The author says Donald Trump’s extreme rhetoric and priorities are emblematic of a frightening turn that right-wing culture warriors are inflicting on North Carolina. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
I don’t recognize North Carolina today. It is not the state I’ve loved and lived in all my life. We’ve changed from being “where the weak grow strong, and the strong grow great” to a state where we select the ones we choose to hate.
We are casualties of the culture war, both here and across the country. James Davidson Hunter, head of the Virginia Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture said, “It’s as though there are no unifying national myths. And those that once occupied that place in American life are now subject to debate and the culture war.”
The results from these wars have seen us devolve from wanting our children to be the best educated to a not-so-hidden agenda of dismantling of our traditional public schools. The constitution dictates that each child have access to a “sound basic education,” however the $500 million just authorized for private school vouchers demonstrates that this guarantee is for some, not all. With billions in savings, our state is last in the nation in per-capita student spending. Leaders want to re-write and homogenize our history, dictate curriculum contents and give parents a “Bill of Rights” to disrupt those trying to educate our youth when there’s something they don’t like. They can ban books of which a few disapprove and even fire teachers.
We have gone from being a state that essentially said we don’t care about what you do in your own bedroom to 2015’s Senate Bill 2, dubbed the bathroom bill. Even though that legislation was repealed, the social agenda attacks are barely disguised evidence of racial hatred, discrimination against women and abhorrence of immigrants.
Incidentally, the Bureau of Labor says our labor force has increased by 14.6 million since 2007. More than half, 7.8 million, were foreign born. The unemployment rate is near a 50-year low, refuting claims that immigrants are taking away American jobs.
We’ve reverted to puritan practices of shunning and punishing women, telling them what they can and cannot do regarding their own health and futures. And the paltry help we give those with mental illness is criminal for any society claiming to care for others. We celebrate the wealthiest 20 percent, reducing their taxes, even as income disparity among the remaining 80 percent widens.
Everything is politicized. The minority rules in all things. The era when elected officials negotiated together for solutions is a faded memory. Decades ago, we would rise up united against anyone threatening our way of life. Today we sit quietly and watch as authoritarian legislators, courts and even non-profit groups advocate and expand their existential threats and agendas.
One of the most egregious results of the culture wars is elected leaders who sit quietly while gun violence becomes the leading killer of our children. The NRA donors require obeisance to any gun any time. We are no longer shocked for the nightly news stories of shootings, gun threats or violence.
“And part of what is troubling is that I’m beginning to see signs of the justification for violence on both sides,” Hunter writes. “Culture wars always precede shooting wars…you never have a shooting war without a culture war prior to it.”
Thirty years before the Civil War there was a culture war over slavery and the future for Black men and women. Four in 10 Southern males and one in 10 Northern men died in that war.
Adolph Hitler published Mein Kampf in 1930, appealing to the ultra-nationalistic, the anti-Semitic, antidemocratic, anti-Marxist, and the military. World War II resulted from those repeated and intensified threats and attitudes.
Is this where the current culture wars are headed?
A character reminiscent of Hitler makes statements like Trump’s Veterans Day speech, labeling those who oppose him as “vermin” who should be confined to concentration camps. Trump said of his opponents, “They’ll do anything, whether legally or illegally, to destroy America and to destroy the American Dream.” Talk about the pot name-shaming the kettle!
Trump did speak truth when he said, “the threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous and grave than the threat from within.” That’s what should worry us. The real threat is when good men and women, the majority of whom don’t agree with or approve of today’s culture wars, sit quietly and don’t stop them. We’ve done so before. Without large numbers of good citizens willing to vocally and dramatically protest further movement down this path we could see a bloody, unhappy future.
It’s time for you to choose what side of the culture wars you are on.
This commentary was first published on the NC SPIN website.
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