Battles over culture will, for the near future, become increasingly central to political debate in this country. With that in mind, this month and next we will examine some of the plethora of material on this conflict over the defining image of America.
From Whose Perspective?
In many ways the "culture wars" are a made-for-TV controversy. The "battle over the soul of America," as Pat Buchanan called it in his address to the Republican National Convention, provides many video-friendly photo opportunities and images for the medium we so regularly invite into our living rooms.
In one corner we have those who are terrified by the "tribalization" of America, their code word for "uppity minority" claims to rights of opportunity and access. In the other are multiculturalists who deconstruct any and every situation into its most basic form of oppressive indulgence, thereby making impotent the authority of real critiques of abusive power. And from their respective corners the gladiators swing freely, worrying little for the truth in the mix and using incendiary imagery to try to frighten the Great Middle of the American electorate off the couch and into the street.
The wars have been brewing for years, but serious recognition began with the publication of Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.'s 1991 book, The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society (W.W. Norton, $14.95, paper). Schlesinger adds his reputation to a growing list of authors who express dismay over the direction of America's multicultural future.