Culture wars

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In politics and sociology, culture wars that involve a challenge to what conservatives believe are fundamental issues in society. The usual context for the term is the United States, but culture wars are common in Islamic sectarian conflict, Zionism and other forms of national identity. are an issue in American conservatism and American politics in general.

United States

There is no one explanation for the cultural clashes; while the Christian Right is involved in many, others are historically based, even going back to opinions formed in the American Revolution and the writing of the Constitution.

While the issues involved are frequently associated with morality, others deal with the proper roles of citizens and government, and of laissez-faire versus regulated markets.

National sovereignty

Many groups feel that the American culture is endangered by the encroachment of international bodies on national sovereignty, urged on by believers in liberal internationalism. Even though there may be no means of enforcement, on U.S. territory, of the treaty, the very fact of ratification suggests some outside body will send blue-helmeted UN troops into the U.S. to enforce international agreements.

Concerned Women for America (CWA), as one example, is alarmed by ratification of international treaties or the consideration, by courts, of international law, on the theory that such ratification or consideration would override the U.S. Constitution. They strongly opposed the nomination of Harold Koh as Legal Adviser to the U.S. State Department, who indeed does believe in consideration of international law. [1] CWA's positions, however, seem to equate advice and interpretation with transferring authority to the United Nations — which has no enforcement mechanism beyond those agreed-to by its sovereign member states. In the Korean War and Gulf War, there were UN resolutions supporting military action, but the forces remained under national command.


A controversial cultural area is the role of religion and religiously derived morality in American society. In general, those who feel the culture is threatened believe the United States is a Christian, or Judeo-Christian nation, and its law and government should conform to those values. The Christian Right ranges from those who want no restrictions on the right to express religious positions in public, to the Dominionists who actively want a Christian theocracy.

Family issues

A matter of particular concern to CWA is the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to T. Jeremy Gunn, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, and a Senior Fellow in Religion and Human Rights at Emory University School of Law, sees the opposition by CWA and others as not about human rights or constitutional law per se, but

a cultural war over the perceived role of parents. While we can question the

excessiveness of their rhetoric and the inconsistencies of their arguments, it is important also to try to identify the underlying values that prompt their war metaphors and battle imagery...First, they have in mind what we might call an “idealized, conventional family” that leads them to ignore almost completely the plight of children who do not fit within this traditional family. Second, there appears to be an underlying fear that if children are allowed rights of expression and access to information, that they, as parents, will lose their children. They thus approach the question not from the perspective of the world as it comes to vulnerable children, but as parents who are attempting to shore up an image of an idealized, conventional family where two heterosexual parents are raising children in conformity with the parental ideals of religion and right behavior. The CRC opponents are unconcerned that, for vast numbers of children in the world, the problem is not the threat that the United Nations will interfere in the relationship between

parent and child, but that children do"[2]

Personal expression and privacy

See also: First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
See also: Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Gun rights

See also: Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

It must be realized that, to a great many Americans, firearms are traditional tools. There is a wide spectrum of American opinion on the right to keep and bear arms; many people see guns as useful for sporting or personal protection.

Some, however, believe that private ownership of firearms is a significant counterbalance to a tyrannical government with an advanced military force. Any restriction of gun ownership, to this group, is an existential threat to freedom.

Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, described United Nations discussion of an Arms Control Treaty as an attack on national sovereignty and the Second Amendment. He quoted John Bolton, who was not confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under the George W. Bush Administration but had spoken against earlier drafts as interim representative,

The [Obama] Administration is trying to act as if this is really just a treaty about international trade between nations, but there's no doubt — as was the case back over a decade ago —that the real agenda here is domestic firearms control.

Details of the Obama/Clinton-endorsed treaty — which has not yet been finalized — will surely include international monitoring and control of every aspect of firearm commerce and ownership in the United States. [3]

He argues that "literally all of the international gun confiscation groups couch their renewed U.N. treaty effort in terms of what they call 'human rights'. But in the newspeak lexicon of the U.N., 'human rights' doesn't mean the right to self-defense as we know it."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, however, stated the position, in 2009, "On a national basis, the United States has in place an extensive and rigorous system of controls that most agree is the “gold standard” of export controls for arms transfers."[4] without calling for additional restrictions. LaPierre, however,argues that she "did not mention the Second Amendment or U.S. sovereignty. Her silence on those seminal elements of our freedom, stands in stark contrast to the audacious defense of American liberty by President George W. Bush under Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton...[who said in July 2001] "we do not support measures that prohibit civilian possession of small arms...the United States will not join consensus on a final document that contains measures abrogating the constitutional right to bear arms."[3]


Much of paleoconservatism is waged in culture wars. Traditional values are to be respected even if not politically correct. For example, the Confederate flag and southern traditions are seen as racist by others, but a legitimate part of American history by many paleoconservatives such as Sam Francis. [5] Racist and White nationalist groups, confusingly, may adopt that same flag, but for different reasons. Paleoconservatives often oppose immigration, especially from other than Europe, but are not inherently racist.

They do tend to be Christian and object to such things as the "War on Christmas", but their emphasis is on preserving the culture rather than introducing morality.


  1. Senate Vote Threatens American Sovereignty: Concerned Women for America Urges Senate to Oppose Harold Koh, Concerned Women for America, 24 June 2009
  2. T. Jeremy Gunn (2006), The Religious Right and the Opposition to U.S. Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, vol. 20, Center for the Study of Law and Religion, Emory University, pp. 127-128
  3. 3.0 3.1 Wayne LaPierre (February 2010), "The First Step in Trampling Our Rights", America's First Freedom, National Rifle Association: 8, 55
  4. Hillary Clinton (14 October 2009), U.S. Support for the Arms Trade Treaty, U.S. Department of State
  5. William T. Work (Fall 2007), "(book review) Shots Fired: Sam Francis on America's Culture War", Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies