America’s widening ideological/cultural/political division, what we often call the Culture War, is not going to heal in your lifetime. It won’t heal in your children’s lifetime, either. Or your grandchildren’s. Simply whining about the divide, whether you’re a politician or a concerned citizen, won’t fix what’s wrong. More communication won’t fix it, either; social media has enabled us to talk to each other for years, and the divide yet widens. In fact, it would be better if we didn’t talk to each other so much, because we’ve used these platforms to spread disunity and tribalism rather than togetherness. The Brotherhood of Man is sundered, not least because we can’t even agree on what a man is, biologically speaking.
This division didn’t happen ex nihilo.
The way that the Culture War has been fought makes ending the conflict impossible. Nobody has the authority to call a truce, and none of the combatants would agree to one in any case. National tragedies like mass shootings, terrorist attacks, or natural disasters no longer result in temporary armistices; instead, we’ve decided to “never let a serious crisis go to waste.” That is, we’ve politicized every single aspect of human life, from God to TV to weather to bridge collapses.
By politicizing everything, you criminalize every difference of opinion. You reduce every issue, no matter how complex, into a Manichean proposition of good vs. evil. Brendan Eich learned that to his cost. Masterpiece Cake Shop learned that to their cost. And I learned it also, when Jim Mcleod, proprietor of the horror site Ginger Nuts of Horror, kicked me off the writing staff and called me, a Jewish man, a Nazi for expressing, in my own space, opinions that millions and millions of other people share. If your difference of opinion has been elevated to the status of criminal hate speech, how can you possibly find common ground with people who disagree?
The entertainment class has decided to escalate the Culture War further by expressing, loudly and frequently, its utter contempt and loathing for the other side. That the other side also buys movie tickets and watches television shows is immaterial: what matters is signaling one’s virtue by slandering one’s ideological adversaries. Nobody makes a Hollywood actor call someone a Nazi at gunpoint: these people choose their ideology and they choose the ways in which they express it. You don’t have to go on Twitter and call your customers KKK members because of who they voted for. So is it any wonder that many of us are secretly cheering every disgusting revelation of appalling behavior from Hollywood’s casting couches rather than expressing dismay? Hollywood has set itself up as the political enemy of half the country, not to mention its moral superior. It hates us rubes in flyover country. Why shouldn’t we hate Hollywood back? Why should we forbear the smallest slight, in light of how divided we are? Remember your Shakespeare.
Social media fuels the Culture War with every angry Tweet, every thoughtless Facebook status. We’ve got too much communication going on, not too little. Daily doses of loathing poisons the psyche; it strains the nerves, keeping us on edge. Anger’s easy to kindle, but difficult to maintain; it provides a dopamine-like hit that’s too addictive to quit, but terribly exhausting to endure. This is undeniably detrimental not just to our common culture, but to civilization as a whole. Lacking the Brotherhood of Man, we can no longer come together to repel the Visigoths at the gate, be they Muslim extremists, domestic anarchists, or even the decay of the rule of law. There’s no longer an us or a we. There’s you, there’s me, and there’s fuck you for disagreeing, you Nazi; go die in a fire. The sickening public responses to recent mass shootings and hurricanes and terror attacks have taught us this.
The solution isn’t to lay down your arms and hope the other side does the same. Not when your livelihood’s at stake because you think that gender is a biological constant rather than a social construct. Not when your reputation’s at stake because you believe that the proper response to an armed attack is overwhelming force instead of continued conversation. Not when your life’s at stake because you want to take responsibility for your own personal safety instead of unilaterally disarming. After a victory, we’d all like to lean on our shovels and say, “Well, that’s done.” Well, it’s not done, it’s not over, and you have to keep fighting.
From the ease with which terms like “Nazi” and “racist” are thrown around, with companies signaling their virtuous tolerance in letting deviants into women’s private areas, to the horrific revelations about how the Hollywood sausage is made, we’re seeing with crystal clarity exactly what happens when you let anything slide. That time is over.
If the people in Hollywood hate you so much, don’t enrich them by watching their movies and TV shows. If the inmates at the local college dismissively refer to your hard work and sacrifice as “white privilege,” don’t send your kids there to be indoctrinated in Social Justice claptrap. And if the ideologically-driven news media trots out lie after lie in service to a narrative at odds with your deeply-held ethics, don’t give them your clicks and attention. You can do quite a lot simply by opting out. You can do that at least, can’t you?