"We would go so far as to suggest that the "something" about Kenneth Starr
that so rubbed many opinion-makers the wrong way was the clear understanding
that he was not just prosecuting Bill Clinton; he was prosecuting the entire
culture that gave to what Bill Clinton represents."
- from the Wall Street Journal Friday, September 11, 1998
A clearer statement and understanding of the stakes of all of this I
have never read.
"...prosecuting the entire culture..." Indeed.
And how is that culture characterized?
"...the voices of an American and European culture that since the
1960s has been undergoing a relentless moral transformation, a transformation
that before certain recent economic difficulties was engendering talk of an
Are they talking about the Democrats they claim would sell us out to
the Chinese? Or are they talking about the general 'Pacific Shift' that has been
effecting world economies since the early sixties - economies that they
themselves have been wildly plundering through lending and speculation in the
past several decades - economies that made these same speculators lead us into a
disastrous war that broke our society right down the middle? Are they talking
about the forces which threaten to make the good ol' U.S.A. something less than
the biggest player on the block? Or are they talking about the threat of heathen
Eastern religions infecting all of those damn hippies and West Coast liberals
and Hollywood types?
"Under this new rubric, the verities that guided the generation that
fought World War II were deemed inappropriate for the social forces that got up
and running during the 60s."
Ahhhh... now we cut to the chase. The battle between two generations.
One who fought the most horrible war in the century and tried to protect its
kids from the defiling truth by hiding all of the lies and filth beneath the
rug. The other growing up feeling betrayed by the racism and greed and bigotry
which they saw thriving beneath the televised facade of a country they'd grown
up trusting whether "right or wrong!"
It's the 60s that are the problem. Where one generation challenged the
monstrous hypocrisy of its elders while the elders reacted in blind hatred and
rage at being threatened and questioned. A generation sent to fight a war of
greed in which the wealth of its' elders was held to be more important than the
lives of anyone standing in the way.
"In place of earlier ideas about right and wrong behavior came the
strong belief that the particularities of any one person's circumstances left
any moral judgment troublesome."
By this is meant the whole postmodern thing. A view that our standards
of behavior and perception are largely determined by environment, genetics,
class, upbringing, point of view. Could it be that the graven-in-stone values of
the wealthy white elites are not the pure and perfect standard of all moral
judgment? Could it be that values are at base very simple and
fundamental..."Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself"...and that rules about
common behavior are flexible and negotiable? Could it be that in the face of
arrogance and genocidal greed the sins of sex and drugs and rock and roll look
"And so eventually most people, including the churches, simply stopped
judging. Anything goes, so everything went."
No. We didn't stop judging. We have watched while the corporations and
their religious lackeys have taken over the political process. We have watched
while armies were trained to kill the poor in the third world so that the
speculators could have their oil. We have watched while the environment was
poisoned to dangerous levels to threaten our children. We have watched while
drugs were sold in the ghettoes to purchase arms for armies of murderers and
thugs. We have watched dictators propped up because they would do business on
our terms while those who choose their own way are starved. We have watched and
we have judged.
The President lied. He had lots of sex with a 20 year old and he lied
to everybody about it. He'll probably go down for it. Maybe he should.
It is important however that we remember where all of this
investigation has come from and what it has served. The right wing has succeeded
in doing what it set out to do from the beginning...to make Bill and Hillary
into political monsters. The venomous hatred directed by these people toward the
"entire culture" the President represents goes back way before anyone heard of
Monica Lewinsky - even before Whitewater (which has all but vanished). I would
say that it goes back even before the 60s - all the way to the managed economies
of the New Deal and the threat of revolution arising out of the ashes of World
War I and later the Great Depression.
In the end we'll never go back to the days before the New Deal, when
the capitalists were allowed to run totally rampant and roughshod across the
world. The world has gotten too small and the limits are looming too large.
Who's gonna be drafted to fight their wars? The prosecutors have been given more
power than ever before. Prisons are one of our biggest growth industries. By the
end of all the current mess maybe we'll have a Newt Gingrich or a Pat Buchanan
or John Forbes as our leader - then you bettah watch yo' ass if'n you ain't
wealthy and white. In the long run there are too many factors for anyone to
control. If the generation of the 60s had their moral compass so totally skewed
in an age of television, how much more will the generations be skewed by the
There is both bad news and good news in the Culture Wars. On the one
hand the Republicans have successfully toppled a president. On the other hand,
they had to do it by public prosecutor since they couldn't do it in the realm of
electoral politics. A party that prays every election for a low voter turn-out
is a party with feet of clay. The party of rich white men is essentially drawn
up in a very tight circle, and the ocean is getting higher and more violent all
around. The disgust felt by people toward both parties is channeling more and
more energy into organized alternatives like the Greens. The real question is
how much damage these dinosaurs can do before they are swallowed by the future.
Ralph Melcher is a freelance editor and essayist living in Santa Fe,
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