January 6, 2010
Our Second Civil War
The 1860s marked a period of great trial for our land. A bloody civil war resolved, at least nominally, some important issues. It was the period after Appomattox and after Reconstruction, however, which determined the true impact of our first civil war. The 1960s, which ended forty years ago, was the time of our second trial -- our Second Civil War. It is a testament to its ferocity and its reach that the consequences of this internecine war for the soul of America remain undetermined.
Conservatives -- those who wanted to conserve the values of America going into the 1960s -- stood on one side of this battlefield. These Americans viewed our land as the best candle of hope in a stormy world. They strongly favored equal rights for blacks, despite an Orwellian rewriting of history painting them as racists. The Republican Party, the principle vehicle for conservatives, had a very long and clear record of opposing Jim Crow and the disenfranchisement and segregation of blacks.
However, the 1960s became a period in which the ideal of equality was deformed into the notion of eternal entitlement. The conservative America ideal -- that merit, over time, lifts the lowly immigrant into success and status -- fought the Marxist ideal that classes of victims and oppressors never change. Social justice (or injustice) replaced individual justice. The mindset of these Marxists was identical to that of the Klansman or the Nazi: All wanted "social" justice and permanent, rigid lines of separation.
Conservatives understood that American greatness rested foremost upon private and broad fidelity to Judeo-Christian moral traditions. The Founding Fathers warned that American government could work only if the people were imbued with those values (which included religious tolerance). This had little to do with the interaction of state and faith -- when government was small, its attitude toward faith was trivial -- but it had everything to do with the indispensable value of private faith among Christians and Jews, which concur broadly and clearly on the moral nature of the nation. Private, not government, action reined in motion pictures and comic books that strayed outside the boundaries of accepted decency.
The 1960s saw a loosening of corsets (which was simply a question of moderating the equipment of decency) evolve into a long cultural striptease that ended with rabid feminists burning their bras. The abiding faith of Christians and of Jews, which had stabilized families and restrained notions of sin in a healthy check on the direction of culture, began to be portrayed almost always as bigoted ignorance. Defying foundational faith was championed as heroic. God and sin, the left snarled, were false, or worse. Two generations of Americans have grown up in this gulag of godlessness. Now, faith in anything beyond the top bureaucrat or trust in anything above the most decorated sociologists is heresy against militant secularism.
The machinery of truth changed. Reasonable regard for nature and conservation became Orwellian obsession with grand lies like man-made global warming and the population bomb. Robotic ideologues like Michael Moore could actually look at the nightmare nation of Cuba and see some sort of coloring-book paradise. Instead of all important decisions in life being guided by faith and tradition, they were directed by the political truth of the moment -- the party line.
The 1960s saw the prevailing sentiment of America -- profound gratitude for the freedom and prosperity bestowed by brave and noble predecessors -- transformed by the left into a rude ingratitude, a mocking deconstruction of everything good in America, and an embrace of each imperfection as proof of some capital crime. Conservatives saw America as the place where everyone wanted to be, the one great nation which never had an emigration problem, the refugee country of all oppressed peoples. When GIs fought in Korea or in Vietnam, conservatives saw that the policy mission may have been foolish and the strategies unwise, but the underlying purpose -- to preserve freedom -- was never in question. The left, by contrast, seemed in the 1960s to adopt the belief that the people of South Korea would actually have been better off if they had been incorporated into the vast concentration camp which is North Korea. America in the 1960s became instead Amerika -- a fascist police state.
Forty years ago, our nation survived a rebellion against the existence and the ideal of America. What was the left, and those who were "liberals," changed in the 1960s. The New Left, the Marxist left, emerged as the political commissar of everything which claimed to be on the left. Honorable intentions were cast aside, and the left became as savage as the Vietcong. Hubert Humphrey shepherded the civil rights legislation through Congress, assuring the nation that what we call affirmative action would be just as wrong as Jim Crow. The Marxist left abandoned him. Martin Luther King appealed, very directly, to the God of Christians and of Jews for the foundation of his movement. The God he cherished became an unperson to the Marxist left. It was JFK, icon of the left, who said that America would bear any price for freedom in the world. His vision of America as the Great Emancipator has been roughly cast aside.
The very concept of principled negotiations within the framework of a great goodness -- America -- is rejected by a Marxist left who pretended that the Berlin Wall never fell and the manifest failure of Marxism was (again) simply a failure of tactics and not of strategy. The Marxist left continues our Second Civil War because it exists in a smothering cocoon of relative truth, invented values, and faith in a purely material existence. This group, perhaps eight percent of the population, has influence far out of proportion to its numbers in America. It cannot be ignored, no matter how silly it seems. This Civil War for the soul of America must be won.
Bruce Walker is the author of two books: Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie and The Swastika against the Cross: The Nazi War on Christianity.