A short one, today, but I think important.
Alexis deToqueville in “Democracy in America” makes a point that Americans, in particular the New Englanders of his day (writing in the 1830’s), descended from folk who were self-selected over more than two hundred years for self-government both small and local (the township being the central element of government), and to not being particularly responsive to far off kings. Whether that represented people born with the proclivity toward independence or a convergence of cultures which became self-propagating is a bit of an open question but I suspect that it’s a bit of both.
Unfortunately, a lot of that self-selection has fallen by the wayside in the ensuing centuries. And a lot of the cultural habits have been diluted–much by a deliberate effort to undermine them, an effort which gained considerable headway in the 20th century. And much of that is the result of deliberate agitprop by the former Soviet Union. McCarthy may have had poor target selection in who, specifically, was accused but America was rife with Soviet agents including in government and in the entertainment industries.
It is not my point here to justify McCarthy’s target selection, methods, and tactics in some attempt to rehabilitate his memory. I, frankly, don’t know those issues well enough to competently discuss them, let alone justify one side or the other. Yet one can consider McCarthy’s actions deplorable (or not) and still recognize that there was a concerted effort to undermine America, backed and supported by the Kremlin. And that effort has long outlived even the Soviet Union itself.
That effort to undermine the American culture of liberty has been only partially successful–one of those “cultural habits” of Americans is a great deal of cussed stubbornness–but successful enough that I’m far less sanguine than some about the outcome of the “New American Revolution,” a “bombs and bullets” war, that some seem to want. Part of the problem is that the sides are so very intermixed. The picture with which I open this post shows states vs. states, much like the American Civil War although even here, the states on each side don’t form solid blocks. They’re more mixed up than were the North and South in the Civil War. But the true field is far more mixed than even the States. The folk on one side of the Culture War may be more concentrated in some areas and the folk on the other side in different areas but they are nevertheless thoroughly intermixed even in the most concentrated zones. Add in that we have multiple sides. It’s not just “red/blue” or “Republican/Democrat” but a wide range of differing views on how “society” should be run.
This “culture war”, a war of ideas and values fought for the American psyche, that we’re already involved in has been on a cultural plain and, I believe, that’s where it needs to be fought. Win the culture war–and, to be honest those of us on the side of liberty and limited government have barely begun to fight–and we don’t need a full-on bullets and bombs war. This is not to say that there won’t be violence along the way–there’s already been some and I expect there to be more–but if we can avoid a full on insurrection, that would be good.
Fail to win the culture war and even if we win a bullets and bombs war, we lose.