The differences between Democratic and Republican positions on almost all subjects of major importance are growing so great that it is fair to say that we are experiencing a second American civil war. These areas include the American role in the world, the role of God and religion in American society, abortion, capital punishment, the war in Iraq, and much more.
But four recent actions by Democrats illustrate that the divide is even greater than many of us had imagined. It has to do with the preservation of our civilization.
First, last month, Democratic Massachusetts Senator John Kerry used the f-word in a formal interview with Rolling Stone magazine.
Second, at a recent evening event in Manhattan before 2,000 people, a leading activist organization for the Democrats, moveon.org, featured a series of entertainers whose presentations were laced with obscenities.
Third, at a fund-raiser in Manhattan in December, Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean attended a campaign fundraiser in which, according to the New York Post, "pro-Dean comics competed to see how often they could use the F-word in the same sentence."
Fourth, according to a front-page New York Times article, another Democratic presidential contender, General Wesley Clark, sends out an endorsement letter written by the actress Madonna.
To the average liberal Democrat in America, none of these actions is worthy of note, let alone of censure. To the liberal Democrat, public cursing (or, in the case of Madonna, publishing a book of oneself in pornographic poses or open-mouthed kissing another woman on national television) is of no consequence. Indeed, they consider a person who does care about such things to be an uptight individual who wants to inflict his uptightedness on everyone else -- the liberals' very definition of a conservative.
To the rest of America, however, when a man who runs for president deliberately uses the f-word in an interview with a national magazine, it is cause for concern. Nearly all non-liberals and even some liberals would regard such a person as one who has a different understanding of what preserves our civilization.
I do not believe for a moment that Senator Kerry wishes to destroy this civilization's rules of order. But I do believe that many well-intentioned Democrats and liberals such as Senator Kerry do not understand what makes our civilization great (the most significant example being the preservation of the Judeo-Christian value system). I also believe that he used the f-word thinking it would impress the largely liberal and hip young readers of Rolling Stone. In other words, Senator Kerry believes that he can appeal to many liberals by coming off as one who has overthrown some of the disciplines of our society.
That also explains the moveon.org evening of obscenities. "We're liberals and Democrats; unlike Republicans and conservatives, we are liberated from Western society's hang-ups -- in speech, in sex, in marriage, in the arts, in dress, and elsewhere."
It needs to be understood that it is not the use of an expletive per se that demands censure, let alone disqualifies a person from public office. If it did, only the mute would qualify for office. Moreover, when judiciously used, expletives can help a person let off steam in private and can be legitimately used in eliciting laughs in some humor. The issue here is the public use of expletives.
If John Kerry curses on occasion in the company of his staff or his wife, that is not the public's concern. But if he uses the f-word in public in an interview, that is the public's concern. Many people do not understand this public-private distinction. That is why some callers to my radio show objected that I had never criticized President Bush's use of the word "a--hole" to describe a New York Times reporter. I explained that the president used the word only in a private remark to Dick Cheney when he assumed there was no microphone present.
The difference between using an expletive when you think no one can hear you and when you want the world to hear you should be obvious to everyone. But in part due to the unprecedentedly large number of people who have attended college, the obvious often needs to be explained.
If you are a Democrat and it troubles you that General Clark is proud to have Madonna's endorsement, that moveon.org celebrates by having a curse-in, and Senator Kerry uses the f-word in a magazine interview, you might want to reconsider your party affiliation. The Democratic Party has earned a reputation as a poor defender of our civilization against external threats. In fact, it has become a poor defender of our civilization. Period.