Culture War Discomfort
Terry H. Schwadron
April 4, 2022
Necessary as they seem to be just to spell out our differences and to unearth unreasonableness, the culture wars are turning increasingly uncomfortable for all parties.
It’s obvious that despite the very daily expressions we see of it, some Americans don’t want to recognize differing perceptions of race, ethnicity, gender identity or age as problems to be solved.
Instead, we see a sustained fight against “woke” ideas for more tolerance — and the need for laws and edicts barring transgender athletes from competition (Oklahoma this week) or governing how a teacher answers a young student about gender identity and sexual orientation, as the new Florida law dictates.
As with other aspects of culture wars, how often that happens in what teachers and parents might think is objectionable is a matter that few address. It’s the symbolic meaning that seems important for politics, not resolving an actual problem.
It is not hard to imagine a kindergartner normally drawing a picture of life at home, where parents may be same sex. It’s not clear what a teacher is supposed to say if asked by the student whether it is a good picture.
Fox News Digital ran a provocative article this week quoting 10 families reacting to an announcement by Disney that it opposes the Florida efforts that Republicans say is meant to stop teachers from “grooming” youngsters towards gender choices without knowledge of parents and that Democrats derogatively call the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a conservative Republican, uses the new law like a political cudgel to denounce any perception that public schools are indoctrinating children with inappropriate gender choices and to underscore that it is good politics to back parental choice in all things with which he happens to agree. It is not a good parental choice to want masks in time of covid, for example.
The parents quoted rue the rise of a “woke” culture, vow to boycott Disney and complain that liberals are better at such boycotts than conservatives. There was no “other side” in this article, it was just a vehicle for angry disappointment from the political Right.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek tweeted that his company opposes the law and wants it overturned by the Republican-majority legislature or by the courts. Disney has eliminated the use of “gender greetings” within their parks — so the terms “boys and girls” and “ladies and gentlemen” will no longer be uttered by employees on Disney grounds.
Fox calls these “left-leaning” ideas, asserts that parents and grandparent are fed up with Disney and want to boycott its theme parks, movies and merchandise.
One woman who runs a faith-based alternative to the Girl Scouts says a boycott of Disney and other companies that agree is the only answer. “Today’s Disney promotes a full spectrum of lifestyles that rarely align with the biblical values of good and evil, which God calls us to,” she says. “Disney is now devoted to confusing your children.”
Others piled on in separate interviews, finding that there are “wholesome alternatives” to Disney,” that Disney went bad when it allowed gay parades, and that the theme park promotes “innocence and sex at the same time.”
There is a healthy dose of Christian religious values in the comments that are quoted. Obviously, claiming religious belief in humanity is odd if it affects only people who look or make lifestyle choices that you do.
Plus, it’s a little jarring to hear these comments when Disney generally is regarded as so square, so traditional in its outlook and characters that there are regular-as-clockwork questions offered about how princesses are being depicted in its films.
The idea that Disney is out there on the left-leaning barricades is a foreign notion.
Business and Politics
The point is that running a business in times of culture war is as precarious as raising a family. And, in any case, we’re going to see evidence of more public hate and ostracism against children, teens and families where there is choice to consider identity issues.
In Texas, where a new law calls for investigation of families of transgenders for child abuse, the issue has moved beyond parental knowledge into a wrongly enforced morality.
The companies like Disney or Apple or others who have opposed this Florida law or those limiting voter rights or those that seek to stop legal abortion are trying to show basic tolerance for a greater swath of Americans than the speakers of this set of quotes about values.
They are dealing at once with more vocal work forces, a less tolerant clientele and local governmental figures that too often are threatening them with tax or other losses if they speak out.
This discussion comes in the same week that after 100 years, the Congress finally voted on a law declaring lynching a federal hate crime. It took us a century to name a hate crime that we all, including those doing the lynching, have accepted to be a hate crime. That’s as central an issue to culture wars as it gets.
We’re hearing about a blowback on Disney at the same time we are discussing whether actors and directors of color are included in Oscar and Emmy considerations, as a disproportionate number of voters of color are being denied mail ballots under the new Texas law, as we watch Republicans treat the first Black woman nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court with disdain without regard to her experience. We’re watching anti-immigrant bias emerge anew on the border at the same time we supposedly are preparing to welcome 100,000 Ukrainians forced to flee from war.
Those on the front lines of culture war might want to think a bit about the America whose votes they want at the next election.