I’ve decided to start posting book reports – my thoughts and feelings about books I’ve read recently. I’ll warn you though. I’m a slow reader (I have bad eyes), so these may be infrequent. For the most part, I oughta be a founding member of the Book on CD club. And now that I spend more time commuting, maybe I’ll up my averages. We’ll see how things come out in the wash.
First book review, “Culture Warrior”…
Bill O’Reilly believes (and so do I) that there is a war raging in the United States to define the prevailing value system in our country.
On the one side there are “traditionalists”. Traditionalists typically feel that the United States is a noble country that is well-founded, is predominately good, and is an overwhelmingly positive influence in the world. By and large, they like things in America the way they’ve been for a long time, and advocate maintaining more traditional ways. This group is trypically religious (in a traditional sense – many Christians and Jews), typically deeply respects the military, consider themselves to be “salt of the earth”, want the government to leave them alone to succeed, and are mostly conservative in their political persuasion – both socially and economically.
On the other side there are “secular progressives”. SP’s (as O’Reilly calls them) typically feel that the US is a misguided country that has gone off the rails. They would be inclined to use words like “imperialist” and “oppressive” to describe the country, and feel that many of the world’s ills are America’s fault. For the most part, they desire broad, sweeping social and economic change. This group is also religious (but in the more-modern sense of worshipping tolerance and no-exceptions-privacy and other progressive concepts – little use for God, a lot of use for rights and what people deserve). They typically feel the military is corrupt – even unnecessary in today’s age of global community – and should be dramatically downsized, consider themselves “enlightened”, want the government to be expanded so that it can provide them with equality and success, look forward to a world government/community, and are mostly liberal in their political persuasion. Bill descibes what SP’s believe as “San Francisco Values“.
Both groups would claim that they represent the way America should be. Both would claim the “correct” interpretation of the founding fathers’ intetions, with one significant difference. Traditionalists would want to change very little about the conventional wisdom on this interpretation, where SP’s would claim that we’ve interpetted them wrongly all along. For instance, the traditionalist would interpret the religious freedom clause in the 1st ammendment to mean that the government should not impose itself on the religious practice of its citizens. SP’s believe that there is a wall of separation between church and state that forbids any public expression of religious. Exactly opposing views.
Another example… Traditionalists would interpret the 2nd ammendment to mean that the average citizen has the right to keep the government in check by bearing arms – a fundamental distrust of government and the power it could have over the average person. SP’s believe that guns are bad and should be outlawed, that government is good and should be trusted, that the 2nd ammendment was poorly conceived and should be overturned.
Last example… Traditionalists believe that the government has an obligation to provide freedom and opportunity, but that success and prosperity comes from the hard work of the individual – that the individual is responsible for himself. SP’s believe that the government has an obligation to actually provide success and prosperity (this is the only fair thing to do) – that the government is responsible for people, not they themselves.
O’Reilly, in his book, describes his own role in the culture war, calling himself a “traditional warrior”. He calls out a number of individuals and organizations in the US which he claims are secular progressive in their thinking, but who claim to be neutral or unbiased. In so doing, he hopes to expose them for who they really are, and to raise the general public’s interest and awareness in the topic at hand. Seems unlikely, given how apathetic the aversage person is, but kudos to him for standing up for what he believes and trying to make some noise about it.
One thing I didn’t like about the book was that it felt slow-moving to me. I generally keep on top of current events and politics, so very little of the book was news to me. Also, he seemed to beat points to death a bit – repeating concepts over and over. I imagine both these things are by-products of his targeting a generaly ignorant (to the issues) and apathetic audience.
So, if you’re already neck-deep in the culture war, you probably don’t need to read this book. If you have no idea what I’m talking about but want to, you should definitely check it out. If you don’t know about any of this stuff and don’t care to, definitely pass this one by – it’ll bore you (but I find that sad). If you think everything I’ve said in this post is total crap, then don’t bother reading the book – it’ll just anger you.
Has anyone else read this one?