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America’s culture wars are wearing us out. There’s too much distrust, frustration and pent-up anger.

Some want to make America great again, but that sends red flags to others who see the sentiment as dog whistles for a more divided society. Others wonder when America wasn’t great.

Perhaps we can all agree on one thing: America is more polarized and divided than ever in recent memory. And maybe. Just maybe, we can use that which divides to unite us.

“The culture wars are wearing me out because it is a destructive zero-sum game predicated on the false assumption that it is necessary for one side to prevail over and thereby cancel the other,” state Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, said. “The level of intolerance and lack of empathy on both the warring sides is truly dispiriting.”

Republican strategist Chip Felkel was more pointed: “They pit family and friends against one another. They are fueled by half-truths exponentially spread by social media and individuals who seek reaffirmation of their own views much more so than than they actually seek real knowledge or understanding of the positions, influences and perceptions of their fellow citizens.

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“Culture wars are the antithesis of the American story, by turning the melting pot into rancid stew.”

Retired Winthrop University professor Sue Rex said the county’s battles have “gone too far when lifelong friends are having serious disagreements over our administration and possible solutions to our world problems. I yearn for calmer days, and they are attainable, if we lay down the swords and expect a new national team spirit.”

State Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, said it’s not always clear what war is being fought.

“Are we fighting a political war, a race war, a COVID-19 war? My biggest war is to save South Carolina’s children and it should not have anything to do with what political party you belong to or what race you are. We should all want the same thing — keep our children safe from abuse and neglect, take care of their health care needs and educate them.”

Former Democratic state Sen. Phil Leventis of Sumter agreed the culture wars are discombobulating.

“It’s like arguing which lifeboats we will use — the one on the left side or the right side of the boat that is clearly sinking,” he said. “The government can’t solve all problems. There are no absolutes. Masks are not a silver bullet. The culture wars are more closely associated with rhetoric and sound bites. Bring forward the facts and let’s engage toward reaching a conclusion to do something.”

But while America may seem lost and wandering in a desert of ill will, what’s happening may be energizing our democracy, some suggest. Maybe most of us are uncomfortable because the country is in a teenage-like bubble of too many political and societal hormones. With time, we’ll grow out of it.

For example, the pandemic is forcing people to understand something good — the value of science, said Leventis.

“Science and investments in research and development toward out-innovating the rest of the world is the only way America can stay out front and remain a beacon of hope and freedom,” he said. “And the constant coverage of the virus has given us a view of people who are as American as apple pie. It’s amazing that so many of the physicians and staff who are on the front line ‘war against the virus’ are immigrants or first-generation [Americans] born in this country of immigrant parents.”

Retired journalist Herb Frazier of Charleston admitted the culture wars were draining because “people are dying at the cost of this foolishness and they highlight the racism that is embedded in this culture.” But he’s energized, too, because he believes the culture wars will motivate people to vote in November.

Former S.C. Rep. Vida Miller, D-Pawleys island, echoed similar sentiments.

“I’m saddened that this is the only way many injustices will be taken seriously,” she said. “But the culture wars are energizing me because I’m hopeful this energy will turn into votes in November.”

Let’s hope we can pull together and unite — and stop the unnecessary bickering.

Andy Brack is publisher of Charleston City Paper. Have a comment? Send to: feedback@charlestoncitypaper.com.


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