A Permanent State of Hostilities

A Permanent State of Hostilities
A pro-life activist and pro-abortion activist hold up signs as they protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court during the "March for Life" event in Washington, DC, on Jan. 24, 2005. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
James Bowman

Have you noticed that there are a lot more wars going on these days than just the one in eastern Europe—and that most of them appear to be going on right here in the USA?

The Biden administration’s strategy in the Ukrainian war is said to be to “bleed Russia dry” by doing all it can to prolong the war and its attendant sufferings, and there's some evidence that it, or its media sympathizers, has a similar strategy in the domestic wars.

According to former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, writing in the UK's Guardian newspaper, “The second American civil war is already happening.”

If such a war really were “already happening,” it’s unlikely that we’d have to learn about it from a foreign newspaper, but Reich is fluent in media-speak, which has long experience of characterizing as “wars” all kinds of things that ordinary, non-media folk living in the supposed war zone can spend their whole lives without noticing.

He himself admits that the “civil war” of his headline, sparked by the expected decision of the Supreme Court to reverse the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 banning abortion nationwide, and thus, to return abortion law to the states, isn’t really very much like a war. It is, writes Reich, more like the “benign separation” of a married couple who are unwilling to divorce, with red and blue states in the role of the contentious husband and wife.

The states aren’t really separating either. Refining his imagery still further, he writes that “What America is going through is analogous to Brexit—a lumbering, mutual decision to go separate ways on most things but remain connected on a few big things (such as national defense, monetary policy, and civil and political rights).”

War or no war, however, the main thing for the progressive appears to be that he can look forward to a permanent state of hostilities that most of the media, at least, will still refer to as war. Or wars.

The so-called Culture War, of which the controversy over abortion law is just a part, has been going on for decades now and, perhaps because the metaphor is looking a little tired, has recently come to be referred to by the media as “the Culture Wars,” plural.

To be fair, it does seem to have metastasized in recent years.

Formerly thought to have been mainly to do with law and custom relating to sex, the Culture Wars, plural, have expanded under the influence of identity politics to encompass matters of race and civil rights as well as sex, which have been long thought settled and uncontroversial.

Most recently, even the definition of the word “woman” has become a matter of dispute—which is why, presumably, our most recently confirmed Supreme Court justice claims not to know what it is, even though much was made by President Joe Biden of her being a woman when he nominated her.

Perhaps we should call these “skirmishes” rather than “wars,” which are things that look to most people quite big enough when singular.

But war is good copy for the media and gets more eyeballs focused on screens and papers than anything but sex, which must be why the media are so eager to declare new and more sensational wars. And the best wars of all are wars about sex.

Thus, we read on May 11 in Politico that “The Sex Ed Wars Will Never End.” I would like to think this is more an expression of the hopes of the author, Jonathan Zimmerman, than a reasoned prediction. If the parties to “the sex-ed wars” are parents and teachers, the struggle looks too unequal for it to last long, let alone forever.

Zimmerman himself recognizes that the ideology of “gender” that has set off the newest phase in the century-old political contention over sex education in schools has brought about a profound change to that struggle.

In the past, the opposition to sex education has been primarily religious in origin; now it's at least as much ethnic as it is religious. The “multiculturalism” so long championed by the left has given new prominence to more traditional-minded Asian, Hispanic, and Muslim cultures, which don’t share the sexually permissive attitudes that the dominant culture has been cultivating for most of the past century.

These sub-cultures’ criticisms of the ongoing sexualization of childhood through the public schools “presents a new challenge for sex educators,” writes Zimmerman, “who typically embrace the pro- immigrant spirit of liberal America, and don’t have a clear political response when immigrant communities don’t embrace their progressive values.”

This “new challenge” appears to be the basis for his contention that the “wars” over sex education “will never end.” His own “progressive values” lead him to suppose that the decades-long pacification program of the left-wing culture warriors against reactionary believers in the preservation of childhood innocence will simply continue while facing new waves of enemy attacks—and new sorts of enemies.

That’s what the progressives who got the country into the Vietnam War thought too, and their continuing influence could be felt in the “forever wars” of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the new U.S. intervention in the Russo–Ukrainian conflict.

They never seem to learn, these progressives, that their long-running “wars of attrition” wear down both sides, and that, like other wars, they eventually end by being won or lost—usually lost by them.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
James Bowman is a resident scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. The author of “Honor: A History,” he is a movie critic for The American Spectator and the media critic for The New Criterion.
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