A Culture War for the Soul of The Enlightenment

Barry Dredze
3 min readMay 20, 2022
Demonstrators in Budapest, Hungary, June 14, 2021, protested Hungarian anti-LGBTQ law prohibiting the teaching of gay and transgender issues in schools. (Photo by Marton Monu via Reuters)

Waking up the morning after the latest white power terrorist attack, this time at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, the political line is as clearly drawn for the state of our Union as it was in Paris at the French National Assembly in 1789 when the caucus for the Crown, the Church and the aristocracy lined up on the right of the Assembly and the Enlightenment caucus lined up on the left.

Three decades ago, in Houston, Texas, on the occasion of the 1992 Republican Nation Convention, Pat Buchanan delivered a keynote speech declaring that, “There is a religious war going on in this country. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we shall be as was the Cold War itself, for this war is for the soul of America.” He wasn’t wrong. Buchanan and his ilk were then and still are on the side opposed to the 18th century Enlightenment revolutions.

Once upon a time in these United States, our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great Culture War, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. On one side, leftists and other Good Americans freaking out with good reason over White Replacement Theory. On the other, right-wing cynics desperately invested in freaking people out with rumors of gender studies and post-grad law school-level Critical Race Theory being taught in grade schools. “America First,” the MAGA mob says, but they look to foreign regimes and dictators for their inspiration; like Russia’s Vladimir Putin, whom New Yorker editor David Remnick described as “the standard-bearer of a modern counter-enlightenment. He has declared liberal democracy ‘obsolete,’ a political arrangement that has ‘outlived its purpose’.”

Once Trump’s hand-picked Republican National Committee finance chair, former casino magnate Steve Wynn is now facing legal action by the US Justice Department to file as a foreign agent for allegedly lobbying former President Donald Trump on behalf of China in 2017.

AP reports that “Prosecutors say [the chair of Trump inaugural committee Tom] Barrack sought to leverage lucrative international business deals with the United Arab Emirates to benefit the political agendas of…

Barry Dredze

Just another mortal, tweaking my cognitive map on the fly.