Among sophisticates on Manhattan's Upper East Side and in Georgetown salons, President Bush's victory last November brought much wailing, gnashing of teeth, and rending of (fashionable) garments. Disgruntled "blue" voters threatened to move overseas to escape the "jihadists" and "mullahs" now runningand ruiningAmerica.
In a column entitled "Two Nations Under God," The New York Times's Thomas Friedman said he woke up the morning after the election "deeply troubled" because "they [Bush and company] favor a whole different kind of America from me." Amen, echoed Tina Brown in The Washington Post: "New Yorkers don't want to live in a republic of fear."
As these liberal laments demonstrate, what we witnessed in this election is a continuing deepening of hostilities between "red" and "blue" statesRetros and Metros. Historian Gertrude Himmelfarb described this phenomenon as two cultures existing within one nation. She believes these two can coexist peacefully; I wonder. Americans are engaged in a civil war carried on by other means; as with the first Civil War, fundamental issues divide us.
How did we get into this mess? Some suggest it started when secular forces pressed their views on abortion and gay rights in court. In part, that's so. But I think we must look deeper. We dug the hole that became a cultural Grand Canyon when we abandoned belief in a moral truth that is knowable.
People who reject transcendent authority can no longer persuade one another through rational arguments; everything is reduced to personal opinion. Debates about ideas thus degenerate into power struggles; we're left with no moral standard by which to measure the common good. For that matter, how can there be a "common good" without an objective ...1
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