Category: Culture

It’s our tradition to value tradition

A survey released last month by the Pew Research Center showed that a steadily increasing majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage. What a difference a few years makes. When the firm began asking the question in 2001, our nation was against legalizing same-sex marriage by a margin of 57% to 35%. As of this summer, 62% support same-sex marriage while only 32% oppose it, and Gallup reports nearly identical numbers. The trend is visible no matter how one segments the population – by age, gender, race, income, political philosophy, and faith – and it shows no signs of reversing or even stalling. In terms of how we’ve long defined the most significant relationship in society – a marriage – it’s nothing short of an abrupt and wholesale revolution. It took millennia to firmly establish the tradition as being solely between one man and one woman, but it was fundamentally transformed in less than the lifespan of a chimpanzee. That’s why conservatives, regardless of their personal preferences, are justified, perhaps even required, to greet this radical departure with skepticism because of our principle of tradition. This principle basically states that our starting position is to defer to that which has been established by immemorial usage. That doesn’t necessarily mean anyone who holds such a view is close-minded or completely resistant to any change. It simply means that conservatives believe that our ancestors slowly created many of our long-standing traditions, like traditional marriage, because they were eventually found to be the…

Are you still proud to be an American?

When we turn on the radio during this year's Fourth of July fireworks show, we'll all be reminded that Lee Greenwood is still "Proud to be an American." But are you? That would have been a silly question a few generations ago, back when people still recognized how rare our opportunities really are and still knew the true cost of our freedoms. Many had lived without such things, so they were extremely proud to live in a nation where they were abundant. As Bob Dylan sang, "... the times they are a-changin'." A recent poll released by FOX News showed that only a tad more than half of all Americans -- an embarrassing 51-percent -- said they were proud of our country. A whopping 42-percent responded in the negative, actually saying they were not, with the remaining 7-percent not really knowing how they feel. On the one hand, that's sad. There's so much we have to be proud of and thankful for. On the other, that's pretty darn enraging. What is the matter with these people? Have we become a nation of ungrateful, spoiled brats? I guess so, but before you shrug of these abysmal numbers to the "Blame America First" crowd, know that the poll also found that only 61-percent of Republicans said they were proud of America. This, from a party that wraps itself in the flag. Something is amiss. Sure, the poll also showed that only 39-percent of Democrats are proud of our country, but that makes…

We must confront the evolving and growing threat of pornography

It seems every week brings fresh reports about the new and very harmful effects pornography is now having on our society, particularly on our young. “Study sees link between porn, sexual dysfunction in men,” reads a headline from the Chicago Tribune. “The emergence of the “pornosexual”: internet users who shun sex with real people,” is the title of a recent article in The Telegraph. “Kansas House declares pornography a public health crisis,” reported the Topeka Capital Journal. These and similar reports often reach the same conclusion: today’s ease of access to free online pornography and the frequency of its use have combined to cause unprecedented changes to the parts of our brains that control the ability to form healthy relationships and have satisfying sexual experiences. The reports also tend to carry a rather dire warning: while some adults are certainly being impacted, many children are having their sexual interests and abilities irreversibly altered by consuming large doses of pornography during their developmental years. Doctors have been reporting alarmingly high rates of healthy young men being unable to have normal sexual activity with their partners, and some see a correlation between the condition and a long-term and frequent use of pornography. Some now believe that viewing large amounts of pornography during their adolescence – right when a person’s brain is growing and forming its neural pathways – has actually rewired the way they think about, and can act upon, their sexual desires. The articles indicate that younger men aren’t simply reporting…

Are conservatives winning the culture war?

It’s been a quarter century since Pat Buchanan took the stage at the 1992 Republican National Convention and introduced the phrase “culture war” into our nation’s lexicon. “There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America,” Buchanan said. “It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself.” The fire and brimstone tone of his speech embarrassed moderates within the party, but the truth of the matter is that Buchanan was, and remains, correct. We are certainly in a cultural war. One side faithfully adheres to the traditions that have made our nation great while the other wants to trade them for unproven fads. We’ve long told ourselves that, like the Roman Empire before us, the only way America could be defeated is from within. What else is “within” a country if not its culture, and what within a culture is more telling than what it considers virtuous? We’ve known this from our Founding. “While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued,” wrote Sam Adams in a 1779 letter to a fellow Massachusetts patriot. “But when once they lose their virtue they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.” So if we are in a cultural war for the virtue of our nation – and indeed we are – we must, like every good battlefield commander, take a brutally honest assessment of the…

We must protect speech, even ‘hate’ speech

Alabamians should be quite proud of the substantial progress that our state has made on the issue of racism. Last Tuesday night, a speech was given at Auburn University by a man who proclaims to be "dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States." His speech was called ignorant, extremist, and racist, and the tension it created caused the talk to be covered by national and even international media. It was cancelled by school administrators, a federal court weighed-in, an order was issued, and dueling demonstrations ensued. There were even a couple of nasty fist fights. But if that same speech would have been delivered six decades ago, at the same location, it would have been called ... Tuesday night. Nobody would have noticed. Campus life would have moved along as if nothing controversial was being spoken inside that nondescript university building, and not a single reporter would have wasted their time covering something so commonplace as a little-known racist saying racists things somewhere in Alabama. That's undeniable progress, so good on you, Heart of Dixie. On the other hand, the fact that so many people did notice - and moreover, that they responded so poorly - does present the millennial generation with an entirely different yet equally insidious threat to their freedoms: censorship. Here's how it went down: earlier this month Auburn University announced that it was cancelling a speech scheduled to be delivered on campus by Richard Spencer, the aforementioned…

Should conservatives care when politicians commit adultery?

