A Divided Culture
Robert L. Wichterman
Robert L. Wichterman writes from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
The U. S. Congress has not been as ideologically split as it is now since the 1850s. With the election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860, that crack became a schism. The situation facing Mr. Lincoln, even before his March 4, 1861 inauguration, was that a significant portion of the nation was reacting to his win by withdrawing from the union. The new President had hoped that slavery, which was the primary basis for their secession, would be declining as an issue. However, led by South Carolina, that prospect vanished, and a rival government was soon formed.
Moving forward 152 years to the present, it is evident that since the 1980 Carter-Reagan Presidential campaign, a cultural and political fault line has opened between those Americans whose ideology is to the left of the political center, and those to the right. The majority on the right side, identified as "red" by the media, generally hold conservative, Judeo-Christian, Greco-Roman values. Those on the left, colored "blue" by the media, have a more secular philosophy, which denies transcendent truths, and have more liberal views. It must also be noted here that most of these political beliefs are born in the prevailing cultural climate. Thus the axiom, politics is downstream from the culture.
What holds us together as a nation? The framers of our Constitution knew that in order to remain a viable, independent, and politically free country, there had to be a unanimity among the citizenry as to what was "right" and what was "wrong," what actions were acceptable in public, and what were not. That agreement became the Judeo-Christian consensus. It has kept us united for many years as Americans. E Pluribus Unum. "Out of many, one" is on the Great Seal of the United States of America.
Today, that covenant is badly frayed. To the secularists especially, it belongs on the ash heap of history. They appear to be striving to destroy traditional unity just as surely as the Confederates did about 153 years ago. Led by the national Democratic Party and their left-leaning allies, their attacks on our Judeo-Christian, Greco-Roman values are splitting the country as much as did the South's secession. If they could, they would replace our republican form of government with an authoritarian system rightly rejected by our Founders.
We have become two separate cultures, residing within the same geographical borders, speaking the same language, but sensing different meanings to our words. In Europe, it is called being "Balkanized."
The secularists, represented by a host of far left believers, are fighting hard for their position to prevail. "The recent elections have confirmed that we are a divided nation, not only politically, but in terms of our interpretation of God's will," said Rev. Robert Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, and a former Democratic Congressman. Rev. Barry Lynn, a member of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, put it more bluntly. He declared, "The culture war may go nuclear as millions of Americans oppose the theocratic agenda of the religious right."
The culture war is intense. Recent surveys have found that parents are increasingly frustrated by today's cultural excesses. From all segments of society, at all income levels and racial backgrounds, parents worry about their ability to impart positive values to their children, and to shield them from the less-than-savory aspects of the culture. The assault comes from T.V. and the movies; it goes into the Internet, electronic games and advertising. A study released by The Institute for American Values, New York, N.Y., discovered that parents believe our American and traditional values are being vilified. Specifically high-lighted was "The kind of hyper-sexuality that's out there, the violence and disrespect, the body image, and the foul language." Another mother said she "frets most over T.V., where indecency and language are the worst. But T.V. is the hardest; there are no limits anymore." In 2004, largely due to this perception, President George W. Bush defeated Senator Kerry by 19 percent among married voters with children under age 18.
The culture war has spread to other areas of American life. Much to the dismay of NARAL and other liberal groups, many doctors and hospitals have refused to perform abortions, and the courts have up-held their right to decline. In addition, some pharmacists are also refusing to fill abortion-inducing prescriptions.
How will our cultural war play-out? Civility in the U.S. Congress has been reduced to a level not seen since the 1850s. The loss of cross-aisle friendships has led many older members to resign and go home. Many are praying that today's culture will become less vulgar and coarse. The ideological split in the U. S. Congress simply reflects the vast differences in the American voter's beliefs as to how much the government should provide for and control our lives.
On the positive side we are still the world's Superpower - both economically and militarily. Even including its lower income population, America's national standard of living is at the highest level in recorded history, in spite of our many formidable challenges.
The structure of the government of the United States of America is unique. We were the first republic to have three separate but equal branches. Plus, except for Nebraska, which amended its legislature in 1937 from bicameral to unicameral and non-partisan, each individual state has followed the federal model with a bicameral legislature, and the executive and judicial branches.
As we fret over the great divide between the values voters in the Red states, and the liberal secularists in the Blue states, we should be aware of Abraham Lincoln's belief that free institutions, and the rule of law, will hold America together. He was one of our wisest presidents, and he also observed, quite cogently, that:
All the armies of [the world] could not by force take a drink from the Ohio. . . . If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher.
In other words, we, like Rome, will fall from within.
How may we avoid their fate? Mr. Lincoln also recommended:
Let reverence for the laws be breathed by every American mother to the lisping babe that prattles on her lap. Let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges. Let it be written in primars, spelling books, and in almanacs. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation.
All I can add is, Amen.
Yet, what is our option? If we continue to spend our way into oblivion, an authoritarian government could arise. Commenting on the fall of Rome's republic circa 55 BC, Marcus Tullius Cicero wrote:
Do not blame Caesar, blame the people of Rome who have so enthusiastically acclaimed and adored him, and rejoiced in their loss of freedom, and danced in his path, and gave him triumphal processions. Blame the people who hail him when he speaks in the Forum of the new, wonderful, good society which shall now be Rome's [America's]. This is interpreted to mean, more money, more ease, more security, more living fatly at the expense of the industrious.
Shortly after this was published, Octavius Augustus Caesar had Cicero executed.
We must not allow that to happen here. America stands at a crossroad. Choose well citizens, our republic hangs in the balance. *