Culture Peace

These are not partisan political issues we’ve been fighting over, they are the very stuff of life. When it starts, when it ends, how we love in between, where we find our faith, the challenges that come to test it, and us.

The Culture War, declared by Pat Buchanan at the 1992 Republican National Convention started to come to an end last night, and the truce was initiated by none other than Pat Buchanan himself.

There was no formal ceremony. But there, late on a night Americans will tell their grandchildren about, on a cable television talk show panel a mile from where Obama’s speech just concluded, the Nixon-speech writer-turned-columnist-turned-presidential-candidate-turned-pundit, gushed. Buchanan’s life most closely traces the arc of the Culture War, a sentimental clinging to a time that for some was care-free, for others segregated, sublimated or closted.

But even social conservative icon Pat Buchanan could not bring himself to say one negative word about Barack Obama’s acceptance speech. Not one. Not about the policies. Not about the tone. Not even about all the celebrities or setting. Nothing negative.

Obama spoke of respecting differences on the issue of abortion, even as we work together to reduce unintended pregnancies; and he said while we may have differences on the question of marriage, shouldn’t we at least agree our gay and lesbian sisters and brothers have the right to visit loved ones in hospitals and be free from fear of being fired.

Pat Buchanan gushed, "This was not a liberal speech, this was a centrist speech."

Pleas re-read that sentence again before going on.

In a speech that will be memorized by children for generations, Barack Obama did not shrink from the issues that have inflamed passions and shaped our post-boomer generation. He sought to heal them. He did not seek to divide, but to unite on social differences, respectfully, so that we may fight together on several issues that directly threaten the lives of friends and neighbors, at home and abroad; the six-plus billion already breathing and walking among us. People too often forgotten, too often ignored, or dismissed because of poverty, or lack of resources, or just the fact of the struggles they have making it from one job to the next, just to get by.


Obama said that most emphatically.

He did not mince words, but by openly articulating respect for the fact that Americans have differing beliefs, and that we must learn to respect those beliefs, he appealed to the best within all of us, while squarely holding the responsible parties accountable, another great American value.

What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose – our sense of higher purpose. And that’s what we have to restore.

We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing
the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun
ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those
plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don’t tell me we can’t
uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of
criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but
surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters
deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives
free of discrimination. Passions fly on immigration, but I don’t know
anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or
an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. This
too is part of America’s promise – the promise of a democracy where we
can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common

I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk.

claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and
more honest in our public life is just a Trojan Horse for higher taxes
and the abandonment of traditional values.

And that’s to be expected.
Because if you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics
to scare the voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you
paint your opponent as someone people should run from.

You make a big election about small things. And you know what – it’s worked before. Because it feeds into the
cynicism we all have about government. When Washington doesn’t work,
all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and
again, then it’s best to stop hoping, and settle for what you already

I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this
office. I don’t fit the typical pedigree, and I haven’t spent my career
in the halls of Washington.

But I stand before you tonight because all across America something
is stirring. What the nay-sayers don’t understand is that this election
has never been about me. It’s been about you.


His speech suggested we must heal the divisions that have created partisan gridlock: rooted in the 1960’s, perfected in the 1970’s, implemented in the 1980’s, fought to standstill in the 1990’s, and that came to full power during the Presidency of George W. Bush in 2001, coupled with the most socially conservative courts and Congress in history.

Pat Buchanan and many others realized the political power of using those divisive times and issues that strike at people’s core, for political gain. They perfected these tactics. The people that have come up in conservative politics for the past generation have learned them well, and will not roll over for a speech, no matter how much of an American icon it has already become.

These challenges are not all of government’s making. But the failure
to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and
the failed policies of George W. Bush.

America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.


To Buchanan’s credit, he has been a harsh critic of Bush, the war, and even McCain. Perhaps he now realizes the peril of using divisivie personal issues to divide purely for power’s sake.

Obama took McCain on directly.

Now, I don’t believe that Senator McCain doesn’t care what’s going on
in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn’t know. Why else would
he define middle-class as someone making under five million dollars a
year? How else could he propose hundreds of billions in tax breaks for
big corporations and oil companies but not one penny of tax relief to
more than one hundred million Americans? How else could he offer a
health care plan that would actually tax people’s benefits, or an
education plan that would do nothing to help families pay for college,
or a plan that would privatize Social Security and gamble your


For people of means that most concern McCain and Bush, the cost of birth control is no problem, and neither will they have a tough time acquiring it, no matter how hard they make it for others. But if you rely on public programs because you work an hourly wage and don’t have health insurance, and you need birth control or prenatal care, HIV services, or an abortion, your access is limited. Does John McCain care? Does he get it?

