It’s been said that America is either in or soon facing a culture war. It’s a common concept and I am one that believes it to be true. However, I’ve come to change my thoughts as to which cultures are/will be at war.
The most widespread idea of a culture war is that it will be an issue of family values against Hollywood morals, or the religious right versus the heathen left. This may be true to some extent as various political advocacy groups are pushing for legislation to support gay rights or to abolish abortion.
I’m not going to propose an easy answer of how to approach any of these controversial subjects as I believe there are no easy answers. Naturally, the results will be swayed by the ideologies of whoever is in power, but there isn’t a single result that will please all of the population. So as long are we’re all in this together, there will be a significant portion of our nation that is unhappy with how this nation is led.
While opposing factions will continue to wage a morality war, there is another battle I fear is looming over us. This impending culture war is one (I hypothesize) of intelligence – real or implied. This is a new war: the dunces versus the elitists.
We can see the opening battles of this war as congress treats its constituents with contempt (or at best, complete disregard). We hear bomb blasts in Sarah Palin’s remark “How’s that hopey, changey thing working out for ya?” Clashes erupt as a study shows The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is as substantive as traditional news networks. More skirmishes stem from Pew Research that shows the collective American knowledge is worse than it was ten years ago (the same study suggests that viewers of the Daily Show fared well when quizzed about politics and current affairs while FOX News viewers had some of the lowest scores when asked the same questions).
This war has hit home. A family friend who disagreed with some of my opinions in the past bombarded this blog’s comments section with repeated incendiary remarks. Even in a post that I admitted I could be wrong, she continued to harass me and leave hateful and hurtful comments. In a private e-mail to my wife she said that our (referring to both Bekah and me) educations have harmed us.
This intellectual war is viable in my community. Earlier today, in an online discussion, one individual referred to an Apple Store soon to open in River Park Square as “an elitist store for an elitist mall” and insisted that RPS is the “worst mall ever.” (I would contend that Silver Lake Mall is the winner of the worst mall ever award, but that’s a different story.) This comment about RPS led to a response from another local resident that sees RPS as the most pleasant mall to visit out of all of the malls in the Inland Northwest. That was all fine and acceptable until the originator of the elitist comment accused the other individual of being “uncomfortable around the poor people at the other malls.” What made this whole exchange bizarre was the false assumption that pleasant = for rich people while unpleasant = for poor people. And the person calling RPS elite referred to himself as the common man.
Common man? Sounds so familiar. TEA Parties claiming that they represent the common people. Hordes announce that they want to take their country back. And both sides hold stake that they’re the “real Americans.”
Who’s taking the country back? And from whom? And what makes one citizen any more or less real than any other American. All of this political bickering isn’t just sad. It’s sickening. And above all else, it’s dumb.
But now I need to qualify what is or is not dumb. Pat Robertson saying the Haitian earthquake is their own fault is dumb. Sarah Palin chastising a liberal White House staff member for using the word “retard” while praising Rush Limbaugh’s use of the same term is dumb. Watering down health care reform to please a group that wants to see HCR defeated is dumb. Telling “morans” to get a brain is dumb. Throwing plastic bags with racist propaganda into neighborhood yards is dumb. Paranoia is dumb. Mullets are dumb.
There are two sides to this culture war: intellectual vampires and intellectual zombies. Intellectual vampires thirst for knowledge (and I must specify that knowledge and wisdom are not mutually codependent qualities), and they feed off those they view as inferior. Their bite is scathing and they attack with vigor. Intellectual zombies have no brains, nor do they show any desire to acquire information. Their lack of sense is infectious and they spread their ignorance like an epidemic. Both sides insist that they are the representation (yet neither are an accurate depiction) of the common American. Unfortunately, talking heads from both ends of the spectrum insist that you join one or the other under the mantra “either you’re for us or you’re against us.”
I choose to believe that the majority of Americans are smart. Not geniuses, but not complete imbeciles either. We have a God-given ability to think and learn and reason. I trust that we all want our communities and our nation to be better than its current state. While normal people are making efforts to improve the world around them, we are bombarded by a war between egotists and idiots.
We are more than collateral damage. I propose three things that will help us survive this war between low intellect and high intellect.
1. Know your heritage. Know where you came from. This can be a tremendous source of strength and pride. Furthermore, respect for your own heritage requires a respect for diverse histories of your neighbors; both friends and strangers. It also demands an understanding of our shared heritage.
2. Desire something better than this. In what kind of nation do you want to live? Or have your kids raise their kids? Who would you rather lead us – someone smarter than you? Or someone not as smart as you? What scares you? What gives you hope? You need to be able to answer these questions.
3. Take action. Do something. Don’t just protest, contact your representatives. Get involved with organizations that have the ability to positively impact your community.
We’re better than this. We are capable of so much more.