The Wrong Recipe for Ending The Culture Wars? A Response to Saletan

In his op-ed in today’s New York Times, William Saletan offers what appears to be a simple prescription for "ending the culture wars," by offering proposals for birth control, abortion, and gay marriage.

His basic premise:

"Our moral debates have become stale and fruitless.  The reason is that we’ve pitted morality against practicality.  These two principles need each other.  Let’s marry them"

I will leave aside the issue of gay marriage, about which I agree with Saletan’s conclusion.  Extend to all who want to marry the right to marry. 

But I disagree with the basic premises underlying the rest of Saletan’s piece and found much of it deeply troubling. 

In suggesting President Obama take on the issue of abortion in his address to Congress, Saletan says that to change the debate on contraception and abortion, President Obama will have to:

"tell two truths that the left and the right don’t want to hear: that morality has to be practical and that practicality requires morals."

He later states:

"Our challenge is to put these two issues [abortions and birth control] together. For
liberals, that means taking abortion seriously as an argument for
contraception. … Reproductive-health counselors must speak bluntly to women who are
having unprotected sex. And as Mr. Obama observed last year, men must
learn that ‘responsibility does not end at conception.’"

To be honest, I found this insulting, for several reasons.  First, women’s rights advocates and reproductive health providers have always put these two issues together.  It’s called "prevention" and it is the core of reproductive health services that include efforts to prevent unintended pregnancies, prevent infections, assist people who wish to get pregnant, offer pre-natal and maternal care, and much more.

What exactly does Mr. Saletan think reproductive health counselors do, but guide people toward protected sex, help them find the methods they need and which will work best for them, and counsel them on correct and consistent use?  Has he ever been in a clinic and availed himself of the services?  I have.  Many times.  It might be time for him to take a trip to one. 

Yet Mr. Saletan wraps up his argument in a neat little set of statistics meant to show that access to birth control is not the problem, but rather the cavalier attitudes of women having sex. 

I beg to differ.

Real access to birth control and to accurate information is a huge problem in this country.  Given the current climate, everything from condoms to emergency contraception is contested by the Catholic Church and various entities on a daily basis.  Hormonal methods and IUDs are labeled as abortifacients, and many anti-choice organizations don’t recognize the medical definition of pregnancy as defined by professional medical societies in the US and internationally.  We have come out of 8 years of efforts to deny women access to primary health services, and out from under an Administration that tried everything it could to hamstring service delivery and to misinform the public, including having the Centers for Disease Control put out inaccurate information on condoms and on abortion and breast cancer; giving a pass to Senator Frist–a medical doctor–when he claimed on a news program that HIV could be transmitted through saliva; delays in approval of emergency contraception; delays in approval of waivers for Medicare coverage of family planning; and now regulations that allow any provider to deny people access to legal services for any reason.  These are but a few examples.

It gets a little harder each day to deliver services to prevent unintended pregnancy
and perform your duties when you might at any moment have your clinic
bombed, have false clients with hidden video cameras telling lurid stories to try to entrap you, or when, as will begin this Wednesday, February 25th, the
anti-choice movement begins a "40-days-for-Life" series of Lenten
protests outside of clinics, many of which don’t even provide abortions,
but do provide birth control.  When discussing this with the head of a
clinic in the midwest today, I asked (knowing the answer but I had to
ask), "if you are not providing abortions, why are they protesting

Answer: "They object to birth control."

How many people do you think will end up with unintended pregnancies
in the next 40 days who otherwise might not have gotten pregnant if
they did not need riot gear to enter a clinic?

Is this moral?

And let’s at least mention a much-discussed issue on RH Reality Check: we’ve spent $1.5 billion the past 10 years on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that have been completely discredited, tell girls it is their fault if they are raped and ensure that girls who are "prepared for sex" (e.g. birth control) are made out to be dirty, slutty, and immoral.

Think they are going to raise the issue of birth control when the time comes?

Saletan does not address or critique these policies in depth, he simply glides over them as "a second front in the culture wars" on the way to blaming women, providers, and liberals for, again, being too cavalier about and not recognizing the moral dimensions of abortion.

Abortion, he says, isn’t about:

"a shortage of pills or condoms. It’s a shortage of cultural
and personal responsibility. It’s a failure to teach, understand, admit
or care that unprotected sex can lead to the creation — and the
subsequent killing, through abortion — of a developing human being."