Do voters get that banning abortion, as the GOP platform and McCain propose, will not end abortion? That overturning Roe v. Wade only creates hardship and suffering for women, mothers, sisters, friends, and families.

Obama told several stories of the Americans he’s met along the way, ending that section of the speech with this.

And when I hear a woman talk about the difficulties of starting her
own business, I think about my grandmother, who worked her way up from
the secretarial pool to middle-management, despite years of being
passed over for promotions because she was a woman. She’s the one who
taught me about hard work. She’s the one who put off buying a new car
or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She
poured everything she had into me. And although she can no longer
travel, I know that she’s watching tonight, and that tonight is her
night as well.

I don’t know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities
lead, but this has been mine. These are my heroes. Theirs are the
stories that shaped me.


Obama demonstrated he understands changes that are needed to help women who want to choose to have children.

And now is the time to keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day’s
work, because I want my daughters to have exactly the same
opportunities as your sons.


He spoke to the personal responsibility that progressive policies on sexual and reproductive health are based on.

And Democrats, we must also admit that fulfilling America’s promise
will require more than just money. It will require a renewed sense of
responsibility from each of us to recover what John F. Kennedy called
our "intellectual and moral strength." Yes, government must lead on
energy independence, but each of us must do our part to make our homes
and businesses more efficient. Yes, we must provide more ladders to
success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair. But we
must also admit that programs alone can’t replace parents; that
government can’t turn off the television and make a child do her
homework; that fathers must take more responsibility for providing the
love and guidance their children need.

Individual responsibility and mutual responsibility – that’s the essence of America’s promise.


He spoke comfortably about the spiritual nature of America’s promise, on this night when he also embodied Dr. King’s dream.

Instead, it is that American spirit – that American promise – that
pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us
together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on
what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.

That promise is our greatest inheritance. It’s a promise I make to
my daughters when I tuck them in at night, and a promise that you make
to yours – a promise that has led immigrants to cross oceans and
pioneers to travel west; a promise that led workers to picket lines,
and women to reach for the ballot.

And it is that promise that forty five years ago today, brought
Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in
Washington, before Lincoln’s Memorial, and hear a young preacher from
Georgia speak of his dream.

The men and women who gathered there could’ve heard many things.
They could’ve heard words of anger and discord. They could’ve been told
to succumb to the fear and frustration of so many dreams deferred.

But what the people heard instead – people of every creed and color,
from every walk of life – is that in America, our destiny is
inextricably linked. That together, our dreams can be one.

"We cannot walk alone," the preacher cried. "And as we walk, we must
make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back."

America, we cannot turn back.


Wars often simmer in minor skirmishes before they break out. Such was the case of the Culture War, declared by Pat Buchanan in 1992, 25 years or so after the first battles flamed. Peace is usually negotiated over time, carefully, respectfully.

Buchanan did not declare Culture Peace last night, but he didn’t have to.

His pride in America shone through so brightly that even Obama’s unflinching support for abortion rights coupled with the need to reduce unintended pregnancies; as well as vocal support for gay rights, were seen by Buchanan, as centrist. This may be nothing more than an open door, the realization that we really do have more in common than we’ve been led to believe, that we really can resolve even the most challenging issues — perhaps not to everyone’s satisfaction — but certainly in a way that demonstrates more respect than we’ve witnessed in Washington lately.

No, we may not be ready to declare Culture Peace just yet, but in the end, somewhat ironically, it comes down to a choice. A choice every American will make in November to continue the Culture War as waged by Bush-Rove and extremist social conservatives, or to choose something different, a new way of approaching issues that go to the core of who we are. With that choice, perhaps, we create Culture Peace.

That’s why we fight for choice. For times like this, when the choosing is very important, and very personal.

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  • invalid-0


    Oh boy…Even McCain gave the respect and honor that is due in what can only be called a very significant historic moment for America. However, I should think that he would like to have seen the black man a republican, though. One can see the historic significance and grandeur in an American without agreeing with him at all. I do not see the equation you are putting forth as equaling peace. Anyway, go women! Can anybody say the personally uncompromising PRO-LIFE woman ALSAKAN Governor SARAH PALIN?


