February 25, 2005
By Travis Charbeneau
It's February 16, 1999, and conservative activist Paul Weyrich,
the man who coined "Moral Majority," is fed up. In a "Letter on
the Moral Minority in America" he advocates quitting politics. This
famous elegy is still archived at conservative Newsmax.com:
We got our people elected. But that did not result in the adoption
of our agenda. ... politics itself has failed ... because of
the collapse of the culture. If there really were a moral majority
out there, Bill Clinton would have been driven out of office
months ago. I believe that we probably have lost the culture
As though in confirmation, right across from this lament at 2-21-05's
Newsmax.com, a sidebar ad exclaims, "Man - OH - Man, more Power
in Bed With this powerful formula!"
But the Weyrich archive brightens throughout the early Bush years,
and by November 8, 2004, we find: "God is indeed a Republican."
Or did Weyrich nail it in '99? Some argued in the Sixties that
any "revolution" was already over and won on the only front that
really mattered: culture. A post-war, post-industrial shift in consciousness
that began with the Beats had not looked back. As Shelley maintained,
poets were "the unacknowledged legislators of the world."
Our modern poets, musicians, and myth-makers, in academia, the
media and Internet have "legislated" American culture, of which
politics is only a part. And, while fundamentalists east and west
may hate it, the pipers call the tune. Happily for me, I like the
tune. You can dance to it. I give it an 88.
Like many boomers, I came of age chafing under the repressive,
hypocritical conformity of the Fifties and early Sixties. We were
urged by the nation's founding documents, teachers, parents, churches,
to "realize your full potential" so you could become a wage slave
at the military-industrial complex of your choice, helping to prevent
third-world peoples and women from exercising theirs.
But, naively accepting "full potential" at face value, my fellow-chafers
and I set forth to establish truth, justice and the American Way
as we saw it. A main timber in our anti-Puritanical party plank:
your right to party! And darned if that didn't appeal even to Young
Republicans and others to whom napalmed children meant little.
The hippie exhortation to relish daily experience found a hedonistic
chink in the armor of young conservatives, turning them into today's
"socially liberal" Republicans. Those hard-partying Bush girls.
Daughter Cheney's inconvenient "lifestyle choice." Gov. Schwarzenegger.
Quality of life, or plain old "fun," is the aspect of change Weyrich
and others most despise because it opens the way for a powerful,
revolutionary lever: tolerance. With tolerance, all things are possible.
Even "more power in bed with this powerful formula!"
During the Sixties, our comrades on the New Left denounced "cultural
revolution." They called culture warriors hippies, dropouts, esthetes,
politically unreliable. They insisted on direct action and produced
the Weather Underground, a few acts of vandalism and at least one
spectacular armed robbery.
We called them violence-enthralled party-poopers. Inside-out Puritans.
We wanted the revolution of individual consciousness sung by working
class hero John Lennon. Lennon pronounced 1970 "Year One" in his
new revolutionary calendar, and, indeed, by 1970 it is possible
that enough people had enough "raised consciousness" that a critical
mass existed. Since then, both by slow osmosis and abrupt chain
reaction, we have changed the world - or wrecked it, depending on
your point of view.
Again, any plan to change the world by changing minds was universally
dismissed as flower child pap. But politics, for all its noise and
pretension, can't help being driven by culture. Culture spoke louder
than politics even in the Reagan Era, with its failed promise, much
to Weyrich's disgust, to roll back counter-cultural contaminations.
Even then, the majority of Americans were little better than weekend
hippies, dutifully showing up for work, voting for the Gipper's
PR machine, telling the kids "just say no"; furtively smoking pot,
watching porn, arranging for the occasional abortion. And going
to church on Sundays trying to make sense of it all.
But, of course, "it" makes no sense. The materialistic American
Dream can't deliver in the pursuit of happiness. Nor can a reactionary
political spasm that re-elects a born-again fraud with a one percent
"mandate." Culture is legislated by poets, not by politicians and
their various deities. Especially for Generation X, vile Boomer
spawn; aka "the Future."
Like many of their boomer elders, Gen-X rots from within by what,
in any other context, would be termed Christian charity, loath to
cast the first stone on adultery, abortion or gay marriage. It's
that tolerance thing again, prompting the thoughtful to consider:
"there but for the grace of God..."
That sort of thing can lead to an open mind, even a doubt that
God is indeed a Republican.