This is the piece I find most insulting. And if Saletan wanted to bridge some sort of divide, he lost me right there.

Why?  Because this is not about pitting "morals" against

It is about fundamental moral differences. 

The real issue is that when we talk about "morals," we only ever posit one set of morals in all of this,
the "morals" of the ultra-right, of fundamentalist Christian
evangelicals and of the Catholic Church (as opposed to the Catholic
laity who use contraception and turn to abortion at the same rates as
anyone else in the population).  

In fact, contrary to what Saletan says, part of the problem is that the issues of
sex, birth control, reproduction, sexuality, and abortion are always
portrayed as "moral" versus "practical" or as "lifestyle" issues.  Put it this way and it is a quick slide down the slippery slope to "you have no morals if
you are only thinking of your own practicality."  You can substitute the words convenience, needs,
career, lifestyle….you get the picture.  This is the argument of the far right. They are moral, we are hedonistic and "practical" about the consequences.

However, there are those of us who believe that abortion is a moral choice. That it is not
"killing another human being" to have an abortion before a fetus is viable.  That there are moral reasons for late-term abortions if a woman’s life or health is in danger or for other reasons about which the decision should be made between the woman, her doctor, and her God, if she has any. 

There are those of us—women, men, people of faith—who believe women
are indeed moral actors in deciding to have an abortion, and who have moral
positions on positive approaches to sex, sexuality, and contraception.  These moral
positions just don’t comport with the
"other" moral positions and they were not the moral positions of the powerful over the past 8 years. 

But the premise of a pluralistic society is that we have the right to make moral decisions based on our personal beliefs in contested
areas such as sex and reproduction in which we don’t want to follow
someone else’s God or party line. 

The real problem, I would argue, contrary to Saletan, is the immorality of a set
of actors who have used these issues as a way to increase their power
and their own flocks, and on the way, enrich themselves. 

I am not claiming that good people in good faith do not have difficulty with the issue of abortion.  I do claim that they have no right to decide such a personal issue for someone else, and especially not in a climate in which the very preventive tools and services necessary to reduce unintended pregnancies have become so contested.  And I do dismiss those who I see as being there more for political gain than anything else.

Saletan either does not understand this or wishes not to address it.

The real problem here is that we are simply unable as a nation to have a conversation about what
it would mean to have healthy, safe, consensual sexual lives as a normal aspect of human development. We deny
people basic services.  We mislead adolescents and young adults.  We let women suffer health consequences of lack
of care without admitting any social responsibility.  And then we blame
the women.  I call that immoral and unethical.

So let’s be practical and moral.  Let’s zero out the abstinence-only-until-marriage funding that has fed the coffers of groups who undermine effective prevention and responsible decision-making by perpetuating misinformation and using fear, shame, and ideology to mislead adolescents.  The President needs to do this in his budget this week.  Let’s work to pass–this spring–the Prevention First Act, the Responsible Education About Life (REAL Act), the Affordable Birth Control Act, the Medicaid waiver about which the Republicans so bombastically grand-standed during the stimulus debate.  Let’s ensure that all government funded reproductive health services get full funding without delay, in this next appropriations bill.  Let’s get rid of the ridiculous regulations put in place by HHS before Bush left office. Let’s condemn the misinformation campaign that as dominated the debate for too long and which is enabled by silence of those who talk morality about abortion but never call out the actors who misrepresent the issues.  Address gender-based violence, stigma, and discrimination against women, and against gay, lesbian, and transgender persons.  This strategy is moral because it fulfills the real needs of individuals and groups who need access to health care and services, improves health and saves lives, and practical because it enables people to make responsible decisions in their own contexts, and also because it saves us all money in health care and social costs down the line.  Prioritize these and other efforts, and engage a healthy national conversation about sex as part of life, and I assure you unintended pregnancies and infections will decline.

So I think what President Obama most needs to say is what he should have said during the stimulus debate: 

Reproductive health care is basic health care.  It is a personal issue, an economic and family issue, and a social issue.  We need to focus on prevention based on evidence of what works, and honor the diverse views of a pluralistic society.  Therefore, I will no longer allow this issue to become politicized, nor allow policy to be based on misinformation spread about birth control, reproductive health services or sexual health education.  We all want to reduce unintended pregnancies.  By doing so, we can reduce the number of abortions.  But understand that women will still need access to safe abortion services and must be respected as the moral agents in choosing what is best for them.  We must respect each other as moral actors.  We must understand that our strength lies in the plurality of views in this country and the fundamental right to freedom of religion.  We can not allow these principles to be further eroded.  Therefore, I pledge as a first step to lay the basic foundation for "common ground" by creating the policies and the funding needed to expand access to the services and information needed by all people to make responsible choices about sex and reproduction.  

