Wandering in the American Cultural Desert Like a Stranger in a Strange Land

“And she bore him a son, and Moses called him Gershom: for he said, I have become a stranger in a strange land.” Exodus 2:22

If you mention the names Thích Quang Duc and Phan Thị Kim Phuc to most people, they wouldn’t have a clue who you were talking about. However, if you showed anyone from my generation two particular photos of them, they would know them instantly.

Quang Duc was a Vietnamese monk who set himself on fire on June 11, 1963 in a major Saigon intersection to protest the persecution of Buddhist monks by the South Vietnamese government. Kim Phuc was the nine-year-old Vietnamese girl photographed crying and running naked on a road after having her clothes burned off by a South Vietnamese napalm attack on June 8, 1972.

Thousands of miles away in the United States, concurrently with Quang Duc’s self-immolation, police were using water cannons and dogs on civil rights protesters. Those photos would later become a turning point in the civil rights struggle. However, as the war raged on, the country would still undergo years of riots and domestic violence, including the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.

I came of age during the Vietnam War and the domestic unrest of the 60s and 70s. For many of those years, I was a paperboy for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Paraphrasing Don Mclean in American Pie, “Those years made me shiver; / With every paper I’d deliver; / Bad news on the doorstep; / I couldn’t take one more step.” My young, inexperienced mind tried to process what was happening, but nothing made sense.

After the last Americans were carried off the roof of the American embassy by helicopter just before the fall of Saigon in 1975, the war came off the front pages. As for the civil rights battles, they mostly transitioned from city streets to court rooms. It seemed America had relatively settled down and I was busy with college.

Now, 40 years later, we find our country involved in another seemingly unwinnable war, and our cities are again in flames. Once again, gruesome images of war and race riots appear not only in print and on TV, but across our computers and mobile devices.

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But I don’t see these events, separated by 40 years, as history merely repeating itself. That 40-year calm I mentioned above was more of a simmer, where change to our basic institutions occurred slowly. And what changes those were!

[RELATED on OCR: “The Culture Wars Are Permanently ‘Out of the Closet’”]

Marriage is undefinable. Fatherhood is dead. Mothers kill their young. Public education is broken and fundamentally corrupt. The news media is no longer an independent fourth estate. Hollywood cranks out movies and songs that diminish traditional America. Rap is art. A crucifix in urine is not only art, but is paid for by public funds. The flag cannot be flown in fear of offending someone. Christianity is being criminalized. The president apologizes for America and tells the graduating class of the Coast Guard Academy that their greatest threat is global warming as ISIS takes over Syria and Iraq killing and torturing anyone it can. The First Lady is ashamed of being American and complains of being alienated due to racism, as she flies anywhere she wants for free, eats very well, has a large paid staff, will make millions giving speeches, and will end up living a life of luxury. Our borders don’t exist. The city of Ferguson erects a memorial to a thug. Baltimore catches on fire not by thugs but by “misunderstood children.” Feminists teach all sex between a man and a woman is rape. Al Sharpton owes millions in back taxes but has an open invitation to the White House. Melissa Perry wears tampons for earrings on TV and calls the three indicted Black Baltimore police officers “white African Americans.” MSNBC has Sharpton and Perry as paid commentators. A Catholic University is sued for having crucifixes prominently displayed because it offends Muslims. Forming your fingers in a gun-like fashion gets you suspended from school. Boy Scouts can no longer play with water guns. The EPA prevents you from collecting rain water on your own property. IRS officers, like Lois Lerner, choose which person or group to destroy and never end up in jail. It doesn’t matter if Americans were killed in Benghazi. George Zimmerman is a white Hispanic. Hands up, don’t shoot. Black lives matter, but only if you are a criminal like Freddy Gray and Michael Brown; the hundreds that are injured or killed every week in Chicago, NY, Detroit and other cities don’t matter. The bad news is government controls healthcare; the good news is if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor but in reality you can’t. Trading five terrorists for a deserter is a fair exchange. Republicans are Democrat lite. Animals have human rights. We have gun-free zones that routinely become slaughterhouses. Academia regularly proves George Orwell correct in that some ideas are so stupid even intellectuals embrace them. A professor boldly states that if you read to your children, you are putting other children at a disadvantage. If you want people to keep more of their money, you are greedy, but if you want to take more of other people’s money, you are caring. The Constitution is “flexible.” For the first time in history, the number of people identifying themselves as liberal, is equal to those that define themselves as conservative. The pope is liberal.

Against the background above, which is only a fraction of what could be written, I find myself lost once again. The world I knew was not perfect; it needed fixing, but we didn’t fix what was broken, instead we destroyed all of it.

Moses named his son Gershom because in Hebrew Gershom means stranger and represents Moses’ exile into the unfamiliar desert. And like Moses, I have been ejected into a cultural wilderness where I also have become a stranger in a strange land.


Tony Corvo is a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel with a Ph.D. in physics. He is active in local Beavercreek, Ohio politics and is the author of All Politics is Loco: Musings from the Conservative Next Door. He and his wife have two grown daughters. He writes extensively on local issues. Many of his recent articles can be found at taxbusters.wordpress.com/author/phdmc2.

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Image: Luca Galuzzi/Creative Commons


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