Safe culture, dangerous reality

French philosopher Jean Baudrillard once said, "Deep down, the U.S., with its space, its technological refinement, its bluff good conscience, even in those spaces which it opens up for simulation, is the only remaining primitive society." How could this irritable Frenchman call our great nation "primitive?" We are one of the only nations with a two-party political system. We have not solved the problem of health care or education for the masses. Instead, our culture has run on Social Darwinism for centuries. For the country that was a fantastic dream for oppressed minorities, our country has become little more than a barbaric regime hiding under the guise of hollow culture, empty morals, and corrupted ethics. Of all these problems, I believe our culture is the most responsible for our social problems.

I find it impossible to escape our confining culture. Everything has been pre-programmed for me to follow. Our politics greatly illustrate this problem of polarized, American culture. We have the Left, Right, and the Out There. We only have room for two major points to an issue. Everything else is disregarded as crazy as a Charles Manson tirade. As a younger man, I find myself being pushed by my peers to lean toward the left. However, I cannot stand being pushed anywhere or by anybody. I hear the same tired arguments I have heard all my life from both sides: abortion is immoral, marijuana does not hurt anybody, prayer should be kept in schools, etc. I am trapped within the frail construct of culture and politics within which I have no room to breathe.

I consume the "safe" culture my parents consumed in their youth. The Beatles, Volkswagen, Jimmy Hendrix, long hair, distrust of the establishment, and Martin Scorsese. I call these things "safe" culture because they were once challenging but have now completely absorbed by mainstream society. For instance, David Bowie songs used to promote 7th Heaven, a "family" show. Or John Water's Harispray is now a box office smash. That which was considered shocking in the 60's and 70's is now lovingly received in the tamest of places. Even my grandparents own Sgt Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band. I love all these things, but I wonder where progression is. Every political, artistic, or cultural contribution is a mere replica of "safe" culture.

Terrorism is a faint copy of McCarthyism. Those with challenging opinions or viewpoints are quickly called anti-American. We used to have a committee about un-American activities. Senator McCarthy ran it. Christianity has long been seeking to return America to Godliness. The Scopes Trial that fought over Darwin's Theory of Evolution in the classroom was held in 1925. While Martin Luther King's dream has come a long way, the Jenna 6 has proved that America is not bigot-free.

"Safe" culture does not allow America to progress, for progression can only be cultivated by a culture that welcomes new and multiple views. America is not completely oppressive, but it certainly is a far cry from "The Land of the Free." The surface of our problems is somewhat alleviated, but the fundamental ideologies that drive this suffocating culture have not changed. America has progressed, but our people have not. Each individual complains about how difficult life is, but everyone lives the same, thinks the same, and acts the same.

is a graduate of Southern Oregon University with a degree in English. He lives in Ashland with his fianc&


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