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OPINION | BRENDA LOOPER: Culture clash

by Brenda Looper | March 23, 2022 at 3:33 a.m.
Brenda Looper

A lot of my exercise is rolling my eyes. Partisan talking points are a huge source of that. As I posted recently on Facebook: "If y'all keep insisting on tying gas prices to the president, Keystone and everything else that shows you have no idea how gas prices actually work, I'm gonna have to insist that eye-rolling be counted as aerobic activity."

Feel the burn!

(The president, no matter who it is, doesn't affect gas prices, which are based on the cost of a barrel of oil worldwide, not just in the U.S., plus refining costs, transportation, etc. TC Energy already has a functioning pipeline--Keystone XL was to be an extension of it--and isn't obligated to sell its oil to the U.S. The bulk of the oil sent via Keystone XL to be refined here would be sold overseas, so it wouldn't relieve supply issues here.)

But it's not just talking points that irritate me. The whole "culture war" going on right now is tedious, overblown and smacks of political opportunism. How else do you explain all the bill mills that turn out cookie-cutter insert-state-here legislation for hot-button issues?

There are legitimate issues out there to focus on, such as blatant discrimination, drug abuse, and violence. Instead, we're visited by culture wars telling us, for example, that critical race theory (which is graduate-level legal scholarship) is being taught in public schools simply by virtue of labeling everything one might not agree with as CRT (activist Christopher Rufo is pretty proud of pulling off that rebranding); that transgender women are going into public bathrooms and assaulting biological women (based on usually apocryphal accounts of men wearing dresses to assault women in bathrooms, which isn't the same as being transgender); or that people are committing widespread election fraud because of the lack of "voter ID" (such confirmed cases are rare, and when they're caught, it's because of the rules already in place, which include a check of identity in most places; closing precincts, restricting voting hours and days and other ways of placing undue burdens on voters are more dangerous).

In striking down four new voting laws passed by the state Legislature as unconstitutional Friday, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen said, "In the judicial sphere you don't prove something is illegal just because you're afraid something might happen. That's speculation."

My friend and honorary cousin Earl Babbie, Campbell Professor Emeritus in Behavioral Sciences at Chapman University in California, now living in Hot Springs Village, would call that a "soluprob": a solution looking for a problem. "Solutions without problems are a lot like shooting at ghosts," he says on soluprobs.com. "You don't hurt the ghosts, but you wreak havoc with anyone or anything in your line of fire."

Issues like CRT, bathrooms, voter ID and others are are ginned up to provoke rage because, hey, you don't think so clearly when you're enraged, so you might not question the provenance and credibility of the stories.

And if you've felt an apocalyptic vibe lately, it's not just you. Jack Butler of the National Review was quoted recently on the view many on the New Right (primarily young radical conservatives) have of the U.S. right now: "We're in the battle at the end of time, and the prince of darkness is already at the door, and the whole world is now a contest between activist left and activist right."

It's bad enough some feel we're in the end times, but they have to make everything a battle between left and right. The radical elements (small but loud) are being allowed to steer the parties, and with the right moving to the center on fiscal issues, that makes the economy less divisive. But never fear. Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution wrote in The Atlantic in January: "To the extent that a left-right divide is still meaningful, it matters much more on race, identity, and the nature of progress than it does on business regulation, markets, and income redistribution. Because the former are fundamentally about divergent conceptions of the good, they are less amenable to compromise, expertise, and technocratic fixes. These are questions about 'who we are' rather than 'what works.'"

I thought we were Americans, who once upon a time tried to make things work. Maybe we could try that again, perhaps by listening to the huge group of unaffiliated folks in the middle. Couldn't hurt.

Housekeeping note: Now that we're in primary season, you might expect to see Voices columns from candidates. However, candidates in contested races won't be able to submit guest columns, as it could be construed as free advertising and unfair to other candidates. They're still welcome to submit letters (up to about 300 words or so) to be printed earlier than two weeks before the May 24 primary and any runoffs.

Candidates with opponents in their races can submit possible guest columns in June and July, but none will be published after Aug. 7. Beginning Aug. 8, only letters can be submitted for publication, again, until two weeks before the general election.


Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Email her at blooper@adgnewsroom.com. Read her blog at blooper0223.wordpress.com.


Print Headline: Culture clash

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