In 1787, the Founding Fathers wrote that the U.S. Constitution was necessary “in Order to form a more perfect Union.” Since they were all white Christian men, many of them slave owners, the perfect union they envisioned was probably meant just for them. For the first 70 years of our country’s existence, that’s exactly how it was. Then President Lincoln threw a wrench in the plan by abolishing slavery and keeping the union together.
For the next hundred years, the path to a more perfect union began to form with the women’s right to vote in the early 20th century and the Civil Rights Movement of mid-century. By the 1980s, the LGBT community started to make its voice heard. By then, the conservative crowd had had enough. At the 1992 Republican Convention, presidential hopeful Pat Buchanan declared that our nation was engaged in “cultural war…for the soul of America.”
While his speech carefully avoided race issues, he was unabashed about conservative views on “radical feminism” and railed “against the amoral idea that gay and lesbian couples should have the same standing in law as married men and women.” Buchanan’s war came to a boiling point two decades later with conservative charges that President Obama is a foreign-born Muslim and women who use birth control are sluts. The nonsense coming from the Right continues to get more desperate and absurd as their war drones on.
Let’s start with the so-called debate about what we ought to name the holiday season in December. As a practicing Catholic who believes in the Jesus nativity story, I say “Merry Christmas” when greeting fellow Christians. I don’t really give a rat’s behind if retail outlets, progressive politicians and others use “Happy Holidays.” How others greet each other during this season doesn’t impact people’s lives, yet it’s a serious topic for conservative news programs.
Then there’s Santa Claus. While channel surfing the other day, I tripped over a Fox News show that was embroiled in a serious discussion about Santa’s racial background. A Fox News personality reacted to a professor’s essay about a black Santa by saying, on air, “For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white…I wanted to get that straight.” Really? The story actually stayed in the news cycle for another few days, including the obligatory razzing from the nighttime talk shows.
This brings us to ducks. The A&E cable network has a popular show about a duck hunting family business called Duck Dynasty. When the show’s patriarch went on an anti-gay tirade, network executives decided to bench him. Conservatives quickly cried foul claiming that A&E trampled on his 1st Amendment right of free speech. The network big wigs are all about business, not the Bill of Rights, so the complaints were all for naught. A&E put papa duck back on the field as soon as it realized that Duck Dynasty fans aren’t gay.
During the Civil War, maintaining the confederacy’s racist way of life was cloaked as a fight for economic survival. A century later, the same crowd justified legalized segregation in the name of state’s rights. Add another fifty years, the justification to keep same-sex marriage illegal was framed in religious terms. Now the ambitious war plan to maintain “traditional” American values has given way to ridiculous battles about holiday names, Santa Claus, and ducks.
With their entire war effort in peril, the warriors of “traditional” America are no longer armed with the lofty ideals of economic survival, state’s rights, and religious convictions. They now fight for the soul of America by courageously standing up for holiday names, Santa’s race, and homophobic duck hunters. I have to say though, watching the likes of Jon Stewart pan the conservative news media and its sycophantic audience for trying keep a grip on the not so perfect union of yesteryear is entertaining.
Next summer, on the 22nd anniversary of Pat Buchanan’s vitriolic speech, America’s first Black president will be in his second term, there will be more women in Congress than ever before, and more states will have legalized same-sex marriage. It looks like the conservative Right is losing its own war in a rout. The last major religious war in Europe was called the Thirty Years War, and lasted…well, 30 years. Can we cut Buchanan’s cultural war short by a few years and just end it already?
We’ll never know if the Founding Fathers meant to include everyone. Nonetheless, their words have led to an amazing journey toward a society that is getting ever so close to a place where everyone, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, can fully participate in “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Hopefully, the Right’s cultural war is coming to an end. That way, we can move forward together as a nation of American people toward “a more perfect union”.