| “The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.” Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Anyone that studies politics and history understands that mankind has fought culture wars since the dawn of civilization. Culture wars are fierce contests of ideas. Religion vs. secularism. Socialism vs. capitalism. Democracy vs. tyranny. Judicial activism vs. restraint. There will be no end to the culture wars. And this is how it should be.
In its most basic form, the culture war is a battle between those who seek to protect and retain what came before and those would discard it and force something that is promised to be better. It’s not a battle solely for political power. It is a battle to control the direction of society. Will society be allowed to adapt to new ideas on its own or will ideas be forced onto society for its own good.
Perhaps Emerson described this never ending war best in his 1841 lecture at the Masonic Temple in Boston:
“The two parties which divide the state, the party of Conservatism and that of Innovation, are very old, and have disputed the possession of the world ever since it was made. This quarrel is the subject of civil history. The conservative party established the reverend hierarchies and monarchies of the most ancient world. The battle of patrician and plebeian, of parent state and colony, of old usage and accommodation to new facts, of the rich and the poor, reappears in all countries and times. The war rages not only in battle-fields, in national councils, and ecclesiastical synods, but agitates every man’s bosom with opposing advantages every hour. On rolls the old world meantime, and now one, now the other gets the day, and still the fight renews itself as if for the first time, under new names and hot personalities.”
20th century conservative political philosopher Russell Kirk explained it this way:
“The conservative thinks of political policies as intended to preserve order, justice, and freedom. The ideologue, on the contrary, thinks of politics as a revolutionary instrument for transforming society and even transforming human nature. In his march toward Utopia, the ideologue is merciless.”
So much of liberal ideology espouses ideas that are contrary to human nature. Their economic proposals are based on emotions of envy that deny property rights. They fail to recognize the inherent need for people to defend their own property and lives. They try to silence differing ideas and crush religious freedom in the name of their own religion of secularism.
This battle between conservatives and progressives is healthy and necessary for our society to advance. When one side gets an artificial advantage, and seeks to silence the other, much damage will ensue. Today the forces flanking from the “left” have weapons forged in academia, in bureaucrats’ offices, and in courtrooms that have given them a huge advantage. It’s created a dangerous imbalance.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan said correctly that “The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society”, but 21st century politics is crushing the normal adaptive nature of culture. Too many have fallen for demagogues who proclaim that politicians will determine the success of our society.
These are worrisome times in the culture war. It may seem that there is little room for our values. History has taught us that new is not synonymous with better. We can be secure in the knowledge that in the contest of ideas the truth shall be the ultimate victor. That security does not allow us to passively standby. It requires us to commit to the truth and join the contest. Each of us has an important contribution to make in this contest. Vote, Debate, and Participate, until we win!
“Independence is my happiness,
and I view things as they are,
without regard to place or person;
my country is the world,
and my religion is to do good.”
Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man
Paine pointed out how useless the aristocrats were:
“The aristocracy are not the farmers who work the land, and raise the produce, but are the mere consumers of the rent; and when compared with the active world are the drones, a seraglio of males, who neither collect the honey nor form the hive, but exist only for lazy enjoyment.”
Paine believed that the national character of the English had changed over the previous century and that this was why they put up with the abuse:
Moses-Our Original Founding Father
|This year, the Jewish Passover falls at the end of April (4/20-4/30). Passover traditionally begins with a Seder, a ritual meal full of symbolism and the retelling of the story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. This is the story told in The Book of Exodus in the Hebrew Bible (what many Christians refer to as the Old Testament).
Since the original story of Exodus, the same story has been lived out many times, by many people, in many lands. People seeking freedom from tyranny have suffered hardship and death over and over again, even to this day. Just like the Israelites of 3,000 years ago, refugees from the war scarred 20th century sought liberation. Today, we see the suffering of Iraqis and Syrians fleeing ISIS and Assad. We see refugees from war and terrorism seeking a better future for their families. Three thousand years after Moses, the thirst for freedom and safety remains unquenched
Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams proposed that Moses be on the Seal of the United States. They considered him to be our real Founding Father. A quote from Moses appears on the Liberty Bell. The Pilgrims considered their story to be similar to the story in Exodus. Harriet Tubman, who just this month was chosen to appear on the $20 bill, was called “The Moses of Her People”.
Many of the “plagues” of today are easy to show on the evening news. It’s very graphic and heart breaking to see women and children driven from their homes. There are other plagues which are not so easy to visualize. For these plagues, we don’t see blood being spilled or bombs dropping or children being beheaded. They are no less of a threat to freedom. These plagues are propagated in legislatures and voting booths; in campaign headquarters and courtrooms; in newsrooms and college lecture halls. These are the places from which come the threats to freedom in much of the world.
Perhaps we could wish for boils and frogs and locusts to descend on Washington, D.C. to convince our modern day tyrants to set us free, but I’m afraid that part of the Exodus story won’t be repeated. Moses isn’t coming to help us this time. There is no Moses running for President this year, although Bernie Sanders may have been around for the Exodus.
The Jewish tradition of retelling the story of their liberation from slavery gives them an opportunity to give thanks for their liberation and to remember their suffering. We all should remember the bitterness of oppression and seek to eliminate it. It may take another 3,000 years, but it is our responsibility to carry on the legacy of those who worked for liberty before us and for those who will follow us.
Jews conclude the Seder with a hope for their Messiah “L’shanah haba’ah b’Yerushalayim hab’nuyah!”- “Next year in the rebuilt Jerusalem!” It’s in recognition of an imperfect world, but a world in which next year may bring them closer to spiritual perfection. We do live in an imperfect world, yet this is the best time in the history of mankind to be alive. With your help, I know that the future will be better and freer. We don’t need Moses to continue the struggle for freedom that has been fought through the millennia. That struggle has been left to us.