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Dr. Jim Taylor

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Losing the Real Culture War

Posted: 08/10/10 12:50 PM ET

In recent decades, America has become embroiled in a so-called "culture war" between the right and left, red states and blue states. This culture war, supposedly fought over the moral values that are intended to guide our country, has created a schism so wide and seemingly so insurmountable that, as we stand now, a future of bitter division and enmity in America seems sadly inevitable. But are we really so divided? And who is our real enemy?

Certainly, there are some important value issues that polarize our country, for example, gay marriage, abortion, and free market vs. regulation. In time, we will need to find solutions on these issues. Yet these value differences, which deserve vigorous and thoughtful debate, have been elevated into an acrimonious culture war. Politicians on both sides of the aisle pander to specific constituencies on these "wedge" issues to ensure their elections. Media "talking heads" promote divisiveness and hysteria to increase their celebrity and profits for their news organizations. Highly vocal groups, though in the minority, foment this feeding frenzy to push their extreme agendas. This exaggerated culture war has created such division and ill feeling that reasonable and balanced debate and compromise seem virtually impossible.

As these controversial issues have taken center stage in America's discussion of values, we have lost sight of the essential reality that we share far more values than those on which we differ. Regardless of where we live or what are our political or religious beliefs, I am certain that all Americans believe in the values of respect, responsibility, family, compassion, justice, tolerance, and many others. These are the values on which our country was built and has thrived for over 230 years. These are the values that unite us, give our lives meaning, and make America strong. So we are not each other's enemies, as some in our society would like us to believe. Instead, we are like a big family that has disagreements periodically, but always knows that, in the end, we have the same fundamental values and goals.

With our preoccupation with this culture war, most of America hasn't noticed that there is another, far more dangerous culture war being waged in our country. Our enemy in this war is attacking our children and our families daily and this enemy is a far greater threat to our country's future than the few values on which we may disagree. Who is this evil doer, you ask? Just our own American popular culture. And the culture war we should be fighting is against this insatiable and unrelenting beast that is slowly and inexorably destroying, right before our eyes, the very values that make our country great.

Popular culture used to reflect the values of America. No longer! Now popular culture dictates our values to meet its own greedy needs--50 Cent, American Idol, New Jersey Shore, Grand Theft Auto, need I say more. Using a "shock and awe" strategy--television, movies, video games, music, celebrity and fashion magazines, the Internet, and saturation advertising--popular culture has become the most dominant and destructive force in our society today. And while we are expending so much energy fighting the other culture war over "hot button" values, we are ignoring the ongoing, intense, and incessant attacks on the values that most affect our children every day. Most of us don't notice the truly despicable values that are being forced on them. Reality TV, for example, exemplifies everything that is wrong with our society today, promoting greed, dishonesty, humiliation, and a preoccupation with celebrity, wealth, and physical attractiveness. Popular culture has made the Seven Deadly Sins attributes to be admired!

What is at stake in this war against popular culture? Only the future of our children, our families, and America as a whole. We are on the cusp of the old world that was based on values that cared about children and a new cultural frontier. Our children are the first generation raised completely in this new world dominated by popular culture. What happens to future generations who have no connection with the values on which America was built and all they know are the values that they are bombarded with daily from popular culture? This future should terrify every American and cause all of us to reconsider which culture war we should be fighting.

Should we continue to seek out solutions for issues on which we disagree? Absolutely. But these issues should not divide us. If we fight amongst ourselves, we will lose the real culture war, while popular culture tightens its grip on our country. And our children, our families, and America's future will be the casualties. Before we lose this culture war, we need to respect our differences and focus on all of the core values that we share. We must ally ourselves with our children and fight against this immense threat to America's future--our own popular culture. Because in the end, we are not from red states or blue states. We are all from red, white, and blue states, and we better remember that, for our children's sake, before it's too late.

 
 
 

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