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Culture War On

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If you watch Fox NewsFox and Friends, and that sort of thing, and if you listen to Rush and his sort, you know we are in the maelstrom of the culture wars. Sign me up!

Of course, it’s not quite as simplistic as those guys portray. Most of us don’t slide neatly into a slot. I don’t, and you probably don’t either. If you don’t fit, can you play? If you don’t subscribe to the entire ball of liberal or conservative wax will they let you on the Culture Wars battlefield?

I mean, I’m a peacenik but I’m a redneck. I’m anti-racist and I despise violent rap. I’m a professor but I’ve probably hung more sheetrock and taped it out (OK, back in my 20s and 30s) than 99 percent of Rush’s listeners. I’m a pacifist but I awake from dreams of turning over Donald Trump to ISIS. I believe in nonviolence but I’m just an old hockey player from Minnesota. I love diversity but I can’t stand religion that imposes its beliefs on the rest of us. It goes on.

And I’ll wager that in your lives and in your hearts, every single reader is just as complex in your own outstandingly unique way.

So, can we all emerge, somehow, from our mega-binary zero-sum tried-judged-sentenced baskets of deplorables and America-haters to witness the truth that we share so much more than we don’t? (OK, with the possible exceptions of billionaires and politicians who work incessantly if incoherently to divide us in order to rule over us?).

We all generally love our families.

We all generally love the freedoms of our country.

We all generally get annoyed when government tells us what to do.

We all generally wish the rest of the world well unless they don’t wish us well.

We all wish the best future for our children, our grandchildren, and, if possible, for every other child.

We all generally want fairness.

I’m certain there is a way we can meaningfully unite, and not in a war against The Other overseas or south of the border. Is there one struggle all Americans can see as worthy that is also not harmful to anyone else? That might be our chance to unite and to force our pathologically antipathetic parties to also join forces. If for no other reason than to break out of our culture war for a minute, it would be a worthy exercise, in my humble opinion.

The elites are clearly, demonstrably, incapable and incompetent to achieve this. Can we do it from the bottom up? Maybe health care for all? Maybe clean energy with lots more jobsMaybe full employment with retraining scholarships for all? Oh, SNAP! Maybe a mortgage insurance guarantee for all working families so they will never lose their homes? Or something different, something smarter than I have thought of? I want to believe we are capable, we are a functional culture, and that our creativity can outperform the elite successes in dividing us.

Am I right? Am I just a naive dreamer? Or can we have some friendly culture competition rather than these wars that are giving us the likes of Roy MooreDonald TrumpRush Limbaugh and, I guess, gay socialist liberal jihadis on the other side of the gaping beaten zone between the trenches?

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Tom H. Hastings is core faculty in the Conflict Resolution Department at Portland State University and founding director of PeaceVoice

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