Posts Tagged ‘culture wars’

As I emerge from my post-election funk, the blood slowly returning to my face, I survey the damage done to the world by Fox News and half a nation gone nuts, and ask the only appropriate question… “WTF?”

We’ve elected to the Senate a guy who publicly condemns the Civil Rights Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act; we have put in Congress a passel of people who believe that Obama–the centrist’s centrist–is actually a covert Muslim/Communist bent on world domination, and we’ve emboldened an Alaskan female, secular version of Elmer Gantry into thinking she has a chance at becoming president.

So what on earth is there to be thankful for?

Culture Wars

If you believe, as I do, that the culture war is the 500-pound aardvark in the room–the reason that ostensibly sane voters would elect utterly unqualified people to lead the country, the reason for the Tea Party’s successes, and the reason for the strange disconnect between Americans’ self-interest and their votes, then raise a glass this Thanksgiving for Generation Y,  AKA the “Millennials.”

On almost all the culture war/wedge issues, the current crop of Americans under 30 are trending far more progressive than X-ers or Boomers did when they were pups. When it comes to reproductive choice, acceptance of homosexuality, role of government, the environment and race–this group is turning out to be Pat Buchanan’s worst nightmare.

Nowhere are this generations’ progressive leanings more evident than in its acceptance of homosexuality. According to the 2010 Pew survey, Religion Among the Millennials, 61% believe homosexuality should be accepted by society, compared to 51% of Americans aged 30-49; 48% of ages 50-64 and 35% of those over 65. Though every modern generation of young Americans has increasingly turned its back on bigotry, the Millennials seem to be running from it at light speed.

Staying Power

With this group, the old, “sure, they’re liberal now, but wait until they get older” bromide doesn’t wash. Hard data and the nature of today’s young adulthood suggest that this group’s rejection of socially conservative politics is different than that of earlier generations, and is more likely to last. Additionally, their desire for more government services suggests their progressive leanings may not be limited to social issues.

According to the L.A. Times’ “Walking Away From Church,” young people are leaving their churches at five times that of previous generations, and the number-one stated reason for leaving is the conservative political orientation of their church. It’s not that they are running out to dance with the Devil, mind you–Millennials tend to hold on to their Christian faith–they just can’t stand the us vs. them poison spewing from the pulpit and from older parishioners.

This phenomenon is not lost on the Christian press. Drew Dyck writes in Christianity Today, “…the life-phase argument may no longer pertain. Young adulthood is not what it used to be. For one, it’s much longer. Marriage, career, children—the primary sociological forces that drive adults back to religious commitment—are now delayed until the late 20s, even into the 30s. Returning to the fold after a two- or three-year hiatus is one thing. Coming back after more than a decade is considerably more unlikely.” Though Dyck is probably correct about losing young people for good, he misses the fact that Millennials’ commitment to religion is still very much alive. They’re just taking it away from what they see as non-Christian influences.

Young Americans to the Rescue

So this Thanksgiving, think of your turkey’s  wishbone as the letter “Y” and give thanks for the Millennials. Yes, four years with our new ultra-right House of Representatives will be difficult to stomach, but remember there’s a whole new crop of young folk out there who have refused to drink the conservative Koolaid and will soon be flexing their political muscle. Like a lethal gene diminishing within a family line, the old, intolerant, Calvinistic mentality seems to be heading for well-deserved extinction.

Who knows, after a few years of seeing this new Congress in action, the Millennials might even become politically active (be still my heart). But for now, I’ll be grateful for their votes.

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Busted unions, privatized social security, deregulation of industry, and now…energy-swilling homes. Is there no stopping the self-destructive behavior of the American middle class conservative?

According to the N.Y. Times, a study published last month by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that political ideology plays a significant role in determining whether a homeowner will respond favorably to voluntary home conservation programs.

The study found that those who vote Republican and donate money to conservative candidates and causes are considerably less likely to give it the old college try when it comes to conserving energy in their homes. Not surprisingly, the study showed that Democrats who donate to environmental groups and get their electricity from renewable sources showed the most improvement. When receiving individual usage feedback, they reduced their energy consumption by about 3%.

On the other hand, the study found Republican households that practice no specific eco-friendly behaviors increased their energy usage by 1% over previous quarters when receiving the same type of feedback.

Overall, households in the conservation program reduced consumption by 2%. The Republican subset, however, actually increased usage by .04%.

In addition to household energy-usage reports, half of the homes studied received tips on how to reduce usage and were rewarded for their efforts with smiley faces printed on the reports. Two smiley faces went to those who used less energy than their neighbors, one smiley face for average use. Instead of smiley faces, those who scored poorly got “ROOM TO IMPROVE” on their reports in bold, black letters. These underachievers also got specific tips on how they might reduce their usage.

Green is for Sissies

Granted, the smiley faces are a bit much, and nobody likes to be scolded. But, you’d think that the grown-up living inside most of us would rise above the condescension, and make an effort to help our ailing planet by reducing personal energy consumption—if not for our children and their children, at least for a substantial reduction in our monthly energy bills.

But, no. Like a naughty, petulant child, our conservative friends demonstrate their rugged individualism and distaste for political correctness by working against the planet and their own financial interests. “No tree-hugging egghead scientist is gonna tell me what to do in my own home,” would be the conservative refrain. “This is America, dammit. Shining cities on a hill shouldn’t have to sacrifice nothin’”

It’s the same mentality evident in a giant, gas-guzzling SUV careening down the street with two American flags on top flapping proudly in the smog. To these folks, the financial pain of 7 miles-per-gallon is well worth the political message they and their condominiums-on-wheels deliver: Green is for sissies!

Widespread Chump-dom

This curious, self-defeating behavior of middle class conservatives isn’t limited to environmental issues. While the middle class shrinks, wages remain stagnant and CEOs receive salaries and bonuses that would make King Midas blush, conservatives bash the only hope the middle class has of getting a fair shake from industry—trade and labor unions.

As the Gulf of Mexico becomes the Black Lagoon and middle class workers in the fishing and tourism businesses of the region stare down the barrel of insolvency, conservatives are calling for more off-shore drilling and less regulation of the oil industry. While middle class folks teeter on the brink of financial collapse due to Wall Street’s fun and games, conservatives insist on less regulation of the banking and insurance industries.

And as more members of the middle class lose their health insurance or are driven to bankruptcy by insurance and pharmaceutical industries run amok, conservatives resist legislation that would force those industries to play nicer, and make our health care system more Hippocratic than plutocratic.

Time after time, members of America’s middle class have been left to pay for unfettered corporate greed with their jobs, higher taxes (for bailouts and corporate under-paying) and their sanity while conservatives line up like rubes at a carnival game for more of the same treatment.

Obviously, they don’t see themselves as dupes. Rather, they believe they are fighting for the invisible hand of the free market. What middle class conservatives refuse to understand is that price and wage fixing, politician purchase and general corporate malfeasance makes a truly free market a pipe dream, leaving the invisible hand with nothing to do but rummage through their pockets.

I suppose this would all be kind of funny if it weren’t for the fact that conservatives aren’t the only ones who suffer the consequences of their self-destructive tendencies.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT, indeed.