Recognizing diversity of moral choices and positions, and putting prevention first despite the outcry of the powerful minority, is the only way to move beyond the "tired debates" of the past.

[This post was updated at 7:18 am February 23rd.]


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  • invalid-0

    Wow! Just when you had me on your side, you lost me by blathering on so angrily that you essentially make Saletan’s argument for him. Sometimes it appears you’re too busy spouting off statistics and the same old dusty tag lines that you miss the point of what rational people are trying to say. And in the process you alienate folks in the middle who are essentially on your side. Nothing in that article is remotely offensive, but I guess if you’re looking to be offended by a man telling folks on both sides of the aisle of so-called women’s issues to calm it down, then surely you’ll find a reason to be upset.

    You can use radical examples of folks on the right calling BC abortifacents and use ridiculous scare tactics talking about abortion clinics blowing up, but the fact is availability of BC is not the main issue — though it’s one of many — but rather primarily something you’ve discussed at length: the need to change the way we discuss sex in this country. I’ve been in the field long enough, done programs in rural and urban areas alike with both youth and adults, in two different parts of the country — never do I consistently hear that finding BC or knowing about it is a principle issue.

    But no matter. To think that only those on the right are in this fight for political gain is baloney. And to say that all women’s rights advocates are equally well versed in pro-choice issues and contraceptive issues is simply not true. And you should know this. Maybe those at the top of the field are, but there are a good many women who hold a Pro-Choice sign outside of Planned Parenthood and wear a t-shirt with a catchy slogan on it and yell at pro-life protesters, and they couldn’t tell you the first thing about an IUD or NuvaRing.

    You end your piece, “Recognizing diversity of moral choices and positions, and putting prevention first despite the outcry of the powerful minority, is the only way to move beyond the “tired debates” of the past.” And yet you spend all this time having tired debates of the past. You quote Saletan: “It’s a shortage of cultural and personal responsibility. It’s a failure to teach, understand, admit or care that unprotected sex can lead to the creation — and the subsequent killing, through abortion — of a developing human being.” What about this so offensive? I’m guessing you just don’t like the wording. I’ll admit killing is a strong word, but what he’s trying to do is say that there’s really no common ground to be reached on issues of morality. You (and I, too) think a woman has the right to choose, the other side thinks they’re protecting innocent life — and they have every right to believe that with conviction — and there’s no compromise. Unless, as he states, we as a society come together to reduce those unintended pregnancies in the first place. And while it can be read that he’s singling out women, I don’t see it that way at all. He’s saying we fail to be responsible personally when we have unprotected sex, and I’d argue that we fail culturally because we don’t provide comprehensive sex ed and because we live in a society in which many people don’t care enough about their future to worry about the consequences of unprotected sex.

    To just say “let’s be practical and moral” and think you’ve changed the game is foolish. You’re not being practical at all by bashing a thoughtful piece aimed to improve reproductive health rights in this country; all you do is provide fodder for the other side with such vitriol. And as far as being moral, it’s all well and good when you think you’re on the correct side morally. I don’t think the left has to budge one iota on the pro-choice debate, but they should at least try to recognize and acknowledge, if not publicly — because, of course, there’s no way they’d have the courage to appear weak — than to themselves, that abortion is often not a pleasant occurrence for anyone involved. Many people disagree with you, and unless you try to find common ground — something you utterly fail to do here — then the dialogue remains, in Saletan’s words, “stale and fruitless.”

  • amanda-marcotte

    It’s not just abortion that gets lost when you claim the right is about morality and the left is about practicality.  It’s also contraception—does Lord Saletan actually believe that it’s immoral for women to use contraception?  Or, if not immoral, certainly less moral than women who don’t?  That’s ridiculous, but it’s an endemic assumption that these men make in these columns, because they have unexamined virgin/whore issues. 


    Women who plan their births through the use of contraception and abortion are making deeply moral choices.  They choose themselves and they choose their families.  It would be immoral for me personally to have children I don’t want, or to stop having sex for no good reason, which would produce nothing but bad effects.  Just because some choices make you miserable doesn’t make them more moral.  What an odd thing to think.

