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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Culture Wars Continue

The McCain/Palin campaign is a constant reminder that the culture wars live on. They are running against the Weather Underground circa 1969 - The Sixties remains the Right's primal scene, ground zero, bete noir, take your pick. To set themselves up as warriors against the terrorist 1960s they attacked Obama's occasional paths-crossing with Bill Ayers, a Weather leader back in the day andnow an academic.

Another academic came in for a symbolic McCain thrashing - the Middle East specialist Rashid Khalidi of Columbia University. He was actually friends with Obama when they both lived in Chicago and Khalidi taught at the University of Chicago. The Washington Post has a good editorial on the topic, denouncing what Khalidi calls the "idiot wind" emerging from the McCain campaign's last desperate days.

My favorite lines are those that imagine a life after the culture wars that, as I argue in Unmaking the Public University, has inflicted the social and culture equivalent of brain damage on the country as a whole. The lines:
  • "Perhaps unsurprising for a member of academia, Mr. Khalidi holds complex views."
  • "Our sense is that Mr. Obama is a man of considerable intellectual curiosity who can hear out a smart, if militant, advocate for the Palestinians without compromising his own position."
Wow. Let me read those lines again in a daily newspaper.

If curiosity and complexity circulated freely, with militance as their regular companion, and unsplattered with culture wars attacks, progress would be both intelligent and possible again.

Preventing this was the point of the culture wars in the first place. But the warriors' positions are now weaker than at any time in the last 25 years.

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