The Great American Culture War

I was recently triggered by a family member passing along an email consisting of some “whaddabout” climate denialism wrapped in some Tucker Carlson-esque “I really learned a lot reading this nonsense” testamonial.

No, I did not learn a lot. As I ranted in reply:

We know, without any credible doubt, that the Earth’s climate is changing and that human-origin shifts in the atmosphere’s composition are contributing to this in well-understood ways. For the sake of future generations, we need to be advocating for systemic change in our political and economic systems, making informed and responsible choices as individuals, and working towards adaptation to the unavoidable “baked in” changes that are coming. Anything else is a moral failure. To actively work against these efforts is, and I don’t use this word lightly, evil.

But I also lamented that this email chain was fueled by the US culture war and started to also rant about that. That’s too much ranting for one message, so I’m electing to vent my frustration here, instead.

For some time, now, the US political system asks everyone to subscribe to Red or Blue, inherit all of the positions for their chosen team, and look for controversy in every possible issue.

Maybe you’ve chosen Red because you believe life begins at conception, so ending a pregnancy is not only a matter of health choices. Even if you don’t go so far as to believe fetuses have rights or any termination is akin to murder.

Maybe you understand democracy to be sustainable only with unlimited freedom of speech, and any constraint is a slippery slope to authoritarianism (by the wrong authorities). Or you’re simply fed up with being told that everything about your culture is oppressive to somebody else. Even if you don’t believe inciting violence or hate is acceptable.

Maybe you see every social issue as fundamentally economic, and so financial self-determination is the one freedom we should not compromise. You might think the welfare state only holds back the very people it purports to lift. Even if you believe government does have an important role to play in assuring a basic quality of life for all citizens.

Maybe you think we can reduce violent crime by putting more firearms into private hands. Even if you acknowledge the need to screen and train who carries, and where.

Maybe you’re simply disgusted by people not subscribing to the gender or other identity norms you understand to hold our fragile society together. Even if you don’t deny that well-informed adults should be able to choose their own lifestyle.

Maybe it makes me too Blue that none of those ideas motivate me. But I can imagine them being reasonably held in good faith, so we ought to be able to have a civil discussion over them.

Why, though, should it be that if you find any of those issues credible, you are expected to support the extreme version and also every single one of the others? Or think that Vladimir Putin is anything more than a tyrant? Or that the overwhelming preponderance of qualified experts and decades of observation which support the safe efficacy of vaccines are, actually, a cabal of malicious conspiracists? Or that every misguided, click-baiting media story which conflates weather and climate is evidence that actual scientists have some hidden agenda to deny us the conveniences of modern life?

Having removed myself some distance from it, I could almost find it funny if it didn’t threaten my relationships or the stability of the planet we share.

I posted this in August 2023 during week 2580.

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