U.S. wages war against ideas

Americans block unwanted ideas rather than discussing them.


Illustration by Trevor Lunde/THE CHIMES

Jacqueline Lewis, Writer

America continues to wage its centuries-long war — not against other countries, but against ideas.

The Foundation of the Nation

Culture wars in America are not new. Sociologist and Columbia University professor Todd Gitlin notes in an article in USNews that America has always had culture wars because the nation was built around an idea, not a people group. In the 1960s it was drugs, in the ‘70s it was women and now it is gay rights.

The Atlantic published an article on Nov. 4 with the headline “Liberals are Losing the Culture Wars.” It argued some liberal losses indicate conservative ideology is not on the edge of extinction as some would believe. Democratic candidates losing elections based on abortion rights advocacy, lack of gun control legislation and blue state rejection of gay marriage before the Supreme Court decision all show that conservatism is holding on in unexpected places.

Rising Percentages

I would not call that winning a war, but a few battles. In 2015, the percentage of conservatives dropped from 37 to 33 percent and the percentage of liberals rose from 23 percent to 26 percent, according to an article in the Washington Wire.

With gay marriage now legalized, 60 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, whereas in 2001, only 35 percent supported it. Regarding abortion, a 53 percent majority believe it should be legal in all or most cases, according to Pew Research Center. In his state of the union address this year President Obama stated, “no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change,” and nearly 150 world leaders met in Paris this Monday for the U.N. summit on climate change.

The Intellectual Neutral

If that does not clearly show the public that America is leaning left, then I do not know what will. With secularism assumed as the intellectual neutral, religious-based social conservatism is dismissed as personal belief to keep private.

College-aged people especially associate Republicans with racism, closed-mindedness and being old-fashioned, according to Business Insider.

Perhaps now we know who is winning the culture wars — but America’s ideological troops have become weak.


Mainstream partisan debate has devolved into insults and censorship. Left-wing publication Salon published an article on Nov. 27 claiming “the Republican Party is now America’s largest hate group.” Rightwingnews asked “Are Liberals Evil or Stupid?

26 percent of Facebook users have hidden, blocked, unfriended or stopped following someone because they disagreed with something that person posted about politics, according to the Washington Times.

An Arms Race of Ideas

I am sick of these battles of outrage, of the arms race of ideas where one extreme only seeks to shout louder at the threat of the other. Can people not bear to read an idea of a friend that clashes with their own views? Silencing ideas only serves to choose what facts we hear — it breeds only intellectual lethargy and extremism.

I stand by conservatism as a perspective which maintains the importance of personal virtue and responsibility, human dignity and individual liberty. But I cringe at the beast its modern incarnation has become, or at least is portrayed as — disdain for the oppressed, fear of the foreigner and shameless love of wealth.

Thoughtful and Just

That does not mean we should stop fighting. It would be naive to ask a simple “Why can’t we all just get along?” But I do ask to end the arms race. I ask that we instead fight thoughtfully and justly.

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