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The false and dangerous dichotomy of the “culture wars”

7 mins read

Social and cultural anthropologists understand how the culture of a society is changed.

A dominant civilization or society most effectively changes a culture when it invades and conquers a subordinate one by force of arms. The losers are forced to change into something entirely different from what they were, if they survive.

Colonialism by dominant European states accomplished this. For example, Spain’s domination of the Caribbean islands’ native peoples, including eliminating most of the old leaders. Some would call this this type of rapid cultural change “genocide.”

More slowly, the peoples of one culture come in contact with other foreign cultures; sometimes friendly, sometimes not. When the influence of one has a profound effect on the other, one adopts the other’s ethos (core values).

When France placed Maximillian I on the throne of Mexico in 1864, the elite members of Mexican society adopted everything French: architecture and furniture, clothing, celebrations, mannerisms, values, etc. The adoption of the culture of another, or some major elements thereof, tends to be gradual.

Differing forces within the same culture that clash with each other over cultural values takes even longer. We are witnessing this phenomenon today, and it is incorrectly called “culture wars.” The members of one force, referred to politically as the “far right,” are waging a so-called “war” against the values of what is referred to politically as the “far left.” Neither of these labels correctly define the socio-cultural dynamics at play today in America.

A major facet in this “war of American values” is a carefully orchestrated movement against honestly teaching America’s racist history. It is a fast and furious attempt designed to steamroll truth in our educational systems.

Having an open mind to change in all its forms was a lesson I, and virtually all of my friends in Houston, learned in my Texas public school experience. That included one year’s requirement of the core subject of “Civics.”

Texas legislators, just one of many states, now want to control what teachers teach, and severely punish them if they tread too far afield. This is culture change at its base, and it surely was not the culture that I was inculcated with during my youth.

I worked at a grocery store throughout my high school years in the late 1950s. Every grocery store in Houston had “white” and “colored” signs on water fountains and toilets. Unfortunately, when those signs were removed in the mid 1960s, this “act” was not enough to end the effects of centuries of the subordination of “coloreds” in America.

Too many other “signs” existed to remind them of “white power” that remained. Even though much progress has been made in our culture’s attempt to eliminate racism, it remains a dark stain on our values today.

The uninformed and ignorant critics of so-called “Critical Race Theory” (aka CRT) really do not know what it means; they conflate CRT with any vestige of American racism, which clearly it is not. That is the same as calling folks “Nazis” when they are not; or “socialists” when they are not; or “traitors” when they are not. Those folks on both sides of the extremes, are oblivious to what those labels actually mean. Using them as insulting name-calling labels trivializes the real meaning of these terms.

Misunderstanding what CRT is and the vicious arguments subsequently engendered is driven by political forces, at all levels of government. At its core, the CRT controversy is not about honestly examining America’s history of race and its evil twin, racism. Rather it is about “white” Americans’ racial anxiety and its “woke” to the growing reality that in just a few years’ time, the white majority will be lost, as reflected in our rapidly changing demographics.

The dominance of white folks, as a primary element of our culture will remain, even when they no longer are the numerically dominant “tribe.” This scares the living bejesus out of them.

“What, white Americans are becoming a minority? OMG! Those black and brown folks want too much; they hate America. They are not real patriots.”

In the varied experiences of my life, I have found that when some people descend to name-calling and character assassination — the lowest form of “debate” — they have lost the argument.

“You are a low-life traitor and a foolish jerk. Your ideas are worthless and therefore valueless. I win, you lose! Period.”

At this point, any real debate is halted by that solid brick wall of witlessness.

What has become all too clear is that elected legislators in way too many states seem hell bent on taking away our freedom to make decisions for ourselves, our families and our communities. Now THAT is the real definition of freedom, with a capital (F).

“Well, all I know is what I read in the newspapers.” – Will Rogers. 

David M. Taub was Mayor of Beaufort from 1990 through 1999 and served as a Beaufort County Magistrate from 2010 to 2015. You can reach him at david.m.taub42@gmail.com.

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