America’s culture wars are not new and do not end well

People talk about it culture war policy as if it were a recent development — a novelty, an exception to a historical rule, that American politics is mostly about economics (who gets how much) and only occasionally deflected into culture (what people can and can’t do).

From my point of view, that shakes things up. culture war policy goes back to the American Revolution, which united colonies with different religious beliefs and cultural values ​​into one nation.

Many from the 19th century Culture War issues fought over reforms that challenged traditional behaviors championed by the New England Yankees as they expanded west into upstate New York and the Midwest Great Lakes. Yankee culture, with its Puritan roots, was principled and prescriptive, moralistic and intolerant.

In the pre-Civil War republic, New England, and the “Burned County” of upstate New York, movements simmered demanding abolition of slavery, women’s equality, ban on alcohol and an end to the death penalty. Each used moral logic to oppose an existing practice.

These concerns were initially unpopular and opposed by the Jacksonian Democrats, but found some sympathy among the Whigs and particularly the new Republican Party, formed to limit the spread of slavery. They met different fates.

Slavery was abolished in 1865 after a bloody civil war, but Reconstruction with its goal of equal rights for blacks, failed. As Thomas Jefferson had predicted, blacks were not treated equally for decades.

Women's Equality Parade, Washington, DC, USA, Photograph by Thomas J. O'Halloran, August 26, 1977.
The feminist movement of the 1970s had notable successes and disappointing shortcomings.
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Women’s suffrage spread from the Wyoming Territory in 1869 to the Federal 19th Amendment in 1920, but few women were elected to public office over the next 50 years. The ban was imposed in Maine in 1851 and passed statewide in 1919, but was lifted in 1933.

The death penalty, abolished in Michigan in 1855, remains on the books in 27 states but is rarely used.

So some of the reforms were successful, but only to a limited extent or only after many years. Others were push aside (prohibition) or never achieved general acceptance. (No president has spoken out against the death penalty.) Moral logic does not trump human character quite, or easily.

Prohibition in the USA 1920-1933: A keg of confiscated illegal beer is dumped down a drain.
America’s Prohibition period lasted 13 years.
Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The Yankee impulse to apply moral logic to existing practice endures today, and not just among those of New England ancestry. It is most common among the highly educated (as were the 19th century Yankees) who live culturally homogeneous communities.

Over the past half-century there have been several examples of the Yankees’ reform impulse, with mixed results. Over time, the focus has been on applying moral logic to increasingly rare practices.

The civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s was overwhelmingly successful in changing laws and changing attitudes, not least in elections a black president – something that no one would have thought possible two generations ago. Approval for black and white marriages rose from 4% in 1958 to 94% in 2021.

Beer kegs emptied into sewers by authorities during the ban.
The recent use of COVID lockdowns and restrictions by democratic states is similar to the ban on alcohol sales during the Prohibition era.
George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

These achievements have regularly been overshadowed by claims (by activists in the 1970s and 1970s). Black Lives Matter supporters in the 2020s) that things are as bad as ever — that being required to identify yourself before you vote is as bad as being beaten or threatened with murder when trying to vote. The debate has shifted from whether Black people should be treated equally to whether they should receive preferential treatment.

The feminist movement of the 1970s had notable successes and disappointing deficits. Women have entered the labor market in large numbers, and women have been a majority in colleges since the 1980s and a majority or near majority in law and medical schools for decades.

However, women still tend to choose specialty and part-time jobs, and even the most highly qualified women often choose to stay at home to look after the children. On a less profound level, we seem nowhere closer to choosing unisex clothing than we did 50 years ago. It looks like we’re going to crash against biological limits, Is not it?

Martin Luther King Jr., gives his "I have a dream" Addressing a crowd in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the Freedom March in Washington, DC on August 28, 1963.
The civil rights movement eventually caught on with transformative leaders like Martin Luther King Jr.
Bettmann Archive

The nature of the human organism can explain why opinion on this abortion hardly has changed since the 1970s (majorities oppose criminalization but support many restrictions), while opinions on same-sex marriage have changed almost completely (from 3 to 1 opposition in the 1990s to 3 to 1 support today).

Abortion always ends a human life. Same-sex marriage not, and it even appears to be having a conservative effect on many participants, as its early proponents Andrew Sullivan and Jonathan Rauch predicted.

Abortion rates have declined and gays and lesbians make up a small proportion, perhaps 4%, of the total population. Recently, the Yankee reform impulse has focused on a much smaller group: transgender people. But it’s met with some resistance.

Protesters carrying a Black Lives Matter flag march into a fountain in Veterans Memorial Park following a Grand Rapids Police Department march.
Black Lives Matter protesters are not that different from their Black Panther Party predecessors.
Daniel Shular/The Grand Rapids Press via AP

Many people have concerns about allowing natural males access to women’s locker rooms, dormitories, and prison facilities. Female athletes like Martina Navratilova refuse to allow physical men to compete in women’s sports. and Harry Potter creator JK Rowling is among those warning that puberty blockers and sex reassignment surgeries in children under 18 are causing irreversible damage to those who will later change their minds as adults.

This, in the words of New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, looks like “an experiment in trans-identifying youth without good or solid evidence, inspired by ideological motives rather than scientific rigor, in a way that future generations will consider.” will consider serious medicine -political scandal.”

The Yankees’ reform impulse, which applied moral logic to existing practice, is an important part of American heritage. At its best, it has produced liberating results that have enabled the nation to fulfill its promise.

People take part in the March for Life rally on the National Mall in Washington on Friday, January 21, 2022.
Abortion has always been a deeply divisive issue among Americans.
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

But its combination of Puritan moralism and Puritan intolerance sometimes clashes with basic human character and causes unintended harm. As it turns out, the arc of history doesn’t just bend in one direction.

https://nypost.com/2022/04/22/americas-culture-wars-arent-new-and-dont-have-good-endings/ America’s culture wars are not new and do not end well


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