When Gen. Douglas MacArthur was superintendent of West Point he had these words carved into the gymnasium wall: "On the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that, upon other fields, on other days, will bear the fruits of victory."
Yet, on some American football fields today, there is an unfriendly strife that may bear bitter fruit tomorrow in an escalating cultural war.
Take the case of St. Mary's Academy, a religious school in Kansas.
As the Kansas City Star reported, St. Mary's voluntarily forfeited its Sept. 24 game against White City High School when it learned that White City's roster included a 14-year-old freshman girl who plays offensive and defensive line.
"We're trying to form boys to be gentlemen, and knocking a girl around on a football field is the furthest thing from that," Father Gerard Beck, regional bursar for the Society of Pius X, the Catholic splinter group that runs the school, told the Star. "Football toughens the boys and teaches them to fight for a cause within a certain structure. It's not a game for girls, and not a game for boys to play against girls. We don't want to train them to treat girls that way."
Amen to that.
St. Mary's, it turns out, would have played the game had White City agreed not to suit up their linewoman. But White City declined.
Fair enough. Under "freedom of choice" -- which liberals tout whenever they want to do something that flouts traditional morality -- you might expect that one school would be free to put a girl on its football team and another would be free not to play them.
St. Mary's made its choice and took its lumps -- credited with a 2-0 loss. But the story did not end there. The Kansas State High School Activities Association, the local governing body for high school sports, has shown little tolerance for St. Mary's choice.
"But in the year 2004, one would hope that individuals would not stereotype boys' and girls' athletics to the point where they wouldn't play a football game if a girl is on the team," Rick Bowden, assistant executive director of the association, told the Star. "It's a disservice to the young ladies in the state."
No diversity will be allowed, it seems, among high school football teams. All high school boys who play football must be ready and willing to hit girls. The association, the Star reports, requires that all member schools allow girls to play football, and that no member school can refuse to play a team that fields a girl.
Even schools that do not belong to the association -- i.e., St. Mary's -- must apply for the association's approval each year if they want to be allowed to schedule games with member schools.
"Bowden said the association would take a closer look at St. Mary's application next summer," the Star reported. " ? If St. Mary's doesn't qualify as an approved team next year, the school wouldn't be able to schedule games against association member teams."
"They would have to go out of state or find other approved or not approved schools to play," said Bowden.
This is a Jim Crow-like system that discriminates against high schools that choose to take a traditional and gentlemanly view of the way boys ought to behave toward girls: Schools that won't force teenage boys to hit teenage girls if they want to play football are separate -- but not equal.
Under the Friday-night lights of Kansas we are seeing a little preview of the prospective endgame for the overall cultural war if the busybodies of the American left manage to win it. These petty tyrants are not satisfied with the freedom to behave as their consciences tell them to behave. They want to force everybody else to behave like they do, too -- even if this means forcing traditionalists to act against abiding standards of civilized behavior and their own well-formed consciences.
Just last month, for example, the Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to a California law that requires the Catholic Church to buy insurance that provides artificial contraceptives to church employees, even though artificial contraception is against the settled teaching of the church. Four years ago, in a 5-4 decision written by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, the Supreme Court ruled that a state government could not force the Boy Scouts to have gay scoutmasters.
Will that decision -- and the fundamental principle of liberty it preserves -- stand under a new chief justice?
On the doorsteps of our churches, around the campfires of our Boy Scouts, on the football fields of Kansas, seeds are being sown today that will determine how free America is tomorrow.