Imagine you live in a prison camp, with two differences. The first is, families are allowed to live together. The second is, the Commandant is chosen by popular election of the prisoners. But the electoral system is set up so that only two candidates have a realistic chance of victory.
One candidate pledges to forbid the teaching of Intelligent Design among the prison camp's children, and would allow homosexual couples to bunk together the way married couples are allowed to.
The other major candidate promises to make some sort of attempt to curb abortions, and has a very religous running mate for Vice-Commandant.
The "Culture War' within the camp generates tremendous excitement, even as both candidates agree to most of the rules, regulations, and spending (paid for by the slave labor of the inmates) proposed by the outgoing commandant.
When the election finally comes, almost a third of the inmates don't bother to vote, and a few "throw their vote away" on minor candidates who would signifantly re-form the prison camp, if not dismantle it altogether.
Could you blame them?
Wouldn't you recognize this "Culture War" as a complete fake, designed solely to keep the masses contented in their chains, so long as they receive occasional crumbs of recognition from their oppressors?
One could say that the U.S.A. is nothing like a prison camp. But imagine that the year is 2000. Think of what you believed and felt back then. Someone comes up to you and asks what you think of this party platform:
1. Forbid non-partisan groups from running ads criticizing candidates during election season.
2. Allow the government to bug your telephone, read your email, and track your Internet surfing without a search warrant.
3. Repeal the Posse Camitatus Act, so as to employ the Army in domestic police activities.
4. Impose a National ID card, which individuals must use to fly and, potentially, to even check out a library book.
5. Employ torture as a routine interrogation measure.
6. Revoke habeas corpus for anyone merely suspected of being a terrorist.
7. Create an animal tracing system where, if a steer picks up a disease at the slaughterhouse, the government can blame the family farm on which it was raised.
8. Invade and occupy Iraq.
9. Threaten aggression against several other countries that pose no threat to the United States.
10. Create budget deficits so high that the Federal Reserve stops counting how many dollars it is creating to finance them - leading to inflation and economic chaos.
11. Treat law-abiding Americans as potential terrorists at airports and engage in a global "War on Terror," committing troops and money across the globe, while allowing millions of foreigners, including possible terrorists, to walk in to the country unmolested - and give them amnesty and welfare benefits.
12. Divert the use of corn to an inefficient form of ethanol for gasoline, raising food prices worldwide while doing nothing to curb energy prices.
13. Create a new Cabinet bureacracy with a jaw-dropping name: "Homeland Security."
14. Have the federal government pour hundreds of billions of dollars (in borrowed money) to "bail out" failed enterprises, buy shares in private banks, and destroy any last remnants of free enterprise once and for all.
Which party platform would you think that was? The Nazi Party? The Communist Party? Most of these proposals would have seemed so extreme, and so bizarre, that it's difficult to imagine the kind of person who would sanction such things.
Eight years later, almost nobody gives a damn about any of these issues. If they did, we'd probably have a Presidential election pitting Dennis Kucinich vs. Ron Paul.
But we don't.
True, Barack Obama seems solidly against proposals 5,6, and 8. John McCain may perhaps be against #5. Arguably, Obama is the "lesser of two evils."
And I suppose we could congratulate both Presidential candidates for condemning the use of torture. Hooray! Aren't we a moral, civilized people!
The "land of the free" has morphed into "the land where at least we condemn torture (even if we will probably continue to do it anyway, and cheer on Jack Bauer when he does it)."
It appears that the election revolves around two issues:
- Obama's race and heritage, and the "anti-Americanism" and "weakness on Iraq and the War on Terror" it supposedly represents;
- Sarah Palin's Christian fundamentalism, and her anti-abortion, anti-gay, creationist, and apocalyptic views.
It's nothing but a fake culture war.
And it goes on, one Presidential election after another.
The real Culture War is not between the kinds of oppression, but between freedom and oppression.
As John Mellencamp sang, "I fight authority, authority always wins."
It's long past time Americans woke up and saw how ridiculous Presidential elections have become.
Find freedom where you can: in your mind, in your soul, in your relationships, in protests and petitions.
Just don't expect to find it in Presidential elections.