So, as I mentioned about about a couple weeks ago, I ordered Bill O’Reilly’s Culture Warrior and Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope via Amazon. I really wanted to get to O’Reilly’s book first, since I’ve been watching his show for some time, and I wanted to get the views of someone I would probably disagree with more before I got to a committed Democrat like Obama.
I’ve been of the thought for some time that O’Reilly isn’t as conservative as people make him out to be. He may be misguided in some of his views (in my opinion), but that doesn’t make him some radical conservative. He, in fact, opposes radical conservatism as much as he does radical liberalism. On the other hand, just like his show, he tends to focus on the far left more than he does the far right. He claims this is because not much is going on with the far right, but I disagree. You can’t have people like Pat Robertson out there and not say much isn’t going on with the radical conservatives. Then you have the neo-cons like our dear President and Vice President, who are bastardizing the conservative ideology. Yet O’Reilly rarely, if ever, touches on these issues. He’s focuses far more on the far left control of the media, and their attempted movement of their agenda into the hearts in minds of Americans.
The latter two are what he focuses heavily on in Culture Warrior. He takes on issues such as the so-called War on Christmas, the media, the war on terror, social programs, and others to explain how what he calls “secular-progressives” are attempting to form an America in the mold of Western Europe. Let me take a minute to explain the two groupings of people O’Reilly talks about in the book. For those of you who don’t watch his show, a “secular-progressive,” as defined by O’Reilly, is anyone who thinks that America is in a bad place (some may even think it’s evil), and would benefit from a system of government and way of thinking that is closer to Western Europe (not including the UK). Secular-progressives are pushing for social programs to the extent that all Americans are basically cared for by the government. They’d also like increased rights for children (trumping the rights of a parent), lenient sentences for criminals, and freedom of drug use, and, among other things and most importantly, a decrease in the prominence of religion in the public arena. A “traditional” is somebody who thinks America is a good place, and has done a lot of noble things for the world. They would like to see the Judeo-Christian values that America was founded on to remain in place. They support things like the “sanctity of marriage (I’ll get to this in a bit),” the war on terror, the allowing of prayer and other public displays of religion in the public arena, children’s rights not to trump parent’s rights, and other things. Basically, O’Reilly is promoting the traditionalist way of life, and explaining why he thinks the secular-progressive vision for American is the wrong way to go.
I found myself deeply split by the book. so, I’ll say what I do and don’t like.
I actually do agree with O’Reilly on several points, but disagree on others. I think the whole “you must be sensitive to other religions” things as crap. When I say “Merry Christmas,” I mean it in its most secular sense, since I don’t really submit to the whole religion thing. Christmas has become secularized enough that saying that greeting shouldn’t be met with disgust, and I don’t think it does for the majority of Americans. Places like Walmart changing their greeting seem to only happen when a minority complain. On the other hand, I think the idea of a “War on Christmas” is equally as stupid. Yea, some places and people may want to push for a more “sensitive” America, but come on. I’ve already stated that I don’t think most people honestly care. Let the ACLU or whoever else bring it on – newsflash for them: bugger off. Ok, spent more time on that, then needed. But, really, I do agree with him on many things in the book. I do support the war on terror, and think that somebody needs to do something about it, if no one else will. I even support the War in Iraq, in principle. But, even O’Reilly doesn’t like the handling of it. I also think we could have waited just a little bit longer for Hans Blix to finish his job. And finally, I definitely don’t support places like Vermont given weak sentences for crimes like rape. The punishment should fit the crime, right? I also think that America is a good place, that has done noble things. It’s also done some rather non-noble things, and has made mistakes (supporting the likes of Osama in the 1970s because we hated the USSR more comes to mind).
Well, I’ve already said that I agree on many issues O’Reilly touches on. He definitely does a good job expressing himself on some of the hot button issues in today’s America. Gay marriage, weak sentences for some crimes in some states, the parent/child relationship, and who really controls the media are some that come to mind. He makes clear his positions on these issues; to be sure, he’s not ambiguous on what he feels. I also like that he makes clear many times that not all Democrats are S-P’s, though he seems to think most Republicans are traditionalists (and he’s probably right).
