Sept 11th, the political pundits pronounced that the
deep divisions that so fractured the nation in the
2000 presidential election had evaporated in the face
of a common enemy. The pundits were wrong. The deep
and philosophical fault lines that existed before
the attack on the World Trade Center have re-emerged
and could spell trouble for a president who has come
to expect, if not demand, national unity and blind
can not understand the small and under-reported anti-war
movement without first appreciating the vast cultural
divisions that were so readily ignored in the aftermath
of the Sept 11th attacks. Many of the folks joining
the anti-war movement are individuals identifying
themselves as Gore and Nader supporters. Their politics
are built on principles of multilateralism, civil
rights, equality and tolerance.
Their views on America vastly differ from the conservative
Bush supporters in the South, Midwest and Rocky Mountain
States whose views are rooted in nationalism, tradition
and conservative religious doctrine. The domestic
differences between the two groups are relevant because
they go to the heart of three fundamental questions.
What does America stand for, what is Americas
role in the world and whose America is it anyway?
cultural, or values gap that is so pervasive
in America will be fought out on Americas streets.
It is becoming clear that the anti-war movement is
finally understanding that it can tap into the vast
cultural divide. By bringing together unions, minorities,
anti-globalization activists, progressives, students
and civil libertarians the anti-war movement has found
its foot soldiers and they have a huge beef with the
administration. The only real question is who will
be the winner and
will the fight tear the nation apart as it did in
Anti War Protesters
had the opportunity to organize an anti-war
demonstration in Denver last fall. President Bush
was in town raising money for Republicans and leading
the charge for local congressional candidates. Nearly
5,000 Coloradans turned out for the rally and march
to Adams Mark Hotel where Bush was giving his address.
struck me about the crowd was its diversity. While
there were students and community activists, I was
surprised by the number of senior citizens, mothers
and business people who drove in from the Denver suburbs
in the middle of a work day to not only protest the
war but to embarrass George Bush.
to folks in the streets was enlightening. While everyone
was there to protest a war, I listened to a long litany
of domestic complaints ranging from the
presidents policies on abortion to the economy,
civil rights, the environment, scientific research
and globalization. A fair number of citizens were
still raging over the stolen election.
Clearly, the 2000 elections had not dampened the resentment
of many. As organizers we tried to get everyone to
stay on message stop the war -
but many brought signs of their own protesting Bushs
positions on social issues. This has been a common
occurrence at anti-war rallies all over the country.
conservative and far right polices of the Administration
will continue to bring peace activists and the disenchanted
to the table where they are finding common ground
much like the students and civil rights activists
did in the 1960s. Currently, the anti-war movement
is not speaking from one mind. Many disagree
on tactics and strategy. However, there are unifying
themes and the single greatest theme is that George
Bushs domestic and foreign policies are threatening
social programs, civil liberties and ultimately the
security of the United States.
are being shifted away from important social priorities
including education, health care and transportation
in favor of defense spending and homeland security.
Civil libertarians are outraged at the assault on
civil rights. Anti-globalization activists and labor
unions are angry over policies that ship jobs out
of the country and exploit weaker countries. Liberals
watch in horror as Bush cuts taxes on the rich while
43 million Americans go without health insurance.
Community activists are trying to find dollars to
prevent homeless shelters from closing and students
look nervously towards Washington as members of Congress
debate whether some sort of draft should be instituted.
the military build up continues and fears of further
attacks are fanned by cable news networks, Republicans
who now control the entire federal government will
continue to gut social programs, tilt the courts to
the right and reverse some civil rights legislation.
Al Gore won the popular vote primarily on social issues
and many Americans are not willing to sacrifice rights
and social spending for Bushs version of
security or fundamentalist theology.
Bush enjoys wide support in the South, Rocky Mountain
states and the Midwest. Americans living in this geographic
region tend to be far more conservative, religious,
nationalistic and trusting of the President. This
area has often been referred to as the Bible
Belt. While there are large cities in the South,
there are fewer of them. Rural concerns dominate state
legislatures and folks are decidedly more conservative
on social issues. President Bush refers to this area
as the Heartland, as if it is the standard-bearer
of American values. In many ways it is a code for
us versus them.
are willing to give the President the benefit of the
doubt. It is inconceivable to many of them that a
President would start a war for oil or corporate advantage.
To them, George Bush is a man of character and is
only doing what is best for the country. The Heartland
is home to numerous military bases. Heartlanders favor
heavy military spending partially because many Midwestern
and Southern areas are dependent upon weapons programs,
ship building and bases for economic viability. The
military is revered in the Hearthland. The South has
always had a love affair with the military whether
it be the U.S. Army or the Confederate Army. The military
is part of the culture.
has always triumphed over economics here. During the
ante-bellum period, the South idealized the agrarian
farmer, rural life and homogenous and aristocratic
society. The fact that it had little industrial capacity
to build arms to fight the North was completely overlooked.
Many historians believe this is what ultimately cost
them the war. Not much has changed. Southern Republicans
regularly bash Federal programs and domestic spending.
