While many Kerry-supporting"blues" are blaming evangelicals for Kerry's loss (as if the social-conservatives were the only reason for the Democrat's denouement) and some Bush-supporting"reds" are busy denying that religious-right voters have any real electoral power (I still find it odd calling states backing the party of Joe McCarthy"red") ... it is certainly true that the Culture War is heating up. In this regard, the election was only a symptom, not a cause.
There are many ironies in this culture war. Some conservatives of a pro-war vintage are claiming that the"blues" are fear-mongers for focusing on the evangelicals; they suggest that Bush's war stance is the reason for his victory. Such a writer as Christopher Hitchens, in fact, has so downplayed the dangers of domestic fundamentalism, that he's recrafted Bush's re-election as a"secularist victory." Secularism is relative, I suppose, given that Hitchens does note correctly another irony: that some antiwar advocates, who are incensed over the domestic fundamentalists, are too busy downplaying the dangers of fundamentalism abroad.
Now, granted, the sword-wielding Islamic fundamentalists, who seek to cut off the head of licentious Western civilization, may share something with the domestic fundamentalists. But these jihadists make our domestic variety look like pansies by comparison.
Still, despite the vast differences between them, fundamentalists of all stripes seek to use the power of the state to bolster their own particular vision of morality. Jerry Falwell has already spoken of reconstituting his Moral Majority for the 21st century (yes, that's 2-1, not 1-2). Criticizing some of his conservative compatriots for belittling the fundamentalist electoral achievement, Falwell was elated that"more than 30 million evangelicals 'voted Christian' [on] Nov. 2, when 116 million Americans cast ballots. He predicted the number of evangelical voters will jump to 'at least 40 million' in 2008." And Bob Jones 3rd, president of the college bearing his name, wrote a letter to President Bush saying:"In your reelection, God has graciously granted America—though she doesn't deserve it—a reprieve from the agenda of paganism."
What is being heralded is a"moral revolution" that is attacking American"indecency" and"perversion," the kind of"perversion" that Falwell once said was a critical factor in bringing about the tragedy of 9/11 (something with which the jihadists might agree).
Nevertheless, if this were just a revolution requiring a battle over ideas, we'd all stand a better chance if we debated the issues rationally, while barring all groups from using state power to forge their ideological battles.
One of those battles took place yesterday. Last night, as I reported,"Saving Private Ryan" was to be preempted in various markets because ABC affiliates feared indecency fines from the Federal Communications Commission. Initially, it was reported that 65 ABC stations, in markets as large as Boston, Dallas, and Cleveland, would refuse to air the film. As it turned out, a little more than 20 ABC affiliates declined to show"Ryan." All of this is a long-term consequence of the FCC's war on"vulgarity" in American media, following the Janet Jackson nipple controversy. (At least some people have retained a sense of humor through all this: Dolly Parton, in concert last night at the Theater at Continental Airlines Arena, actually cautioned that she could be a lot more nasty than Miss Jackson:"If I pull a Janet Jackson, I'm gonna take out about four rows.")
Ironically, Brent Bozell, of the Parents Television Council, who mounted the post-Super Bowl protest and who applauds the FCC's fining of the indecent on TV, himself protested against this"Ryan" blackout.
Too bad Bozell! You rubbed the FCC bottle, the genie popped out, and now, you're not likely to stuff it back in. This is now creating a stultifying atmosphere for American media that is far worse than any possible fines the FCC can levy trying to force people to be"decent" and"moral."
But you can't force anybody to be moral. Genuinely moral choices are moral because they are choices, not decisions forced on people at the point of a gun. The precondition of any moral revolution is a simple maxim, one that must serve as a basic minimum for any rational discussion of values:"Leave your guns outside." As Ayn Rand said in For the New Intellectual, even people who disagree over the nature, function, and purpose of moral values must stop equating"the power of physical compulsion with the power of persuasion." That's not likely to happen, however, as long as groups, of whatever value orientation—be they right-wing religious fundamentalists or left-wing"secular" do-gooders—choose to ram their agendas down our throats.
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