  • invalid-0

    Swenson’s piece highlights Obama’s intentions for moving forward in a meaningful way in a country that has been increasingly divided about the vey way its citizens live together. What a refreshing – and yes, hopeful – thing to hear. The country is weary of division and highlighting the ways we are not a community. The points summarized by Swenson describe a sane mission and a course to move forward. We are a big country, and we’re not ever all going to agree on much. Having fresh leadership on these issues that have been beaten beyond a dead horse is the way our country should go.

  • invalid-0

    i must say…really, timothy? you sound an awful lot like what one calls a ‘concern troll’.
    let’s see, “mccain gave the respect and honor that is due in what can only be called a very significant historic moment for america”. not 100% sure what you’re saying here, but if what i’m assuming is correct – you’re saying that mccain’s choice of a female v.p. candidate was showing respect & honor to the female gender by choosing a female v.p., and that it’s a ‘very significant historic moment’.
    remember geraldine ferraro? SHE was that very significant historic moment. she’s also a democrat. that was over 20 years ago.
    respect & honor? using a young, attractive female with little experience, but a heart-string-tugging personal story to garner female votes – THAT’S showing respect & honor to the female gender? omfg – can you sexists even hear yourselves? are you really that clueless? do you really think women are that stupid? oh wait, of course you do…part and parcel of being sexist, eh?
    “go women!”???!!! do you mean ‘go’, as in – “go, no longer have any choice when it comes to your own body! go, no longer have easy access to birth control! go, continue to make 77 cents for every dollar men make!”?
    well, i’ve got news for you, timothy: while i can’t speak for women of low i.q., nor for fundie women, nor for brainwashed women – i can speak for myself, and for every female (and, as a matter of fact, every male) i spoke with today, in saying: WE ARE NOT THAT DUMB! IF WE SUPPORTED HILLARY, IT WAS BECAUSE WE TRUSTED AND ADMIRED HER, NOT BECAUSE SHE HAS A VAGINA. AND WE DO NOT TAKE KINDLY TO THIS CONTINUATION OF PANDERING TO AND PATRONIZING OF OUR GENDER!!!
    go obama/biden!!!

  • invalid-0

    Calm down Scott. Pat Buchanan was just referring to the content of the speech itself, not endorsing Obama’s warmed over socialist ideology. Obama never said “I’m for abortion on demand and against protecting babies from infanticide”, two positions he has taken in the past, and which I’m sure are are dear to you. He simply referred to the nation’s disagreement over the issue — he knows full well that his views are way outside the mainstream, and that this is a serious weakness in his candidacy. The truth is that, as usual, Obama’s speech was vague and general enough to avoid frightening Americans, something his actual views would easily do.

    Also, Buchanan takes a view that any real conservative would take, and that is that America’s aggressive military behavior after the fall of communism (and even, to some extent, before) are immoral and contrary to the legitimate interests of the United States. He probably appreciates Obama’s desire to get out of Iraq.

    But don’t get too excited, Scott. Pat Buchanan is just as much against murdering unborn children and legitimizing sodomy as he was the day before, or 15 years before. There can be no peace without justice. The culture war continues.

    By the way, I don’t know where you got the idea that children will memorize this speech for generations. Your false messiah’s little discourse was pretty run of the mill convention material. Apart from one or two interesting lines, it bored me as much as any political speech of this type normally does. He just exploited the excitement and fanaticism of people like you, with a giant rally, something politicians have been doing at least since Hitler mastered the art, and now you’re all riled up. Who can imagine having to memorize all that pablum?

    If you want to read a good speech, try one from the real Messiah: the Sermon on the Mount. Then ask yourself how that speech could possibly be compatible with tearing babies apart inside their mother’s womb.

    Think about it, Scott.

  • mh


    I think it’s high time for everyone to accept and agree that statements like the following are inflammatory, insulting, and unworthy of a civil dialogue:

     omfg – can you sexists even hear yourselves? are you really that clueless? do you really think women are that stupid? oh wait, of course you do…part and parcel of being sexist, eh?

    Yes, I would like to put "sexist" and "misogynist" in the same bucket as "Hitler" and "murderer". If "OMFG" means what I think it does, I wouldn’t put it in the bucket — instead, I’d put it in the middle school girl’s bathroom.

    Timothy addressed the subject matter of the article and dispassionately expressed his opinion. He closed with an expression of support for the ticket he wants to vote for. You chose, completely without reason, to impugn his motives, accusing him of sexism, and call him stupid.

