Dark side of culture war

Published 6:25 pm Monday, November 28, 2005

By By Tray Smith
While Congress continues to debate the war in Iraq, there is another war whose battle scars will surely be seen during this time of year. As we enter the Christmas season, we will certainly hear controversial stories about schools banning Christmas plays, stores replacing Merry Christmas with Happy Holiday, and cities replacing manger scenes with Santa Clause. These are just the latest skirmishes in our on going culture war, and no matter which side you are own, you will most surely become frustrated by the events that will unfold during this Christmas season.
But this war extends far beyond just Christmas. From abortion to same-sex marriage, our culture war appears on many fronts in many places, and the longer we wait to address these problems, the more intense our culture war will become. But neither side, conservative nor liberal, is doing enough to make peace in this war. Instead, both sides continue to contribute to fueling the fire.
On one hand, we have conservatives, who continue to spend millions supporting conservative candidates and conservative policies. From battling over Supreme Court nominations to energizing support in last year's Presidential elections, social conservatives have become a major force in trying to make our government more conservative through its legislation. But this strategy will never work for America, and it will never fulfill the goals of our social conservatives.
This is because the role of our government is not to guard moral truth in our society; the role of our government is to guard freedom and equality in our society. No democratic government can adequately enforce laws or policies that a large number of its people disagree with. Thus, the resulting factor is that our government's policies, for better or for worse, will reflect the values that our people have, not the values that the government or conservative officials think our people should have. Government policies follow people; people do not follow government policies.
Thus, our moral values come from individuals, not from the government. That is why our culture war is not best fought in our courts or in the halls of Congress. Those are simply not places where our values should be or can be decided. Our values are instead determined in corporate board rooms, where business leaders will either set a good example for the nation by conducting fair and honest business practices, or they will lie and cheat and degrade our culture. Our values are determined on our baseball fields, where our star players can set an example for young athletes to follow, or they can spit tobacco at the plate and use steroids. Our values are determined in our movies, songs and television programs, where stars and producers can create entertainment that promotes strong families and good behaviors, or they can produce entertainment that encourages a life of drinking, violence, and sex for our young children and teenagers to participate in. And most importantly, our values are determined in our families, where moms and dads can teach their children right from wrong and good values, or they can leave their children to the mercy of the world and allow negative forces to determine the course of their lives.
It is the responsibility of people, then, to use all of their power as consumers, as parents, as business people, as artist etc. to try and strengthen our culture and strengthen our values. And it is the responsibility of the people to do so independent of government policies.
One organization that helps strengthen our culture on the individual level is Save-A-Life. Save-A-Life is opposed to abortion, but it does not spend money supporting pro-life candidates or pro-life legislation consistently to no avail, as does the Christian Coalition. Instead, it works at the grassroots level by informing women of their alternatives to abortion, counseling women during the often traumatic post-abortion period, and working hard to lower the overall number of abortions in our country. Through these actions, Save-A-Life helps fulfill its fundamental mission of fewer abortions completely independent of politicians and the government, and it also has a more positive effect on people's lives than it would by supporting politicians.
On the other hand, we have liberals, who consistently try to weed all values out of our society with the exception of liberal values that they regard as "compassionate". However, liberals must realize that while the government should not be responsible for safe-guarding moral values, neither should it be responsible for undermining them. The recent ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that parents do not have the exclusive right to inform their first graders of information relating to sex is a prime example of liberal attempts to root out our values completely. The same is true about that same courts ruling that God cannot be in the Pledge of Allegiance. Liberals should begin respecting American culture and American traditions, not fighting against them.
By focusing on individual change instead of national law, conservatives will receive the virtuous society that they strive for much sooner than they will by following their current strategy of giving money to politicians during election cycles. By stopping their war on American traditions and ending their attempt to make our government tilted to their ideology, liberals will receive more respect and will continue to maintain their right to live freely and choose their beliefs. That is the bottom line.
Tray Smith is a freshman at Escambia Academy. He writes a political column in the Atmore Advance. He can be reached at tsmith_90@hotmail.com. His column appears weekly.

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