Bill Borst
The original American culture war
By Bill Borst
June 16, 2011

Recently as the regular guest host for Phyllis Schlafly's weekly radio program, I made the association of what Pope John Paul II called the American culture of death in comparison to Hitler's Nazi regime to New York Times, author of the best-selling, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy Eric Metaxas.

To my chagrin he callously referred to it as a cliché.

I found it a rather ignorant statement, more suitable to someone who had been living in a cave for 35 years or maybe someone with liberal instincts, who is in abject denial of the realities around him.

It was the first time I had gotten into it with one of my guests since Bernie Goldberg pulled the plug on our interview several years ago because of a hostile racialist caller.

The culture of death is a more precise term than the often standardized, culture war, which has gone a long way in explaining the bifurcated nature of American society in 2011.

The central feature of the culture of death has been abortion. It was through a judicial edict in 1973 that the laws of 50 United States were rescinded from the law books.

With that one judicial fiat, the culture war was on and has literally pitted neighbor against neighbor and brother against brother, just as another unpopular decision did in 1857.

That was the Dred Scott decision and it set the stage for America's first culture war and a fratricidal we improperly label as Civil.

With well over 600,000 fatalities, there was nothing civil about that bloody war.

This surely made America a culture of death in 1861.

Last April marked the sesquicentennial of the opening salvos of that war in Charles South Carolina's harbor at Fort Sumter.

The shelves in the dwindling number of bookstores around America today bristle and groan with virtually dozens of new titles on every aspect of the war, from military strategy, social history to the diaries of eyewitnesses.

I am currently reading, David Goldfield's America Aflame.

The books that deal with slavery as the main cause of the war — a view I seriously disagree with — thoroughly miss the apt comparison and similarities with our own culture war.

Out of public favor with our modern historians and students of the Civil War is the importance of the cultural differences between the North and the South.

What they used to call Sectionalism was a nice way of showing how each side like a marriage about to rupture had grown apart and was busy perusing their separate roads to happiness...virtually independent of one another.

Our modern psychologists would say that the South was just trying to find herself.

Slavery was akin to the illegitimate child parented by one of the spouses.

The one element they miss is the comparison of our culture war with the one in 1861.

Like our culture war, the one central figure in theirs was slavery. It was the institutional glue around which their culture had evolved.

The founding fathers had made a moral compromise in 1787, based on the erroneous but plausible view that slavery would eventually prove to be economically unfeasible and just fade away.

Had in not been for the ingenuity of a Connecticut Yankee, Yale's Eli Whitney and his invention of the cotton gin, history probably would have proven them right.

So because of this historical irony, the South grew its culture around slavery and the romantic nobility of plantation life with slavery and cotton as its driving engine.

Next to the Bible the most popular book in the ante-bellum South was Sir Walter Scott's 1819 novel, Ivanhoe.

It portrayed the idyllic 12th century in England that allowed Southerners to fantasize about the nobility of Southern chivalry, the code of manly honor or knighthood and the chastity and inviolability of the Southern woman.

Though the denizens of the left deny, deny and deny any comparisons between slavery and the civil rights of black people and abortion and the natural right to life of every conceived human being, there are a few salient similarities that cannot be ignored.

As already mentioned, both have had landmark decisions that went against the common sense of the American people.

In the Dred Scott decision the humanity of over three million black slaves was reduced to the status of chattel, which is another name for property, or in their case livestock.

This dehumanization supported the views of many Southerners that their slaves were not like them.

They were inferior to the extent that they could be enslaved in chains, bred and sold, or even beaten or killed when necessary.

Approximately 116 years later, the Roe v. Wade promulgated that the fetus was not a human person with the rights of all citizens, until it was born.

As a result countless millions of unborn children have been eviscerated, mutilated, burned with saline and murdered just three inches from birth with a pair of scissors, all in the name of choice.

As has been true throughout most of American history, apathy dominated both cultures.

Most people accepted slavery, just as most accept abortion.

In each culture there has been small cores of people who have had their moral sensitivities disturbed by the acceptance of these two innately evil institutions.

Like prophets, who receive little respect in their own times, the slavery abolitionists and their modern prolife counterparts work, preach and pray to eliminate these abominations from their culture, so that their societies will stop being so divided.

Echoing the Book of Isaiah, Lincoln said, a house divided cannot stand against itself. It will either become all slave or all free.

He could easily have said in today's culture, it will be either all prolife or all pro-choice.

The real choice is ours if we ever want to have peace.

© Bill Borst


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Bill Borst

Bill Borst holds a PhD in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) After having taught on virtually all levels of education from elementary school through the university, he had a weekly talk show on WGNU radio for 22 years. Currently he is Phyllis Schlafly's regular substitute on KSIV radio in St. Louis... (more)

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