The fact that the Heartland is far more
dependent upon federal grants to sustain its economy
seems to be lost in the flag waving and tax cutting
mania in Texas and Mississippi.
have always believed they are a chosen people. This
goes back to the Civil War where tens of thousands
died trying to preserve their superior
culture and peculiar institutions. Many still believe
city folk are uncultured, immoral and
ill-mannered. Hollywood is blamed for almost every
social ill. Most believe they have stronger values
than the rest of the country.
surveys, most Heartlanders say they are religious
people. In fact, voters who say they go to church
more than once a week voted heavily for Bush. Hearthlanders
find community and security in their churches and
small rural communities. The Fundamentalist Christian
movement is strongest in the Heartland.
South and Midwest have more self proclaimed born-again
Christians than anywhere else in the country. They
oppose abortion rights, reject affirmative action,
oppose stem cell research or any type of cloning,
believe homosexuality is a sin, and regularly support
measures to put God back in the schools. They are
much more supportive of tough drug laws, the death
penalty, and policies that regulate personal behavior.
Fundamentalist Christians tend to be suspicious of
hostile towards cities and government programs unless
they are price supports for agriculture, faith-based
initiatives or defense expenditures.
and authoritarianism is central to many lives. Many
Fundamentalist Christians believe that churches, not
the federal government, should administer to the poor.
Many believe women should obey their husbands.
evangelical Christians have aligned themselves with
Orthodox Jews in Israel. Like many Israelis, fundamentalist
Christians believe they too are Gods chosen
people and defenders of the faith.
fundamentalism is as strong in the Heartland
as Jewish orthodoxy is in Jerusalem. Many find explanations
and interruptions for todays problems in the
Bible. In fact many evangelical Christians believe
that God gave the Palestinian lands to the Jews. They
point to the Bible as evidence. Southern Congressmen
in Washington often express these sentiments while
debating foreign policy.
tend to be far more nationalistic and imperialistic
even if few understand what that really means. They
believe America should spread democracy and American,
Christian values across the globe. The majority fail
to understand that others do not want to live like
Americans or that their definition of democracy vastly
differs from what is practiced in America. Most believe
America can do little wrong. After all, America is
the shining example of fairness, enlightenment and
morality. Who wouldn't want our values? Few will believe
otherwise and this is central to the culture. Americans
who protest against the Administrations polices
are labeled unpatriotic, communist and traitorous.
cultural differences are exacerbated by a flawed electoral
system that gives small states a disportionate amount
of power in the government. This was quite clear in
the 2000 presidential elections where Gore won the
popular vote but lost the election. Worse, the District
of Columbia, which is more populated than several
states is not even entitled to representation. The
electoral system favors the South
and Midwest even if the North and West have far greater
populations. As the cultural divide deepens, there
will be fewer and fewer Democrats in the South and
Democratic presidential candidates will find it increasingly
tough to win Southern and Midwestern states.
electoral system ensures the Heartlanders will control
Congress for the foreseeable future. For this reason,
the fight over Americas role in the world, its
foreign policies and even who are the real Americans
will eventually spill into the streets as anti-war,
socially liberal Americans become more frustrated
by a system that prevents the majority from winning
national elections or influencing policy.
be sure this is not just a North vs South conflict
as there are liberals in the South and conservatives
in the West. However, a look at the electoral map
and even a cursory study of exit polls will convince
the biggest cynic that America is in reality becoming
two nations with different priorities and different
views of the world.
terror attacks will unify the country but unification
will be short-lived as Americans fight over their
self-interests civil rights, privacy, social
programs and values. America cant
have guns and butter with tax cuts. It cant
preserve civil rights and freedoms while a domestic
agency is reading citizens email and tapping
their phones in the pursuit of potential terrorists.
Americans cant be free if the
government is allowed to legislate morality
and personal behavior and values. The nation will
have to make a choice and anti-war activists are finally
catching on to that. The movement will grow as anti-war
activists enlist and embrace the concerns of community
activists, civil libertarians, minorities, the unemployed,
senior citizens and the disenfranchised.
U.S. Congress abdicated its responsibilities when
it gave George Bush a blank check for war. They put
the fate of millions of people in the hands of an
inexperienced, uncurious, impatient, and ill-informed
man who in the words of his former speech writer is
quick to anger. And while 50 percent of
the country is terrified by this, the other 50 percent
thinks he is a superb wartime leader. Half the country
shares his missionary zeal to convert America and
the world to his value system while the other half
is beginning to take to the streets in an attempt
to stop him.
will prevail in this contest is anyones guess.
A war and a bad economy will play a big role but Heartlanders
have never let economics or fear of civil war interfere
with their cultural preferences, religious convictions
or nationalist tendencies. They quit the union, fought
against abolishing slavery, integration, the civil
rights movement, and they were the last people to
voice complaints against McCarthyism, Nixon or the
Vietnam War. Many fear Americans have begun a long,
painful fight for the soul of the country. The rest
of the world can only hope the Left wins.
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