The End of the Culture Wars?
by Matt Stevens
Last week, in my home state of Iowa, the Iowa State Supreme Court ruled that the state could not place marriage restrictions on same-sex couples, echoing centuries of history of court enforced equality in the state: slaves, Jim Crow laws, and women practicing as lawyers. Vermont’s Congress recently overruled the Governor and said same sex marriage.
A State Senator from Iowa put it best when he described something his daughter told him about some older males she heard discussing gay marriage: ”You don’t matter anymore. We’ve all already decided.” And that’s more true than anyone who opposes gay marriage, that true about those who oppose abortion rights, that true about those want to restrict the usage of stem cells. You don’t matter anymore. Those of my generation, we’ve gone elsewhere. These are not the wars we will fight. We’re beyond that. We’re already on to the next great culture war: The War on Drugs.
When someone asks me about gay marriage, my opinion is really easy: marriage is a church institution and civil unions should be a state/federal institution. But no matter what we have, equality should be extended to any two consenting adults. That’s the most important. But I like to relate a story about my baseball team. I play with a group of guys and we’re all about 25-35 years old. We’re mostly athletically fit, but its a pretty wide spread culturally, we have about three guys that graduated from college about four guys who spent some time in college, and about two guys who didn’t make it through high school. We have about five immigrants from Latin America playing with us. They come from nice neighborhoods of Tacoma, they come from Olympia, and they come from the crazy ass parts of Tacoma where I won’t go at night. We have guys who live in high rises in Bellevue and guys who have spent multiple years under bridges.
We had a barbecue last year and our coach, who’s a construction foreman, originally from Eastern Washington said “everyone bring your wives, girlfriends, or boyfriends, its all cool,” and it was a little joke, because obviously everyone on the team was male. I believe everyone on the team is straight, though I don’t know for sure. But it wasn’t a joke at homosexuality, it was a joke the thought of people being homophobic. The joke is post-ironic; we joke about being gay not because being gay is cool, but because homophobia is uncool. But more than uncool, its just ridiculous.*
*Dave Chapelle had skit a couple years ago about a blind, black white-supremacist. Its inherently funny because it is so ridiculous. That’s what my culture thinks of these people. Clayton Bigsby is a satirical character who doesn’t represent what most racists are like. To our generation, these bigots who want to restrict equal rights are inherently caricatures. And yet, they are real people. That is why to us they are so ridiculous.
This is not bunch of people who went to liberal arts colleges, cocooned for years away from society and creating a fabulous world in their mines of communism and atheist taking over the world (and yes, many conservatives do believe that’s the purpose of liberal arts colleges). These are construction workers, hydroelectric engineers, warehouse forklift drivers, and bartenders. These are blue collar as blue collars gets. This team represents what the conservatives need to target if they are to re-brand themselves: and this team doesn’t give a shit about any of the opinions the conservatives hold so dear.
That’s why over the next 10 years, across the country gay marriage will become more and more common. Because the people who will be voting, the people who make the decisions and give the money and the people who will be running for state reps and state senators, they have already decided that the culture warriors don’t matter.
Nate Silver already has a very interesting statistical regression (seriously, you expected him to throw up something different) in which he calculates when each state will have the right population makeup to vote to legalize gay marriage. Within 12 years gay marriage should be legal everywhere. I hope he’s correct.
But, sadly as I like to think, its not the end of the culture wars. There is a new front opening in the culture wars, and I don’t think any of the politicians really understand it yet: the War on Drugs. We got a hint of that in Obama’s press conference in which he was asked about legalizing marijuana. He basically shrugged off the question with a snicker, as did most of the reporters in the room. Sadly, they do not realize how many adults who otherwise live normal lives regularly use marijuana. These are not pot heads who can’t hold down a job at McDonald’s. They are your bus driver, the coach of your kid’s little league team, your boss. This is the next culture war. Drugs is where we go from here, because much of the younger generations hasn’t made its mind of up on the legalization of drugs so they will still fall into the varying camps. But drugs will take over from Gay Marriage, Guns, Abortion, and Stem Cells, and that is a very very good thing.