, the American experiment will eventually come to a close along with the blessings of freedom and prosperity for Americans.

History has examples of both. Those societies that fail to make corrections have landed in, as Ronald Reagan put it, "the ash-heap of history." In Beinartís quest to demonstrate that tough economic times relegate cultural issues to history, he failed to consider that at the very founding of our nation economic concerns drove our nationís founders to settle a culture war on the wrong side of liberty. Contrary to Beinartís hypothesis the issue of slavery did not forever slide into irrelevance, and Americans paid a huge toll to get our laws more consistent with our creed.

While economic concerns certainly can overtake immediate cultural concerns, how cultural issues are resolved with respect to self-evident truth has its consequences. For resolutions to the cultural challenges we face to be true, lasting and beneficial for society as a whole, the resolutions must align with self-evident truth. Any society is strengthened when its public policy is derived from a sound understanding of human nature and the world we live in. Likewise a society is weakened when it enacts public policy that contradicts self-evident truth, even if policy provides temporary relief or feels right for the era or situation.

© Mark Shepard

Mark Shepard
Bennington, Vermont


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