While he does make clear who is and who isn’t an S-P or traditionalist, he seems to use “secular-progressive” and “liberal,” rather interchangeably, though I’m guessing he means “radical liberal.” Why not just abbreviate that as he does “S-P?” I don’t know. I also think he needs to touch more on the whole “secular” thing. I personally think he means people who would rather the U.S. be without religion entirely, or at least, in public. Yet, I’m fairly certain a lot of Western Europe countries are deeply religious, if not in government, than in their own personal beliefs. I just came back from Greece, where 98% of the population is baptized “Greek Orthodox.” Now, I don’t know how many of them are actually religious, but it’s the only country in the world where I’ve seen the religious leaders walk around like it was their job. But, I’ll get into this more some other time.
Similarly, I don’t like how the word “progressive” is made dirty. Progressive ideas got us through the depression. Progressive ideas were responsible for the civil rights movement. So, not all progressive ideas are bad, yet O’Reilly doesn’t say this (other than calling MLK, Jr. a traditionalist). I personally think that health care is a right for all people, and that those who do not have the means to get it should be able to do so from the government. I also think that people who can afford would be better off with paid health care plans (though without the insane premiums some providers charge). That’s a very progressive idea, it really is. If you listen to a certain segment of people, those who can’t afford health care must have brought it on themselves. Well, they’re wrong. So, yes, I do believe in some progressive ideas. That doesn’t make me a bad person. I think health care for those who can’t afford it IS a traditionalist value.
Regarding the “culture war,” O’Reilly kind of suggests that it is like a battlefield, describing some S-P followers as “shock troops.” I do think some of the organizations mentioned may have an agenda. However, I’m still a little split on whether “secular progressivism” is a real problem. Yes, some things is today society can be stupid, whether it be the idea you can’t say “Merry Christmas” or the idea that spanking is bad. Personally, I think society has it forwards and backwards movements on many issues. O’Reilly did some job in showing the big boys like Walmart how stupid things like “Holiday Trees” were. However, I think eventually society itself would have realized this, and acted accordingly. So, I’m split. Certainly, “secular” and “progressive” are not bad things at face value. What are bad things are insane ideas. Is there an agenda to make society accept secularism and insanely progressive ideas? I don’t know, but somehow I doubt it. I point to the fact that most of our Presidents since the ’50s have been Republican. I’m just not sure it’s that bad. I’ll have to sleep on it more and get back to you all.
The thing I didn’t like the most was his comparison of Western European socialism to the authoritarian Communist regimes like Castro’s Cuba. Come on. They’re not like that. Socialism does not necessarily equate to the Marxist-Leninist model, or even just Marxist. I may be wrong, but I’m rather sure that there is private ownership in France, or the Netherlands, that there’s capitalism going strong in these countries. Yes, there may be some public ownership of industries, but so is there such is this one. Western European socialism means more about providing services for the people. Yes, there is more tax, but there’s also more services. It’s not about the government owning everything, or spying on everyone. Socialism 101, people.
It was an intriguing book, I will say that. O’Reilly has some good idea, and some bad. Like I said, I need to think more on the whole “culture war” idea. I do believe there is one between the West and the East, so it may be the same in America. If it is, it’s largely one sided, which O’Reilly states. I also don’t know where I’d place myself if I come to believe in the culture war. I believe in some traditionalist ideas, and some so-called “secular-progressive” idea. So, maybe I assign myself no label, and look for the balance things, as I do everywhere else in my life. While this is practically the bible for traditionalist thinking, I also think everyone should read it, even if you think O’Reilly couldn’t be more wrong in his thinking. This book is a definite must read for those considering themselves independents in the political sphere.
Next up is Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope. The book seems to cover the same topic, where Obama discusses recapturing the American dream. I’ll have to see how much of his views differ from O’Reilly. I may be surprised, or I may not. After I’m done reading it, I will, like with this book, write a review entry. Then I’ll follow it up with a comparative entry, seeing where both books agree, and where they disagree, and good stuff like that.
Ok, time for bed.