One glaring distinction between conservatism and liberalism is that conservatives believe there is usually a clear right and wrong on most social questions, or at the very least a more virtuous way to behave in difficult situations. Whether at first glance or after careful study, we find very few actual gray areas in our mostly black and white world. In fact, Russell Kirk considered this understanding to be our movement's initial principle. "First, the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order," Kirk wrote in his famous summation of conservatism. "That order is made for man, and man made for it; human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent." Loyalty. Fidelity. Honesty. These are but a few virtues found within this enduring moral order. While some may cast them aside as relics of a puritan past, we are governed by them no less than our ancestors were. For who wants to be betrayed, cheated upon, or lied to? As Kirk said, they are permanent, and we cannot change them no more than we can change human nature itself. When we ignore them, or worse, accept their opposite as a fact of life, we take a chisel to the foundation of society and chip away a bit of something very important. That's why it's extremely disheartening to read that most Republicans suddenly don't care if our president cheated on his wife. And to add insult to injury, it appears that Democrats have taken the high-ground on the matter.…

Conservatism accepts that some speech must be censored

Soon after the 18-century lexicographer Dr. Samuel Johnson compiled the first dictionary of the English language, he received visits from many prominent groups at his Fleet Street home to congratulate him upon the achievement. One such delegation was said to represent the respectable ladies of London. “Dr. Johnson,” they said. “We are delighted to find that you have not included any indecent or obscene words in your dictionary.” “Ladies,” Johnson replied. “I congratulate you on being able to look them up.” When the late Christopher Hitchens recounted that story during a 2007 lecture opposing censorship, he was getting at this: there’s something a bit peculiar about one adult using the power of government to limit what another adult writes, reads, or in the modern sense, watches. The human instinct to censor goes far beyond harmless “indecent or obscene” words, of course, and stretches to cover nearly all forms of human thought: artistic, political, and especially religious. Censorship abounds globally and is strongly accepted, even popular, in most societies, even in the West. Not so much in the United States, though. We tend to believe that we’re grown-up enough to decide for ourselves what to read and watch, except for those who haven’t, in fact, grown up. Here, we believe that children are the only ones who should be protected from certain aspects of free speech until they can discern its usage for themselves as mature, or at least legal, adults. Even someone as zealous for the First Amendment as Hitchens…

We grade our students, teachers, and schools, but what about our parents?

Earlier this month we learned that dozens of our state’s public schools received a “failing” grade from the Alabama Department of Education, and the list is long and diverse. It stretches from the nearly 100-year old Theodore High School in south Mobile County to the relatively brand-new Columbia High School in Huntsville, and includes schools whose graduates (or drop-outs, rather) will impact nearly every community in our state. Regardless of where you live, or whether you have children in these specific schools, this news should alarm everyone, especially since state law only requires schools that are utterly abysmal to be placed on the list. “The failing school list is just the six percent that are the lowest performing in the state,” said Michael Sentence, the state’s new school superintendent. He added that “the number of schools that are significantly academically challenged is much larger.” Things could not only be worse, they probably are worse. We just don’t know by how much, officially speaking. Lawmakers should, at the very least, require the state to publish a second list comprised of those “academically challenged” schools that Sentence referenced, if only to give our communities a more accurate understanding of the situation. Otherwise some may live under the misunderstanding that if their school isn’t on the state’s official “failing” list then it’s doing just fine. But since we’re on the topic of grading those involved in our public education system, perhaps we need to think about expanding the pool of subjects a little.…

Tim Kaine is either ignorant, apathetic, or a coward about abortion

Hillary Clinton has either selected an ignorant man, an apathetic man, or an absolute coward as her running mate, at least when it comes to the abortion issue. The only question about Tim Kaine is this: which is he? Shortly before the former Virginia governor was chosen as the Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate, he was asked on Meet the Press to explain how he can be “personally opposed” to abortion but still remain politically pro-choice. Let’s take a look at Kaine’s full answer: “I’m a traditional Catholic. I’m personally opposed to abortion and personally opposed to the death penalty. I deeply believe, and not just as a matter of politics but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions. So I’ve taken a position which is quite common among Catholics. I’ve got a personal feeling about abortion, but the right role for government is to let women make their own decisions.” Setting aside the nonsense about being a traditional Catholic (the Church is clear on the matter, regardless of what its liberal members like Kaine say), what a mess. His babbling attempt to defend the indefensible is nothing but a word salad of shaky arguments that we’ve heard before. Looking back, one may recall how in 2008 then-Senator Barrack Obama said the question of…

America’s heroes are born, not made

Near the end of the Korean War novel “The Bridges of Toko-Ri,” an American military commander is mourning the death of some of his best men, but also remembering their strength, their courage, and the devotion they shared for one another. Staring alone out at the morning sea, he reflects on how fortunate our nation is to have had such heroes, and then asks, “… where did we get such men?” I asked that same question many times while researching and writing the book, “American Warfighter: Brotherhood, Survival, and Uncommon Valor in Iraq, 2003-2011.” It tells the war’s story through the experiences of 10 men who, for their actions in combat, were awarded two Distinguished Service Crosses, two Navy Crosses, five Silver Stars, and three other prestigious awards for valor. After each interview I found myself asking ... where did we get such men? Where did we get the kind of medic who’d leave the safety of his armored vehicle to shoot his way through an ambush, killing several insurgents before pulling three soldiers from a burning tank? Where did we get the former cook who singlehandedly killed six Al Qaeda fighters in close quarters combat, the last going down in a blazing face-to-face shootout? Where did we get the Marine who ran into an open ambush in Fallujah not once, not twice, but three times so he could carry his wounded comrades to safety? In an era when the term is perhaps too loosely applied, these individuals epitomize the…