The right wing of the Republican party, led by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, has jumped headlong into what could be called the "Sex & Religion Wars".
Currently they're focusing especially on people with what's known as "gender dysphoria", the powerful sense that your gender identity does not match the gender assigned to you at birth. People with this condition will sometimes (often?) seek to transition to the gender they believe is authentic to them. It's these transgender people, and their parents, who the right is now targeting with dozens of new laws at the state level.
In addition, subjects like a woman's right to control her own body, gay marriage, gay couples parenting their children, the use of new forms of personal pronouns and all manner of related issues have become targets of the far right.
Thinking about this recently, it struck a familiar note, so I searched back through some old journals and found an entry that talked about what I once thought of as the coming sex & religion wars.
Here's an excerpt:
"The society will have to come to a violent split eventually. It becomes more and more sophisticated while trying to hold to its traditional Puritan morality (God, nation, family)…Ideas that sex, drugs, freedom, etc. are dangers to society and occasions of sin are shared by much of that part of the American public which tends to arm itself…
"There can be no real national consensus on these issues—there is very little middle ground on which to meet…the melting pot is starting to bubble from the successive sexual conflicts that have risen to the surface…While huge number of Americans take advantage of sexual freedoms that are still legally unguaranteed…equally huge numbers have clutched Christ to their bosom…America is approaching the edge of its collective psyche."
That entry is from February, 1978.
I may've been off by 45 years, but I think the analysis accurately reflects what we're seeing today. The culture is awash in conflicts, often violent, over sexual and religious beliefs.
Now DeSantis and his ilk are fixating on the term "woke" to describe anyone who disagrees with their targeting of the rights of women and transgender people to control their own bodies and live their lives as they see fit, or who believes that racism continues to pervade our culture.
The term "woke" itself (or "stay woke"), arose out of the black community in the 1930s, meant as a warning for African Americans to stay alert to racial prejudice. So it's irony of the highest order that the term has now been coopted by the far right.
In addition to gender issues, anyone who promotes removing Confederate monuments, teaching the history of racism in the U.S. that stretches back to its founding, or supports diversity in education and the workplace is now called "woke", and laws are being passed to limit the right to express these opinions.
Florida leads the way in this regard, with laws passed or proposed which would:
- limit what is taught in schools, including universities, regarding race or gender issues;
- ban books on these topics from school and public libraries;
- incorporate Christian beliefs as a basic component of public education;
- make it a crime to gather together to demonstrate in support of civil rights, or against corrupt politicians;
- liberalize libel laws to make it easier to sue anyone, even private citizens, who expresses disagreement with the the state; and
- use the criminal courts to enforce their war against "woke", turning teachers, doctors, social workers and others into felons, subject to heavy fines and imprisonment.
If the Sex & Religion Wars have indeed begun, it appears that the wrong side is winning.