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On Growth 

On Growth

                Much of the conflict in America today is attributed to the “culture war.” Wikipedia defines the culture war as a metaphor for the idea that political conflict arises from the ongoing tension between those values considered traditionalist or conservative, and those considered progressive or liberal.  In truth, the conflict can be attributed to our different and often personal perspectives of what constitutes growth, or improvement.

                In hindsight, some of these arguments seem silly. It hardly seems possible that the law in our country once did not allow women to vote.  The women’s suffrage movement began in 1848, but it was 1920 before the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was enacted. Americans of both parties would agree today that extending voting rights to women was an act of self-improvement in our nation’s history.

                Often, however, whether an initiative represents improvement is more ambiguous.  I often debate with my own children the merits of today’s popular music, television shows, and social networks.  Today’s music is less melodic, the content less thoughtful and often hateful or sexist. Reality shows and social networks amplify our insecurities, superficialities and jealousies:  our least attractive attributes as a species. Yet within these always-fluid enterprises we can find, even today, groundbreaking music, poetic lyrics, and socially-conscious, thoughtful television shows.  Cell-phone video posted on the Internet helped to overthrow a series of repressive regimes inthe Middle East.  

                Our country is sometimes referred to as “the American experiment.” Speaking about the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln said that Americans were engaged in a conflict that would determine whether “a country so conceived could long endure.” If we could change our political discourse to substitute the word “improve” for the word “reform,” perhaps we could get past the notion that our culture is broken and in need of being fixed, and move ahead with the business of improving it, remembering that growth is typically more like a vine that twists and coils than a stalk that grows sure and straight.
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