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America's Culture Wars

March 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

On American Ventures we discuss many subjects and invite dialog.

A prominent topic today is culture wars.

Do they really exist? Here is one person’s opinion. What do you think?

Europe’s Two Culture Wars

George Weigel, Commentary, May 2006

[Dr. George Weigel [1951- ) is a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and the author most recently of God’s Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church (HarperCollins). He is an American conservative author, Roman Catholic theologian and political and social activist Life Program. Weigel was also Founding President of the James Madison Foundation. He is the author of the biography of Pope John Paul II, Witness to Hope. In his political writings, Weigel argues for a foreign policy of “moralism without illusions.” His position is that the threat of evil in the world cannot be escaped, negotiated with, reformed, or constrained by international norms. Facing a world where “evildoers” still roam free, Weigel advocates a U.S. foreign policy guided not by moral notions about how nations should behave, but by moral reasoning. In some cases, he adds, moral reasoning may require that the United States support authoritarian regimes to fend off the greater evils of moral decay and threats to the security of the United States, which he believes despite its flaws still is the primary force for a better world and for the defeat of inhuman policies, actions, and political-cultural movements. Weigel tends to strongly support the teachings of the recent popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, although he has differed with specifics of their opposition to war and capital punishment.]

At the height of the morning commute on March 11, 2004, ten bombs exploded in and around four train stations in Madrid. Almost 200 Spaniards were killed, and some 2,000 wounded. The next day, Spain seemed to be standing firm against terror, with demonstrators around the country wielding signs denouncing the “murderers” and “assassins.” Yet things did not hold. Seventy-two hours after the bombs had strewn arms, legs, heads, and other body parts over three train stations and a marshaling yard, the Spanish government of José María Aznar, a staunch ally of the United States and Great Britain in Iraq, was soundly defeated in an election that the socialist opposition had long sought to turn into a referendum on Spain’s role in the war on terror.

So, evidently, had the al-Qaeda operatives who set the bombs. A 54-page al-Qaeda document, which came to light three months after the bombings, speculated that the Aznar government would be unable to “suffer more than two or three strikes before pulling out [of Iraq] under pressure from its own people.” In the event, it was one strike and out—as it was for the Spanish troops in Iraq who were withdrawn shortly thereafter, just as the newly elected prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, had promised on the day after Spanish voters chose appeasement.

Earlier this year, five days short of the second anniversary of the Madrid bombings, the Zapatero government, which had already legalized marriage between and adoption by same-sex partners and sought to restrict religious education in Spanish schools, announced that the words “father” and “mother” would no longer appear on Spanish birth certificates. Rather, according to the government’s official bulletin, “the expression ‘father’ will be replaced by ‘Progenitor A,’ and ‘mother’ will be replaced by ‘Progenitor B.’” As the chief of the National Civil Registry explained to the Madrid daily ABC, the change would simply bring Spain’s birth certificates into line with Spain’s legislation on marriage and adoption. More acutely, the Irish commentator David Quinn saw in the new regulations “the withdrawal of the state’s recognition of the role of mothers and fathers and the extinction of biology and nature.”

At first blush, the Madrid bombings and the Newspeak of “Progenitor A” and “Progenitor B” might seem connected only by the vagaries of electoral politics: the bombings, aggravating public opinion against a conservative government, led to the installation of a leftist prime minister, who then proceeded to do many of the things that aggressively secularizing governments in Spain have tried to do in the past. In fact, however, the nexus is more complex than that. For the events of the past two years in Spain are a microcosm of the two interrelated culture wars that beset Western Europe today.

The first of these wars—let us, following the example of Spain’s birth certificates, call it “Culture War A”—is a sharper form of the red state/blue state divide in America: a war between the postmodern forces of moral relativism and the defenders of traditional moral conviction. The second—“Culture War B”—is the struggle to define the nature of civil society, the meaning of tolerance and pluralism, and the limits of multiculturalism in an aging Europe whose below-replacement-level fertility rates have opened the door to rapidly growing and assertive Muslim populations.

The aggressors in Culture War A are radical secularists, motivated by what the legal scholar Joseph Weiler has dubbed “Christophobia.”1 They aim to eliminate the vestiges of Europe’s Judeo-Christian culture from a post-Christian European Union by demanding same-sex marriage in the name of equality, by restricting free speech in the name of civility, and by abrogating core aspects of religious freedom in the name of tolerance. The aggressors in Culture War B are radical and jihadist Muslims who detest the West, who are determined to impose Islamic taboos on Western societies by violent protest and other forms of coercion if necessary, and who see such operations as the first stage toward the Islamification of Europe—or, in the case of what they often refer to as al-Andalus, the restoration of the right order of things, temporarily reversed in 1492 by [King] Ferdinand and [Queen] Isabella [of Spain].

The question Europe must face, but which much of Europe seems reluctant to face, is whether the aggressors in Culture War A have not made it exceptionally difficult for the forces of true tolerance and authentic civil society to prevail in Culture War B.

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