Monday, November 21, 2005

Ground Zero in the Culture War: Why This Blog Exists

By Diane Silver

The situation in the United States would be funny, if it wasn't so terrifying to those of us who are in the cross hairs of the religious right. To make matters worse, we - the Targeted -- are a group that seems to be growing by the minute.

It includes lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people, of course, along with feminists, liberals, secular Americans and those of us who call ourselves spiritual or New Age. The Targeted also include Buddhists, Hindus, Moslems and even Christians, or anyone else, who doesn't subscribe to a particular, ultra-conservative brand of religion.

I live in Kansas.

If there ever were a place that could be called ground zero in the culture war, this is it. Heck, we've even been the subject of a best-selling book on the topic, Thomas Frank's "What's The Matter With Kansas."

Written for blue-staters (at least, that's the way it reads to me), Frank's book made a good first attempt at explaining this culture-war phenomenon that's electing presidents and limiting the rights of the Targeted all over the country.

I found Frank's book to be frustrating, though. He provides one explanation for what's happening, but to my eyes his explanation seems a bit shallow. There's also little in the book that could help those of us engaged in this cultural struggle devise winning strategies.

Reading "What's The Matter With Kansas" along with recent political experiences (more on that later) left me with some hunches, many questions and the urge to flex my journalistic muscles more than a decade after I left the newspaper business.

So, here I am blogging. I want to use this blog to help myself, and perhaps others, understand what's really going on and to answer my questions.

  • Are we on our way to creating a theocratic form of government in Kansas or the United States?
  • Are the people of Kansas and other red states really ignorant and backward, or is something else going on?
  • Are Kansans all that different from blue staters, or do we live in a place where moderate and progressive ideas haven't been promoted?
  • In other words, did the religious right win the culture war in Kansas, or do they live in a state where the other side surrendered without a fight?


Mary said...

I think the other side surrendered without a fight. But I'm hopeful enough to think that the other side (the one I'm on) is aghast at what's going on and will rise back up. It looks like people are pretty distraught by the arrogance of the state school board, and with any luck that distress will lead to changes. On the other hand, we've been on this pendulum ride before.

I'm happy you're starting this blog. I'll be watching it.

9:49 PM
Silver said...

Thanks for your support, Mary!

Anyone over the age of 40 - and I'm well over that - has been on this pendulum swing before. I think there's reason for hope, though.

You can see it in the anger at the state School Board that's increasing all over Kansas, for example.

I do wonder: What would happen if moderates poured the resources and time into red states like Kansas that they put into other states? Where would we be today if we actually worked at changing minds?

11:24 AM
Nancy Jane Moore said...

I can think of a couple of reasons why we on the other side at least appear to have surrendered without a fight: One, as my father (who is old enough to remember the Scopes trial) recently pointed out, we thought the fundamentalism expressed by the religious right was an old-fashioned belief, on its way out as people became better educated. Two, we were brought up to be polite about other people's religious beliefs, so we never argued with the underlying attitudes that led to the political power these people now wield.

2:09 PM
Silver said...

Nancy Jane,
You make very good points. I suspect that a lot of folks thought that the practice of Religion-As-Domination had died out. I think the wish to dominate others is the true heart of the issue.

The point of contention isn’t whether or not one person’s religious belief is better than another, but whether we all have an equal right to practice our own version of religion.

Your second point is also interesting. As you said, we were brought up to be polite. I don’t want to argue or attack someone else’s religious belief.

However, what do I do if a key component of that other religion is the idea that I have to be converted? What if they think that they are not safe unless I agree with them?

It is a puzzling and distressing situation. If domination is the real issue, then what could the ultimate outcome be of this kind of fight except for one side to destroy the other?

I don't want that, and I truly wonder if that's what they want. I suspect not. I hope not.

5:18 PM
Sue Lange said...


Having lived all my life in three blue states (Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania), I want to point out that all three of these states register as blue, but at heart are red. Yes, even New York, is mostly red in square mileage, but not in population numbers. Kansas does not have the urban population center of Detroit, NYC, Philly and Pittsburgh. These are the blue centers for these states. The rest of the states are all rural and it is the rural mind that is red.

The question I have is not why are the red states red, but why are the rural inhabitants (i.e. farmers) so red? Personally I think it is because these people are not in contact with those that are different from themselves. They do not know people of a different faith, race, or sexual orientation (well that they know of, of course). They are in contact with their religious leaders and their government agencies and individuals that are pretty much just like themselves. Their government agencies frequently lie and manipulate them (consider the farm crisis which many blame on the USDA) and so there is a distrust of the government. There is a belief in many rural areas that this country is supported by the taxes paid by the people living in the rural areas and that most of the money goes to people that live in cities. In other words, everyone that is not like them is getting all the money that they are required to pay.

So you have religious leaders allying themselsves with Republicans who spout Christianity regardless of whether or not they practice it, and people willing to believe it all if it means the government will stop stealing their money to give it to the coloreds in the city.

Just like the southern Democrats did 50 years ago, current Republicans have embraced rural America and their religious beliefs telling them that they and they alone can keep them safe from the encroaching faggots, niggers, kikes, satanists, and liberals. It is up to the Others now to reach out to rural America and introduce themselves as the liberal homosexuals, African-Americans, atheists and Jews that they are. Once rural America sees that the Others are more like themselves than unlike themselves--we all hate the government after all--we can move beyond the Scopes' Trial. INMHO

6:09 AM

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