Jewish World Review April 9, 2003 / 7 Nisan 5763

Wendy McElroy

Wendy McElroy
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Why we must discuss a post-war U.S. | While discussion buzzes about a post-Saddam Iraq, few people are talking about a post-Saddam United States even though we should be.

Why? Because the political rifts in our society may be as difficult to deal with as the ones with the Arab world, and they hit closer to home. We need a better approach for dealing with dissent and diversity.

The war in Iraq creates a sense of unity, with Gallup Polls showing that Bush's overall job approval rating rose to 71 percent after the conflict began, up 13 points from the pre-war level of 58 percent.

Historically, however, support for post-war administrations decline. This is especially true during hard economic times and when society had been deeply divided before war.

The polarization of politics lies under the surface. While hundreds of thousands take to the streets across North America to protest the war, even larger numbers participate in the fighting in some manner. TV pundits from the left and right scream at each other and at their guests about every conceivable issue. Democrats still mutter about hanging chads and stolen elections. Another election nears.

The divisions are more pervasive than pro- or anti-war, left or right, Republican or Democrat. They are rooted in the way our society has come to approach diversity and disagreement. Namely, it is not to be tolerated. Disagreement is an indication of "evil" motives and the person disagreeing should be reviled and, then, silenced.

This approach to dissent owes a great deal to political correctness — the political doctrine that declares certain ideas, attitudes, and peaceful behaviors are improper and, therefore, should be prohibited by law. The law should encourage correct ideas, attitudes and behaviors instead.

For example, because it is improper ("evil") to consider women to be either inferior to men or to occupy a separate sphere, discrimination against women should be prohibited. Affirmative action should be enforced. It doesn't matter if the discrimination is relatively trivial and involves only private property. Martha Burk's crusade against Augusta National Golf Club's male-only membership policy demonstrates that.

Thus, "being correct" becomes politically essential because "being incorrect" leads to the law exercising a control over your decisions, attitudes, property ... over your life. It means the law denies you opportunities you may have earned through hard work — like entry into a university or promotion on a job — because you have the "incorrect" skin color or genitalia.

When a society is structured so one person gains only by depriving another of what is rightfully his or hers, that society is a brawl waiting to happen. When laws and imposed policies treat people differently based on race and gender, it creates class warfare and resentment. It embeds conflict into the very structure of society and blocks goodwill.

It is tempting to join the slugfest. I have succumbed more than once. This column is the result of successfully resisting.

With the Masters golf tournament looming this Thursday, I had intended to write about Martha Burk's tax-paid conduct at a recent women's conference in Estonia, where she represented the U.S. There, Burk toasted to having a "different president" by the next conference, lectured the audience on how American women are "second-class citizens," and generally dissed the United States.

The theme of my intended column was "Stop the Tax Funding of Feminism!" Just as there is a separation of religion and state on matters of funding so, too, should there be a separation of political ideology and state. That message would have ridden on the back of a blast against Burk.

But I realized another anti-Burk diatribe would just add to the noise. No one's opinion of Burk would be altered. And the theme of the article would be cheapened. Moreover, I was adopting the strategy of political correctness: to attack people, using outrage as argument. That approach demonstrates contempt for facts, evidence ... and truth itself.

Political correctness — as expressed in both laws and strategies that punish disagreement — is a legacy of the social upheaval surrounding America's last major war: Vietnam. The anti-Vietnam war protests were a breeding ground for many of the movements that dominated politics in the following decades.

For example, mainstream feminism grew directly out of the anti-war movement. And through political evolution, a New Left emerged, wielding political correctness as a sword.

Society may soon become a great deal more contentious. War and terrorism, the shaky economy, the upcoming elections, a lessening of goodwill around the globe — all these factors and more are making people short-tempered and shrill.

No one can predict what social changes will come in the wake of war. No one could have predicted the radical movements that arose under the anti-Vietnam banner or how destructive those movements would become. All that can be said is that any war will create change at home. Anyone who wishes the direction to be positive, including me, has an obligation to ratchet down the rhetoric.

