Abler-Minded: War and culture
The history of the world is most often reflected in the history of armed conflicts and wars between and among nations and, not more than a few times, within nations. If one looks at the United States alone, there are some interesting things worthy of analysis in the number of major wars within and outside our country.
The first example is the American Revolution, which had aspects of a war between nations — albeit one was a wannabe country and the other was the long-established monarchy in England. But at the same time, there were also aspects of a civil and a cultural war as many people in the colonies wanted to remain loyal to the monarchy, King George and England, and fighting and reprisals among American colonists were more prevalent than we probably realize.
If one accepts that the War of 1812 was just an extension and final chapter of the Revolutionary War, the next major conflict in the United States was the Civil War — still the bloodiest conflict in our history. The principal ideological basis of the Revolutionary War was freedom from an oppressive government far removed from the colonies. The principal ideological basis of the Civil War was federal versus states’ rights, with slavery as the major underpinning of the states’ rights argument.
The Civil War was also a clash of cultures pitting a mostly agrarian economic system that relied on slavery in the South against the more industrialized, anti-slavery North.
In the 19th century, the United States struggled between strong isolationist tendencies and participation in two world wars. While many Americans died or were casualties in one or both wars, the public generally supported the wars and there is little doubt that besides the “greatest generation” of military personnel, the mobilization and industrial output of the United States was a key to success on many fronts in World War II.
The political and cultural clashes over the war in Vietnam were probably the greatest internal struggle in our country since the Civil War, and I can honestly say that internal cultural struggle is not over. Actually, in looking back, I believe that struggle really began in the early 1950s and reached its adolescence during the 1960s and ‘70s in consonance with the war in Vietnam.
It was at that point that I believe the American public began a cultural distancing from the U.S. military — not the individual soldier, but the military as an institution.
Many of us, including yours truly, were neck deep in that cultural conflict. None of the “in your face” types on the Minneapolis Campus of the University of Minnesota was interested in anything approaching an intellectual discussion with the folks wearing their services’ uniform while in ROTC.
It wasn’t until after I returned from Southeast Asia that my wife shared with me the phone calls labeling me as a baby killer and so on. The adolescents of that movement became the teachers and professors of the generations since then and many have continued to spread their messages of dissension.
In his last column, my left-handed counterpart lamented what he saw as the politicization of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars organizations as aligning themselves more with the Republicans than the Democrats. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out. The Democrats of today bear little resemblance to their predecessors in the middle of the last century. The Democrats are so tied to their fringe elements they have all but abandoned any ties to things like rewards for achievement, personal responsibility, basic morality and self-discipline.
In my mind, we are truly in a cultural civil war that is being waged in a most uncivilized manner by the liberal secular progressives in our society. When I spoke of their trash can in my last column, I meant it with every fiber of my being. They cannot win an intellectual argument on their initiatives, so they must resort to courts, emotionalism, rumor, innuendo, character assassination and misinformation in a manner fully worthy of their leader in the White House in order to advance their societal agenda. They only won the gay marriage debate in Minnesota because of the money and people that came from outside the state.
It was contended last week that patriotism is not partisan, but to a political party that makes everything partisan, it’s a logical fit to my way of thinking. It isn’t the Republican Party who is leading the systematic gutting of the military — in terms of weapons, forces, equipment and its social fabric — in order to pay for unbounded social largesse.
We are well on our way to building a society where “you” must change your attitudes and behavior to make “me” happy. And “we” will use the full force of the legislative process and the rest of the legal system to make certain you do what “we” have deemed as acceptable and politically correct. Individualism is reserved for those who are individual in the proper way.
In an interview a few weeks ago, Sen. Bob Dole opined that the Republican Party was broken, which is at least partially true. The primary source of the party’s problems is its fear of being labeled as racist, sexist, bigoted and/or homophobes by the left. An independent press would blow those arguments out of the water in rather short order. But since the major media outlets are the equivalent of the administration’s scantily clad cheerleaders, we never get the real story. They are only now grudgingly covering the unfolding stories about the IRS targeting conservative people and organizations, the Justice Department’s investigation of conservative journalists and the Benghazi tragedy.
Our nation has been drawn into a truly major armed conflict every century since the founding of our country. And that armed conflict brought out a significant cultural element that contributed to our successes and failures.
I truly fear that because of the negative impacts of the “me, me, me” crowd, we will have neither the capability nor the will to prevail in the one to come this century.
Well, that’s what’s been on my mind.