    I for one am a bit disturbed that no pro-choicers seem willing to honor a woman candidate unless she’s pro-choice. I don’t know a lot about Palin but she sounds like an honest and courageous woman. She may lack in experience, but at least she has executive experience, which Obama lacks completely. She may be hot, but Obama’s way more handsome than Cryptkeeper McCain. To write her off as a sell-out and a betrayer of her gender seems pretty hasty and maybe even — well, not sexist, but nevertheless highly bigoted.

    And to post your venom on an excellent article that expresses hope that we may all one day learn to respect one another even when we disagree is very, very sad indeed.



  • mh

    My congenital mistrust of all government prevents me from sharing your optimism, but I agree that mutual respect is what we should all be working for. I dare say that essays like this will do more for peace than any candidate ever could. Thanks!

  • invalid-0

    so, i have no right to call someone out as being sexist? that’s the equivalent of calling someone “hitler”?
    and you missed my point entirely. as a woman, i honor people on their merits – regardless of gender. i don’t consider someone who is anti-choice, anti-wildlife, pro-firearm, pro-killing animals, pro-big oil, anti-environment, anti-science honorable. i don’t care if it’s a man or a woman, that is not someone i would honor. do i think it’s an accomplisment to go from a beauty queen runner-up to governor? absolutely. doesn’t mean i have to honor her, though.
    furthermore – the point that you missed was this: mcsame’s v.p. choice was such a blatant admission on his part that women will vote for a vagina over issues – and that, my friend, is hitler, oh, i mean sexist. i have a mind, i can think, i do not blindly vote for my gender.
    also, it was timothy who took away from the message of hope by implying that mccain’s pick of a female v.p. was the historic moment, not obama’s incredible speech.
    and if you don’t think sexism exists (which i’m assuming, since you decided to compare “sexist” to “hitler”, not “SEXISTS” to “hitler) why don’t you check out some right wing sites, or even newspapers like the washington post, where comment after comment is about palin’s hot ass, or her “titties” and about wanting to leave “c*m” on her face. yeah…sexism doesn’t exist. i dare you to find comments on liberal sites saying things like that about obama.
    and as far as using initials like “omfg”, geez, grow up. adults swear. yep, they do. every adult i’ve ever known has sworn at some point of anger/exasperation/frustration. and using initials is a well-known way to express one’s anger/exasperation/frustration while showing a little respect to those who don’t want to read the actual word. if initials bother you that much, if you’re THAT uptight, if you’re THAT thin-skinned, then maybe a website devoted to reproductive health & pro-choice really isn’t where you should be.

  • scott-swenson

    Thank you m.h.,

    How refreshing to read this comment right after the screed by Matt Hoffman above, demonstrating in fact that the extremists on the far-right have no interest in finding common ground. I also agree, it is far more important for citizens to speak civilly and create the space for less rancorous discourse. The policies and politics will catch up eventually. That goes for people on both right and left. I’m not suggesting a bland dialog, but one that respects the opinions of others, and recognizes medical and scientific realities on the right, and faith on the left, without name-calling doesn’t seem too much to ask. Then again, for me, I like having the extremists in plain view. They do more to educate the independents and people in the middle about their narrow mindset than anyone writing for this site ever could.

    Be the change you seek,

    Scott Swenson, Editor

  • scott-swenson

    Matt, Please don’t put words in my mouth. You do not know me, and your distortions of fact, and twisting of my words, are so outrageous as to be laughable. I know you are not interested in bringing about anything like a Culture Peace, which as Christian I find quite illuminating, because you know that Peace will be based on where the middle in this country is. Buchanan did not say, nor did I suggest, that he agreed with Obama, he said “that was not a liberal speech, it was a centrist speech” indicating that even he recognizes, what you cannot, that the center of the country can agree to disagree, on hot button issues, while working to reduce unintended pregnancies and not discriminating against fellow Americans. More people recognize that the extreme fringe, who believes the world will be perfect if we just overturn one Supreme Court decision, and figure out how to marginalize people because of the way they find love in this world, is out of touch. Please continue using your extremist rhetoric, it really does help make my point more than you realize.

    Be the change you seek,

    Scott Swenson, Editor

  • mh

    Yes, adults swear. I swear.


    But I don’t swear at strangers. First because it’s rude, second because it makes me look childish. That’s why I do not equate your Oh-my-fucking-god to "Hitler." I equate it to silly middle school girl drama queeniness, something I hope and pray my own adolescent daughter will grow out of before it completely drives me bonkers, and something which you, evidently, never grew out of and probably never will.


