Hope, Lost Along the Road of Electoral Politics

dsc_0969Campaign headquarters in Upstate New York. Photo by Howie Lisnoff.

 

Hope, Lost Along the Road of Electoral Politics

Culture wars redux

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Culture wars redux

Usually, when the distant drumbeat of the culture wars is sounded it’s increasingly hard to hear and is unusually short lived. As a history refresher, what had come to be known as culture wars grew out of the counterculture movement of the 1960s and early 1970s, and the Right’s strenuous efforts to kill any vestige of a society that for a brief time in its history actually turned to examine its shortcomings and particularly its attitude toward war and the preparations for war.

Ronald Reagan was perhaps the “best” example of the culture wars in action. Just before the massacres at Kent State and Jackson State in May 1970, he said that if it takes a bloodbath to get rid of the antiwar movement then we’d better get on with it. It’s no accident that he began his first campaign for the presidency at the site of one of the most horrific mass murders of the era of Jim Crow and segregation: Philadelphia, Mississippi. He immediately set out to bury the last vestige of antiwar sentiment as President when he intoned the end of what came to be known as the Vietnam Syndrome, or the hesitancy of the people of the U.S. to support war. Millions of Vietnamese dead and over 58,000 U.S. soldiers killed had left a bad taste for the terrors of war. War was briefly unpopular.

And so the culture wars began! The Right missed no opportunity to lambast the Left and liberals for the sins of the Vietnam era that left many in the U.S. accepting different lifestyles and an abhorrence for war. There were many whipping boys for the Right: Leftists and liberals who continued to fight the good fight for a better society; those who did not fit the narrow confines of what it meant to be a productive member of this nation; and always those of color and those in poverty who had become scapegoats for the elite and the politically powerful on the Right.

Then 2001 struck home with a vengeance. Blowback from the first war in Iraq was met with a President, George W. Bush, who would not listen to the reports of impending danger from religious fundamentalists issued by his own security services and agencies.

Nearly 14 years later it is almost impossible to criticize the militarism that was unleashed from that Pandora’s Box on that awful day of terror and mayhem. “You’re either with us, or you’re with the terrorists” was how Bush put it. And now the unending presidential campaign of 2016, with jokers like Donald Trump who can’t get it quite right about why people from Mexico and Central America flood across the border of the U.S. in search of a better life and as a refuge from the violence in their home countries. “Give me your tired, your poor…” is a line that Trump probably never learned in eight grade civics class.

Trump, who can’t get it right on the issue of immigrants, now finds it necessary to attack Senator John McCain’s war record. If Senator McCain needs to be criticized, then it might be worth considering his endless support for endless wars. But he did spend long years in a prisoner of war camp. Understanding the gross nature of torture is an issue that Senator McCain did get right, but it doesn’t make a dimes worth of difference to the political party to which he belongs!

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.