or, We're in TROUBLE, man!

Could the Right be right? Part One Cultural Crisis and the Unraveling of the American Social Fabric copyright 1996 Pierce Brown III

Blogger’s note:   As you can see I originally wrote this in 1996–at the beginning of Bill Clinton’s second term, and at arguably the zenith of Newt Gingrich’s power. This period also marks the beginning of the rightward shift of the center of gravity for the Republican Party, heralding the forceful emergence of what should be called the New Right.  Below I have referenced the “Right” and the “Far Right”  The reader should be advised that I am speaking of a Republican Party that still contained what were at the time referred to as Liberal, Moderate, and Conservative Republicans, mirroring the diverse viewpoints of their Democratic colleagues in a way that is no longer true today.  This is a LONG piece.  I have sub-divided it and will post those segments separately for easier consumption.  I have also resisted the urge to update it.  That I will leave for a future piece, “Multi-Culturalism Revisited: The Idea of America vs Contemporary American Nativism.” 

Much is being said about the state of American Culture, much of it being of limited usefulness. The Far Right is prepared to go to war over Culture, and the Far Left, presumably, is prepared to engage them. And the rest of us will be drawn in, whether we wish it or not, because the Culture they will be fighting over is about each and every one of us. Before becoming too engaged and invested in one side or the other, it is critically important to have a clearer idea of what we will be fighting about–and why–than we will get from either extreme.   As far as the Far Right is concerned the concept of multiculturalism is a plague on the land with no place and less legitimacy in “their” America. There is an essential truth in the Right’s assessment of multiculturalism. However, it is effectively masked by a strident extremism which handicaps the Right’s efforts at making a palatable case to non-believers, while simultaneously blinding the Right to the essential legitimacy in the arguments of their adversaries. Both multiculturalism and its as yet unnamed philosophical antithesis (presumably some form of “Americanism”) represent a voguish tribalism whose allure and power can be traced to the fact that they tap into vital fundamentals of the human psyche–beliefs about identity, feelings of belonging, and notions of safety.  These fundamentals are also, significantly, in intimate proximity to  real and imagined ideas about power and hegemony, ideas which are currently making the rounds on both the Right and Left under the more contemporary euphemisms ethnicity, race, and culture. The capacity of the beliefs erected around these notions to influence the thinking, feeling, and acting of people is profound. The passions unleashed when people’s allegiance to these notions is invoked are notorious for their proclivity at making successful end runs around reason, and are astonishingly skillful at co-opting intellect. They are also, by virtue of their exclusive nature, divisive. This aspect of tribalism is perhaps the most critical where the U.S. is concerned, comprised as it is of virtually every tribe on the planet. Consequently, any manipulation of people via ethnicity, race, and culture is a powerful and potentially dangerous exercise. Dangerous in the extreme.

Next: Original Intent and the American Dilemma–Who Belongs and on What Terms

Coming: From the ‘Great American Melting Pot’ to the Tower of Babel


An Open Letter to Women Concerning Roe v. Wade

 It’s about a lot more than abortion, and it’s closer than you think. 

The religious right’s anti-abortion agenda is well advanced.  After the failure of peaceful appeals that ranged from religious arguments to secular morality to simple pedestrian guilt in order to compel the compliance of non-believers, the religious right returned to historically proven basics.  And so abortion providers and their actual and prospective clients were subjected to a generation and more of intimidation, terror, and violence.  A careful survey of news stories from as early as 1976 and as recently as 2009 will yield an appalling amount of violence nationwide perpetrated against property and people, including but not limited to bombings and fatal shootings.  This protracted war of attrition didn’t simply lead to the closing of most existing clinics providing abortions.  The reach of the cold hand of terror caused providers, whether personally targeted or not, to get out of the business, and led most medical schools to stop teaching the procedure altogether.  

Often low-profile but blessed with a relentlessness characteristic of the devout, the religious right movement managed to accomplish in practical terms what it couldn’t via peaceful persuasion.  Consequently today an abortion, while still essentially legal, is very much harder to obtain than you might think.  

And it’s getting harder.  

A successful strategy of incremental erosion is making the legal window narrower in terms of acceptable circumstances and shallower in terms of how late in the pregnancy an abortion may be performed.  If you are poor and living in parts of the rural South, it is virtually impossible to obtain an abortion, regardless of when or why.  And the potential demise of Roe v Wade would NOT be the end of the matter.  It is, in fact only the end of the beginning.  

The religious right movement is opposed to all forms of contraception.  If asked directly its leaders will deny or dissemble, but their movement’s ultimate goal is to eliminate all forms of contraception.  This is clearly exposed by the response of the religious right to Plan B.  Plan B, commonly known as the “morning after” pill, chemically prevents conception if taken within 72 hours of intercourse.  It is officially designated as emergency [oral] contraception.  The religious right has christened Plan B an “abortion pill”, characteristically ignoring the science supporting its clearly contraceptive action.  From the perspective of the religious right this is a distinction without a difference–contraception is abortion.  It also clearly illuminates their end game.  Once abortion is criminalized it will be a relatively simple matter to legally designate all oral contraception as abortion.  All it would take is a bill introduced by any pro-life Congressman (or Congresswoman), and a President willing to sign it.  

No President can guarantee any specific amount of job growth (ask the current one), unless he’s willing to create new job openings in the Federal Government.  Failing that, one highly lauded approach is to attempt to create an environment that will presumably encourage new business formation and new hiring among existing businesses.  Anyone who understands and accepts this should also understand and accept that nothing about these speculative jobs can be guaranteed by the President–not their quantity, not their quality, not their equitable, effective and timely distribution among those who need them.  All these things are in the hands of the private sector, dictated by the market, and at the mercy of its timetable.  In this scenario, aside from providing what big business considers a “business friendly” environment at the Federal level, the President is effectively impotent in terms of job creation.  But the appointment of Supreme Court Justices who will criminalize all abortions, a President actually can do.  A President can sign immediately into law any anti-abortion legislation that comes across his desk, regardless of when he might become aware of it.  Right now, today, the foes of women’s sexual and reproductive freedom have the wind at their backs, and they know it.  They have virtually the entire Republican caucus in the House, along with a significant minority of Conservative House Democrats.  All they need is a willing President. 

The end of Roe v Wade is not simply the end to the legality of abortion; it heralds the end of every American woman’s control over her own reproductive, and yes, sexual life, something which affects every other aspect of her life.  So, women and mothers of daughters, consider this as you consider the merit of Mr. Romney’s economic arguments.  Within 4 years, and at the stroke of a pen, both you and your daughters could find the choices for how you might choose to live and direct your lives circumscribed in ways that your grandmothers would recognize.  The sexual emancipation of women, which led to so much else, could be effectively reduced to the willingness of a man to use a condom. It can happen very much quicker than you might think.  How long it might take to undo it is anybody’s guess.  With a President Romney you won’t get his economic plan without limits to women’s freedom.  The religious right can and will see to that.