    If you want to yell and swear at strangers, I think you should grab a picket sign and go do it on the street. Ranting in public has a noble history in this great country and it has accomplished amazing things. Also, it requires courage. 


    From now on I’ll just report your nasty comments. If you raise a valid point, I’ll try to answer, and then I’ll flag the rest. But otherwise, you can save your venomous breath for someone who will play your game. I hope you have fun.


    So farewell, Vivienne. And don’t think it hasn’t been a little slice of heaven because — to quote Bugs Bunny — IT AIN’T!

  • invalid-0

    “As a Christian”? You only discredit yourself further with absurd statements like that. Anyone can call themselves anything, but obviously your ideology of sexual selfishness and murder are incompatible with the teachings of Christ.

    As for the rest of your statement: is it necessary to note the irony in the fact that you write an article talking about how wonderful it would be if pro-lifers gave up their defense of the unborn so we could “work together” with the culture of death, and then do everything you can to try to marginalize us as much as possible, portraying us as “extreme”?

    Let’s do a “reality check” in accordance with the name of this site. It’s true that a majority of Americans will respond in polls that they support Roe, but they obviously don’t know the content of the decision, because a majority also say that they either wish to eliminate abortion in all cases, or give exceptions only in cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother.

    In other words, poll after poll has shown that the majority of Americans would eliminate 98% or more of the abortions that occur annually in the country, because only 1-2% have to do with rape, incest, or the life of the mother.

    If you, or anyone else doesn’t believe me, just check out this very specific poll:

    It shows that a majority want to restrict abortion at least to rape, incest, and the life of the mother, and a percentage want to ban it altogether. That would eliminate about 98-99% of abortions.

    Other polls, using less specific questions, are often used to confuse the public about the majority view. For example, this poll asks people if they want to restrict abortion in “all”, “most”, “some” or “no” cases, but the problem is that the respondents are not likely to know how often abortions for rape and incest and the life of the mother occur. Even here, though, 44% would eliminate most cases:

    Here’s an example of a poll that is made too vague to give a very clear answer, but even it is revealing:

    Despite the headline, it actually shows that a strong majority want more restrictions on abortion. It’s not specific enough to show how much they want it restricted (even I would not eliminate indirect abortions to save a woman’s life), but other polls show us that the public would eliminate at least 98% of abortions.

    Now, let’s examine your position. You are in favor of allowing abortions during all nine months of pregnancy, for any reason whatsoever. I assume you also want the taxpayers to pay for it. Who is outside the mainstream, Scott?

    All of your screaming rhetoric trying to marginalize people like myself just reminds us all of how extreme you really are. Of course, truth is not determined by majority vote, so the issue never is what the majority thinks, but the truth is that you are way outside the mainstream, yet you always portray yourself as the voice of the center.

    Your blustering about how I supposedly hurt my position by mentioning the truth about abortion doesn’t intimidate me. The abortionists have been trying to convince us to shut up for 40 years. We didn’t listen to you, and that’s why we’re winning. It isn’t extremist rhetoric to say that abortion rips a baby apart inside his mother’s womb. It’s just a fact. It is an extreme fact, indeed. Abortion is a very extreme procedure, as were the gas chambers in Nazi Germany, and every other system of mass murder. Talking about the procedure can and does upset people. But if it’s upsetting simply to mention the nature of abortion, to talk about what happens in an abortion, then perhaps that indicates that the procedure itself is objectionable. What do you think?

    Scott, you may think I’m trying to tear you down by attacking your position, but I’m not. I’m being as tough as is appropriate when one is arguing with those who rationalize evil, but my purpose is to edify, not to tear you down. I want you and the rest of the people who contribute to this confused site to be liberated from the darkness of the death culture that has engulfed your lives. If God can rescue me, who was once a pro-abortion atheist, he can rescue you too.

  • scott-swenson


    Please don’t shut up. I celebrate your belief and your right to them, I’ll fight for them. That’s why I love this country. And please don’t shut up, because you help more people to see the threat here is to our democracy if we fall over the the edge of dictating beliefs, as you would, to everyone. So please, keep talking, keep writing. This, at least for now, is a free country and we should all celebrate that. Also I don’t need to be “rescued” but thanks for the offer. Peace to you.

    Be the change you seek,

    Scott Swenson, Editor