  • choice-joyce

    An excellent article, Jodi, thank you!  I hope Saletan sees it. He has a reputation for buying too much of what the anti-choice are selling. As for Jonathan Oppenheimer, he seemed to have trouble understanding your article, as he missed your major points and also responded irrationally, e.g., he refers to "vitriol" in your piece. Quite a stretch! Seems to me that both Saletan and Oppenheimer are "pro-choice, but" types, with the "but" always leading to moral accusations against women.

  • invalid-0

    What she was saying, in her usually thorough and well-informed way, was that (1) much of what Saletan was admonishing the pro-choice side to acknowledge and do, they already do so (showing that he does not even understand at least one side of the debate), and (2) that “morality” is not the exclusive domain of one side, when both sides have claim to it, just in different forms (which invalidates the very premise of the “_____ or morality” argument).

    The culture wars will end when pro-lifers give up their efforts to legally force others to live by the dictates of their faith—or, more likely, when their political clout is marginalized for good by a sea change in society’s respect for women’s rights and autonomy. Till then, we fight.

  • invalid-0

    No, I stand by my use of the word “vitriol.” It may be disguised as something less severe, but I still see it for what it is: blaming the other side for all that’s wrong. And it hurts our argument — and I say “our,” because I’m 200% pro-choice, in every sense of the word. I’m just having trouble seeing why there’s so much anger directed at Saletan. I don’t see the moral accusations against women of which you claim, and as I hope to make clear, two people are responsible for a pregnancy, so I don’t have anything to exclusively accuse women of either. I also don’t know where it is that the pro-life/anti-choice folks have gotten to him or me. More than anything, the point I’m trying to make is that we can be as stubborn as we like, but the effect of talking about, say, abstinence-only-until-marriage programs as “tell[ing] girls it is their fault if they are raped and ensur[ing] that girls who are “prepared for sex” (e.g. birth control) are made out to be dirty, slutty, and immoral.” — this kind of stuff is insulting to our intelligence and does nothing to advance the conversation. Do such terrible things happen here and there? I’m sure Jody can point me to the source. But from everything I can tell, Saletan does nothing to endorse this kind of nonsense — it all just gets thrown in together in an offensive manner, because it’s the M.O. of both unproductive sides.

  • aspen-baker

    Will Saletan earns his living off of being provacative, and apparently, he’s good at it because every time he writes about abortion, he gets a lot of people talking. The thing that strikes me about his piece is his focus on behavior and how to change the way people think and feel.  I think this is an important distinction from typical abortion discussions that focus on policy, products and services as answers to our problems.  While we may not agree with the behaviors and thinking that he is suggesting, I think his departure from the status-quo is very interesting and thought-provoking. I would like to read more on this site about pro-choice ideas and strategies for promoting positive, sexuality and parenting through behavior change.   

  • colleen

    "I’m just having trouble seeing why there’s so much anger directed at Saletan."

     Really!?  I certainly see why folks are angry with Saletan’s shallow cluelessness. Jodi is a clear and honest writer and today’s  essay is no exception.


    Perhaps if you reread this paragraph:


    The real issue is that when we talk about "morals," we only ever posit one set of morals in all of this, the "morals" of the ultra-right, of fundamentalist Christian evangelicals and of the Catholic Church (as opposed to the Catholic laity who use contraception and turn to abortion at the same rates as anyone else in the population). 


    I think she nails it right there. 


  • colleen

    "While we may not agree with the behaviors and thinking that he is
    suggesting, I think his departure from the status-quo is very
    interesting and thought-provoking."


    What departure from the status quo? Saletan’s latest is one of the most predictable sorts of ‘abortion non-discussions’. It consists of some entitled white guy getting up there and lecturing ‘liberals’ not about what we do and think and believe but, rather, what they imagine we think and do and believe. 



  • jodi-jacobson

    I appreciate having you write and express your views.
    A few things. I read Saletan as basically feeding right back into the stalemate he claims to want to break. You can’t just keep "weighing" things as equal here. The very fact that we can not have one single conversation in Congress or the White House or in the media or socially which unequivocally and accurately portrays rights to access birth control, practice family planning, or otherwise have safer sex is proof of the fact that fear of the ultra right has defined the conversation.


