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A Thoughtful Analysis of Bill O'Reilly's Culture War by Boulder High School Student

Reported by Deborah - June 20, 2007 -

The “Secular-Progressive” Movement: True Threat or True Democracy?
Guest Blogged
Patrick Garrett
Boulder HS Junior
age 17

As a result of the growing political division of America, there are growing tensions between the political ideologies, resulting in what we know as "the culture wars". These metaphorical "wars" are fought not just in the mind and soul of the average American; they are starting to take form in real political change. In his book, Culture Warrior, media personality Bill O'Reilly describes the war's two main opponents as the "Traditionalists" and the "Secular-Progressives".


Both are terms coined by O'Reilly, based on the political ideologies of each type of person. Secular-Progressives, as O'Reilly describes, are individuals who are not content with the current state of affairs in America today. Secular-progressives wish to "mold [America] in the image of Western Europe". (Chapter 1, Culture Warrior), meaning of course, that O’Reilly believes that Secular Progressives are Socialists; since most of Western Europe is considered Socialist. While Traditionalists, as he describes them, are individuals who wish to retain the key American values of hard work, care for others, and opportunity. O'Reilly argues that these ideas are being fought on the "battlefields" of same-sex marriage, the war on terror, abortion, and the legalization of narcotics.

If you look at America today, you'll realize that the strict ideology of the separate political factions, conservatives and liberals, is coming to an end. The intense battle between the two major political parties, the Democratic and Republican parties, has resulted in both sides being forced to compromise, in order to avoid political gridlock. For example, the latest Iraqi war spending bill did not include a timetable for withdraw, like Democrats have been promising since taking control of Congress in 2006. Since the President can veto any bill he see’s unfit, Democrats have had to compromise, in order to accomplish anything at all. The same could be said for the Republicans, whose only major institution now is the Executive Branch. Since they no longer control Congress, Republicans have increasingly had to lean on the President’s veto power to accomplish their goals, thus weakening their political standing with the majority of Americans. So what does this mean for America?

In mid-2007, O'Reilly continued his use of metaphor about war, by naming so called "secular-progressive strongholds" while discussing a controversial topic on sex and drugs at Boulder High School, in Boulder, Colorado. He named several cities, such as Boulder, Seattle, San Francisco, and even went as far as to call the entire state of Vermont, as "secular-progressive strongholds". O'Reilly, a Traditionalist, fears that should these Secular-Progressives take power in earnest, America itself will cease to exist. This is not true; while Secular-Progressives wish to change America, they don't intend to destroy its political system.

However, when O’Reilly claims that America will cease to exist as a result of change, then he should take a look at American history. American history is rich in radical change; in fact, our nation was built upon the radical change of political oppression to political freedom from the tyranny of the British Empire. A similar change took place during the Civil War, a time of change from enslavement to freedom. Even during the Great Depression, the change from a flamboyantly progressive culture of the 1920's (aka the Roaring Twenties) to a much more reserved and conservative culture of the 1930's and 1940's took place. So, Traditionalists like Bill O'Reilly have a certain right to be afraid…after all, there is always the possibility of another Great Depression. Although, there is hope: the hope that America has learned from the mistakes of it's past. Today, there are many safeguards in place, both economic and political, to prevent such a tragedy. For example, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was created as a means to prevent widespread bank failure in the event of such a catastrophe. Yet, in all reality, the depression in the 1930's was fueled by the economic recklessness of the 1920's. Such recklessness does not exist today.

Traditionalists fear social change. Secular-Progressives, O'Reilly argues, are forcing "their so-called liberties" upon America. Some of these liberties being gay rights, legalization of drugs, and a foreign policy that puts American interests behind the interests of others (in other words, increased international co-operation). He says they are achieving this by "gaming" the current legal system. "Because they know that they will never, ever achieve their goals on Election Day, their strategy is to rely on activist left-wing judges to bring about secular changes in our laws", says O'Reilly. He claims the most notorious example of this is the pro-gay marriage ruling in Massachusetts. This is of course, referring to the case of Goodridge v. The Department of Health where the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to ban gay marriage (according to Constitution of Massachusetts, not the American Constitution). O'Reilly says that Secular-Progressives are trying to subvert the democracy in America by taking things to the courts.

Now, O'Reilly must have a lack of understanding of democracy in America, and how the Judicial system works. The judges in the American Supreme Court are appointed by the President himself, with the consent of the Senate. Both the President and the Senate are democratically elected. At the state level, the way the judges are chosen is less uniform. Some states elect their judges, others don't. However, there are only 16 states in the union that go by a totally non-elected system ( Massachusetts is one of them). These states use a merit system, where a commission of lawyers and non-lawyers appoint the judges. There are several states that use a merit system to choose some, but not all, of their judges. However, the majority of states use some type election system. By these facts alone, there is certainly enough democracy, directly or indirectly by elected officials appointing judges, in the judicial system to refute Mr. O'Reilly's claims.

And so, we come to the ultimate question at hand… are Secular-Progressives a threat to America, or are they just another part of our great American system? The answer is not concrete, and many people will have differing views on the issue. But there is one important fact that everyone, Secular-Progressive and Traditionalist alike, needs to understand. It is because of our great democracy and all the freedoms we enjoy that both sides can come to the table to negotiate, instead of fighting the metaphorical and in some people's opinions, the fictional war taking place in America today. Once both sides can agree to that, maybe we can come to an armistice.

comments: In my opinion, the term Secular-Progressive is inaccurate. By saying "secular", O'Reilly implies that people he labels as a Secular-Progressive have no religion. In fact, the definition of "secular" is "not overtly or specifically religious" (Merriam Webtser Online Dictionary). In reality, at least here in Boulder, that's not true. The majority of Boulderites adhere to some type of religion, here are some exact numbers from religionatlas.org....36% are Catholic; 20% are Conservative Christians; 14% are adherents of Eastern religions; 12% are Mainline Protestants; 8% are Jewish; 3 percent are Mormon; 3 percent are Muslim; and 1% is Orthodox. Those statistics account for 97% of the population, and even if we are to assume that the remaining 3% do not adhere to an organized religion, that still doesn't classify Boulder as "secular". I do agree however, that we are Progressive. Most democrats can be considered Progressive, and Boulder is predominantly Democratic. I think if O'Reilly wanted to accurately define places like Boulder, it would just be Progressive places, not Secular-Progressive places

note from Deborah: Patrick Garrett, age 17, is one of the Boulder students, along with Mansur Gidfar and Jesse Lange, to stand up to Bill O'Reilly with a petition for his apology for the damage done to the community of Boulder. We sincerely appreciate this unexpected but welcome contribution from our new friend Patrick.

Jesse Lange is scheduled to appear tonight on the Factor, 6/20.