Catherine Shaffer on "What if we threw a Culture War and nobody came." I respect Catherine, and Gods I wish I could see her point as valid here. I really do wish we lived in a world where her tactics would work. It's taken me a long time to realize that we don't. So instead of polluting her blog with my poisoned soul, I'll respond more fully here.
Sorry, reading my blogroll out of order here, so I just got to your argument here. Catherine, please understand that I agree with your sentiment. In an equal society, things would work well. However, the major point I would disagree with you is that we're not living in a free and open society any more than Voltaire was. As things stand now, we're operating under "Some people are more equal than others."
Also, as you state, "Getting back to the title of this post, what if we decide we don’t want a culture war? What if we refuse to wage it? What if, when faced with paranoid, hateful, intolerant speech, we turn and walk away? " I'm a student of history. Walking away never helped anyone. MLK, Ghandi, Jesus and Buddha didn't walk away. They engaged, and they used all the tricks in their book (and while they themselves didn't embrace or advocate violence, their acolytes did).
I'll also point out that all of the above engaged in economic warfare against their opposition. MLK with strikes and boycotts, sit ins and demonstrations. Ghandi sought to cripple the all important salt trade. Jesus threw the money lenders out of the Temple. And Buddha started from a position of high privilege.
I would love not to have this culture war. I like so many others are crying on the insides, "Didn't we go through this fire two decades ago? Wasn't it too painful to revisit?" However, in my case, the opposition doesn't care. They are engaged in war. They never stopped being engaged in war. To walk away is to hand them the field and the victory. If this was only about, "you think your way, I think my way, let's go our own ways," that would be one thing. This isn't about that. They want me to think their way. It's their goal to either force me to their opinions or to legally block me from my rights.
I don't want my nieces and nephews to have to "escort" women into clinics again, to bring this very much into the current fight. I and my friends had to do that. I'm tired of constantly fighting this battle. The opposition has set the terms and conditions of this war. They aren't in it to win hearts and minds. They've chosen scorched earth tactics. It's my choice as to how I proceed. I will not relinquish the field. The opposition has stated their goals and what they're willing to give up to achieve them. I've fought this war the good way once. We won. The opposition said they didn't care, licked their wounds, and counted on "my" (the royal me in this case) being tired of the fight. And they were right. They've gained back much of the ground.
I won't put my nieces and nephews through what I had to go through. They'll have their own battles to wage. So, do I continue press forward keeping nice only to lose what we fought so hard to gain?
No. I won't do it. Fuck the enemy. They choose to fight to the death. I'm now willing to oblige them. And if the world burns as a result? The fire is preferable to the cage. The war is here if we want it or not. I wish I could see non-violence as a viable path out of this one. The opposition has removed that option from the board.
And here I'll state that stating my opinions forcefully, waging economic and political war, actually is non-violence. It's only in comparison to my side's previously held tactics that it looks violent. This isn't a call to beat daylight into the skulls of the opposition (although I often have the fear it will come to that). But I'm no longer willing to "live and let live" because my opposition isn't willing to embrace that. In my view of the world, the opposition is perfectly fine to hold their beliefs and continue on their merry way. They haven't afforded me the same curtesy. They don't have the right. It's time someone reminded them.