    The only "moral" conversation we ever have is about the toleration of the "immoral" nature of abortion, not one in which choices are moral as made by people themselves, based on their circumstances. I think that leaving this unexplored means that Saletan does not engage this issue.
    We just have to agree to disagree on this one.


    Also, in regard to access and your points about it……
    Knowledge of birth control and knowledge of where to get birth control do not equal access. Access is defined by other factors as well including: affordability, timeliness of access, geographical access, and lack of stigma and discrimination associated with accessing and using birth control, among other things. Women in this country as yet still have problems accessing contraception and using it without discrimation or stigma; this latter part being the case among adolescents.

    According to Vivian M. Dickerson, M.D., past president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists,

    "More than 16.8 million U.S. women need publicly funded contraception but don’t have access to proper care. Most private insurers don’t cover contraception.

    And, according to Rebekah E. Gee, M.D., of Philadelphia Veteran’s
    Affairs Medical Center and the University of Pennsylvania:

    "A sexually active woman who has unprotected sex for five years will
    experience an average of 4.25 unintended pregnancies. Restricting a
    woman’s family planning options essentially forces her to accept those
    unacceptable odds."

    Many women who need access to birth control lack access because they are not covered by private insurance, and lack access to publicly funded services.  While I do not see many "statistics" in my piece, these facts are indeed important to understanding the real situation of real women.

    This is a consequence in large part of the ongoing war on contraception.  if you don’t think this has affected access and the rate of unintended pregnancies, what do you think has been the effect?  Nothing?

    Again, thanks for writing, Jodi


  • jodi-jacobson

    if you don’t think that an environment in which sexual behavior is stigmatized and in which stereotypes are used to portray women is problematic in regard to sexual negotiation and contraceptive use, again we just have to agree to disagree.

    Please see my post with extensive documentation of abstinence-only until marriage programs and their outcomes earlier this week. Please also see Amanda’s post on women and sex because I also think it is completely pertinent here.

    Saletan focused on the behavior of “women” and providers. He did nothing more than reinforce the stereotypes and arguments of the far right while positing false dichotomies on morality and practicality. Let’s say this….give us 5 years in which women only control the political debate and the funding streams in this country regarding sex and sexuality and many of these issues will be moot. I am serious.

    Finally….yes two people are responsible for a pregnancy. I noticed that Saletan said nothing about men’s responsbility in birth control, nor about the contribution of intimate partner violence in low rates of birth control use or in unintended pregnancy and abortion. He had one throw away line there. Having spent nearly 25 years in this field, i saw nothing new in his argument.

    I guess I am just a bit tired of having privileged white men controlling the debate around women’s access to essential services.


  • invalid-0

    Jodi, Thanks as always for responding to those who comment. I’ll wrap up our discussion simply by saying that I stand with you on just about any argument you’ll make about the need to change the way we view contraception — access, education, values, gender, negotioation, all of it. And I’ll happily hand the reigns over to women to lead that debate. My concern was that I felt you twisted the debate into something it was not about. I’m thinking more in terms of abortion, and while I’ve heard and read plenty here and elsewhere about Saletan being old and stale and not positing anything new re: abortion, that’s not what I saw really as his point. What I found appealing was that he seemed to be recognizing that we had a new President, who — whether one believes it or not — was elected and presents himself as someone who can mend fences. Maybe it’s wholly impossible. But it’s worth a shot. And when we talk culture wars, abortion is at the top of the list. And I think it’s wrong to lump pro-lifers into the anti-contraception camp, because I think it’s simply often not the case. So I welcomed a opinion being presented on a national stage like the Times, encouraging Obama to be a leader on this issue, because it was not something we ever could’ve hoped for under Bush. The hope is that Obama will take stands for women’s rights when necessary, all the while understanding that the religious right must be appeased to a certain extent because they’re American too. I’ll happily take heat for that from now until doomsday, but the fact is I’ve become just as disillusioned with the feminist left (and yes, I consider myself a feminist, despite being a white male) as with the nutty right. And I feel like the language you use, as someone with a prominent platform and I assume a good many readers, should be more understanding of the pro-life perspective. We can believe in our morals and we should. We should also respect others, without dismissing just them because we think they’re bullies and meanies. That seems petty and unproductive to me. And while we agree on much, we can happily disagree on much else. Thanks, Jonathan

  • jodi-jacobson

    I really do appreciate you writing. And like I said, I think we can agree to disagree.


