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Navigating the culture war — can you escape?
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Navigating the culture war — can you escape?

Culture is perpetuated by practice. What culture are you practicing?

Over the course of the last year, I encountered two interesting questions/propositions on the subject of “the culture war.” While we use the term all the time, it is somewhat monolithic, used to describe the existential state of affairs when it comes to American politics, the direction of our culture, and other expressions of what is “American” in the context of what makes us who we are compared to the rest of the world.

You might scoff or consider that I'm being hyperbolic when I suggest that the culture war is an existential crisis, but it certainly is.

The practice of culture and traditions and establishing new ones will carry you forward no matter how dark things get.

Which traditions that were born out of the frontier or early settlements, or even in the comforts of the prewar era, have been carried on today and haven’t been replaced altogether or become some kind of twisted facsimile? Immigration complicates it further. From Cinco de Mayo celebrations to movies about corporate products ranging from Air Jordans to Flamin' Hot Cheetos, we are a culture of consumers and little if anything else.

This brings me to the two prompts that I encountered earlier last year: First, can you escape the culture war? Second, culture is perpetuated by practice. What culture are you practicing?

Those aren’t bad questions to tackle. In fact, the first question is an easy one to answer: No, not really.

Cultural conflict is escaped essentially by victory in the form of dominance of a cultural expression or group of practitioners (a people, nation, ethnos, etc.). But the victors still need to be vigilant against outside threats and/or rebellion against the culture that is now dominant. Victory and vigilance aren’t the closest you get to escape, however. Like all organic interactions in the food chain, survival doesn’t mean that you’ve totally escaped the laws of nature. Conflict will eventually continue.

The second prompt, a question of cultural practice and expression, is a great one, in part because so much of what makes the American tradition or popular culture gives many on the right some pause, whether that’s due to the subversion of institutions like the “antiracist” (which is always code for “anti-white” these days) slogans in the end zones of NFL stadiums or the growth of brand/consumer identities either through parasocial relationships (e.g., YouTubers like Dream) or identities (e.g., K-Pop stans or “Swifties”).

Culture wars can be won or lost in many ways, but the state of constant critique is something that hits at all ongoing political discourses on the right in general. Whether that’s talking about the Republican establishment or even about the dissident right, the claim that “we’re no [other guys] — I mean, just look at them!” isn’t always the sales pitch that works, especially when people are comfortable with the status quo, often leading to questions like this:

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Note that if this is actually asked, you’re probably not talking to a serious person.

The debate over a positive versus negative vision for society on the right is still one that needs to be addressed. Yes, a hundred different manifestos can be written on what you believe in or how things should be modeled for the future of society — and not just writing and raging against the progressive zeitgeist.

Members of the Old Glory Club and various chapters are not just writing on the club’s Substack or offering commentary on Pony Express Radio. If we wanted to be just another podcast, we wouldn’t have established a nonprofit or have chapters being developed across the country where men can meet together, serve their communities, and know that they aren’t alone in this current progressive malaise.

A fundamental observation that many, even on the mainstream, non-online right, have made is that things are off track and something has to give. Whatever that breaking point may be, allies and potential allies will be looking for what seems to have the most robust sense of vitality.

A constant population in critique doesn’t last long in the face of adversity, as critique by nature doesn’t build but instead deconstructs. We can acknowledge which traditions of our fathers will carry over, to pick up the pigskin ourselves and throw it around the field, and to forge new paths to success for ourselves and for fellow Americans.

As we enter the throes of another presidential election cycle, with the economy teetering on the edge and people looking for answers, it is the practice of culture and traditions and establishing new ones that will carry you forward no matter how dark things get. Robust cultures survive by perpetuation, by reproduction, and by strong defense through gatekeeping and discernment. It is always better to be late than never to act. So whose culture will you practice — the one fed to you or the one whose torch you carry on from your forefathers?

Editor’s note: A version of this article appeared originally on Substack.

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