"Winning the peace" in Iraq is a media focus. The domestic peace is equally important and it will depend upon an atmosphere of respect for dissent and diversity. This means eliminating both the laws that punish attitudes and the imposed policies that discriminate. It means substituting facts and evidence for personal attacks. In dealing with family, friends and neighbors who disagree ... give peace a chance.

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JWR contributor Wendy McElroy is the editor of She also edited Freedom, Feminism, and the State (Independent Institute, 1999) and Sexual Correctness: The Gender Feminist Attack on Women (McFarland, 1996). She lives with her husband in Canada. Comment by clicking here.


04/02/03: Leftist feminists using war as podium
03/26/03: Laying down 'the white woman's burden'
03/19/03: Iraq War may kill feminism as we know it
03/13/03: A woman to replace Saddam
02/19/03: Elder abuse demands family solutions
02/13/03: Iraqi women brutalized by Saddam
01/29/03: There ought not to be a law
01/22/03: Gambling with race and gender cards
01/02/03: The future of fatherhood
12/26/02: U.N. complicit in forced sterilizations
12/20/02: Compassion, kindness killed by fear, paranoia
12/11/02: Affirmative action insults immigrant contributions
12/04/02: Stand up for yourself
11/27/02: Feminist fighting: Aren't we all women?
11/20/02: Rights & responsibilities
11/14/02: Feminist "urban legends"
11/06/02: Equal access does not guarantee equal outcome
10/24/02: Battered Women's Syndrome: Science or sham?
10/17/02: I demand a civil society that respects the individual and acknowledges the existence of honest disagreement between human beings of good will
10/09/02: Abortion debate is about to be ratcheted up yet again
10/02/02: 'Restorative justice' offers battered women more options
09/25/02: Why is prez promising to embrace UN radical social engineering programs?
09/18/02: Dirty dealings kill men's panel
09/11/02: Taking back your power
09/05/02: Calm down, Hootie!
08/21/02: Will Congress empower a group of radical feminists to oversee money slated for Afghan women?
08/14/02: Empower the U.N. with power to sculpt American laws and institutions into the image of gender feminism!?
08/01/02: Practicing 'intellectual virtue'
07/24/02: All male, bad. All female, good: Your tax dollars at work
07/11/02: Put Up or Shut Up
07/03/02: NOW they've done it, again!
06/19/02: A dark cloud shades U.N. Women's Treaty
06/10/02: This Father's Day, send justice
05/31/02: When good women do nothing
05/28/02: Feminists claiming motherhood as liberal cause
05/20/02: Wounds in health care system are self-inflicted: Or, why "my son the lawyer" makes more sense
05/10/02: Are parents boycotting public schools?
05/03/02: Women can't be gun-shy about defense
04/25/02: The Bill of Intellectual Rights
04/19/02: World Bank or World Government?: The World Bank is blackmailing impoverished nations
04/12/02: Victims From Birth: Engineering Defects in Helpless Children Crosses the Line
04/05/02: The professor made me cry, now I will make him pay!
03/31/02: Doctors and teens --- parents be on guard
03/22/02: I was born, now I'm suing you!
03/15/02: The 21st Century is knocking at the barricaded door of feminism
03/08/02: Fun and games at the Ms mag Bulletin Board
03/01/02: Andrea Yates, NOW, and Feminist Jurisprudence
02/22/02: Lady, Your Slip is Showing
02/14/02: 'Abusing' Valentine's Day
02/11/02: Is NOW Pro-Choice or Pro-Abortion?
02/01/02: Are 'fathers' rights' a factor in male suicide?
01/25/02: Is the U.N. Running Brothels in Bosnia?
01/18/02: 'Freedom' at another's (moral) expense
01/11/02: Feminists hit Ground Zero with WTC funds grab
01/04/02: Males winning "diversity discrimination" cases is good?
12/21/01: Good will toward men
12/14/01: "Boss Tweed" feminism
12/07/01: Call me 'anti-woman'

© 2001, Wendy McElroy