    I respect everyone’s right to their opinions, their moral stances and their personal choices. I really do. This is extremely different than the contested "political spaces" created by what I consider the institutionalized religious right.


    So, for example, if people feel really concerned about abortion, they do not have to make that choice for themselves, but must acknowledge that others require having that choice available, even if they never avail themselves of it.
    What it requires even more, to be legitimate in my view, is to say, "hey, we have a problem with unintended pregnancies." Let’s figure out what that is about. Let’s stop this nonsensical demonizing of sex, of contraception, and yes, of sexual identity, etc. (because it is all of the same package).


    And let’s get together to push really really hard back against those who are doing the demonizing.
    That may be happening in small ways among people who believe in actual real "common ground."  However it is not anywhere near the dominant political debate.   In big ways, what we still see is what happened in the stimulus debate, where the needs of poor and recently unemployed people for basic health care including access to contraception was mocked (by politicians and the media) and was jettisoned at the first chance, even by our new president.


    I am already tired of this "abortion reduction" argument because it is nothing new. It does not obviate the core issue. People can behave in the best ways possible but at the end of the day morally choose to be in a sexual relationship and morally choose to be contracepting, or preventing infection, and will practically need real services to carry out those "good decisions." we have eroded both the space in which we can speak about those services, the need for them, and people’s right to use them, and also have for years on ended done the wrong thing politically and in terms of funding.   We have to correct that basic platform before we move forward.


    As for hearing the far right: I say the President can "hear" all he wants.  That is not the same as accepting their ideology, even a little bit.  That is not compromise, it is capitulation, if their ideology says: we don’t want anyone having sex outside heterosexual marriage, we don;’ want to acknowledge gays and lesbians, we don’t want to legitimate hormonal contraceptives  etc. anyone is free to attend a church or other community where those things are taught; they are free to believe them in their own lives.  That is very different from setting policy around those concepts, and/or giving money to churches or organizations that espouse them and legitimating them as "public" positions.  I hope that makes sense.


    I think we have seriously lost the important line in the conceptual meaning of church and state.

    It is the stigmatizing, blame, misinformation, and the failure of anyone in the governemnt to stand up against this that is so troublesome.  Someone needs to do so, if nothing more than to make breathing space for what common ground might actually be.


    We should stop addressing abortion as a "cause," and start addressing the real issues at root.  By doing so we can reduce unintended pregnancies, which in the end will reduce–but never eliminate–abortion.  The public responsibility is to create a climate in which people can make good choices, recognizing that does not always mean everyone, all the time; and the difficulty is in creating that climate without the stigma, discrimination, shaming and misinformation that is at the core of this debate.

    And for the record, I am all in favor of personal responsibility.  I try hard to practice it though of course am fallible in many cases (i eat too much chocolate and drink too much coffee, for example), and teach my kids the same.  That really is a different issue and one we can not even get to unless we acknowledge the right to healthy, consensual sexual lives, the social benefits of creating a culture in which people can then make the best choices, and the services that are needed to ensure those choices can be effectuated.

    i hope that makes sense.  



  • invalid-0

    Of course women love abortion and need to be more responsible. In fact American women are sooo irresponsible the President needs to publicy address it. What a dumb idea. Unless the President is willing to state to his own gender “If you don’t like abortion dispense with your irresponsible sleazy behavior”, then he should not say anything at all. Women, including those who have had and will have abortions, are responsible. Women and those who advocate for their rights are not the problem here. The ignorance of guys like Saletan is.

  • invalid-0

    See homepage:
    We need to divide the nation and force cultural secession by establishing and moving to overpopulation towns that use contraception to make public school taxes unnecessary. Don’t fight in SD and SC, evacuate them! to reinforce pro-contraception/overpopulation voters in viable states, leading eventually to migratory secession on the India Pakistan model.

  • invalid-0

    Thanks, Al435, but if we’re going to win the culture wars, we’d really like to do it with techniques that don’t look like something out of a grainy-filmed WWII documentary.

    I don’t quite grasp the sense in which you are using the term “secession,” but if you’ve stayed on top of the news coming out of India and Pakistan, not least the tension and violence in the Kashmir region, and the recriminations over the recent Mumbai attacks, I don’t think you’d want to hold them up as any sort of model for our society. As brutal as the culture wars may get, they are still largely being fought without guns and bombs.