Suzanne Fields

The culture war is real, but it's not about pitting Republican against Democrat, the God-fearing against godless or even about conservative against liberal. Those people have firm opinions about cultural warfare, but what the war is really about is over who gets to define the common culture that unites us all.

Voters in the great middle joined hands in outrage at halftime at the Super Bowl. Fathers and mothers, sitting in their living rooms watching with their children were treated to the affront that closed the culture gap with the opening of a blouse. Janet Jackson's exposed nipple didn't make anyone faint but it epitomized the contempt the entertainment world holds for the rest of us.

The culture war is about the raunchiness that seeps into everyday life, entertainments that appeal to the lowest common denominator among us. In defining deviancy down, in the memorable phrase of the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, sexual explicitness, nearly always vulgar and trashy, is thrown in the faces of everyone.

Americans have always yearned to be a part of the great middle, looking for moderation in nearly all things. This includes the culture. Large majorities of Americans support civil rights for homosexuals but nevertheless believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and if necessary the law should define it that way.

Large majorities believe that an abortion in the first three months of pregnancy is sad but not murder, yet this same majority believes that partial-birth abortion is barbaric brutality. Large majorities of Americans want to protect freedom of speech but nevertheless loathe the obscenities that pass for lyrics in popular music and don't want their children exposed to them.

Most Americans eagerly uphold our liberties and want to protect their children above all else, and see how the intellectual and entertainment elites demand freedom without protecting common decency. The popular culture and the politically correct mavens have replaced independent thinking with groupthink that's considerably more repressive than the rigid culture we overthrew five decades ago.

The sexual revolution was aimed at rigid rules of behavior that treated adults like adolescents. We've replaced it with an adolescent mentality that governs adults. When the adults were in charge, they fostered middle-class values of politeness and postponed gratification. With the adolescents in charge, the mature of mind become the rebels against a culture that celebrates man's basest instincts.

Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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