Saturday, June 26, 2010

Signs that the culture war is all but over.

The joke used to be that Lydon Johnson declared war on poverty and poverty won. Conservatives declared a culture war, and lost. I have long been convinced that we have entered a post-Christian America. I have argued that the independent voters are more libertarian than either Democrats and Republicans. With these shifts social attitudes will change.

Quite amazingly a recent poll showed men are now more sympathetic to equality of rights for gay people than women. For just about forever polls showed the opposite to be true.

Symbols are important in a culture, they send cultural messages to people which help them to form their values. So consider a couple such symbols.

The Chicago Cubs play at Wrigley Field, built in 1914. It is on the north side, not far from New Town, and only a few blocks from an apartment where I lived for a few years. The New Town was the chic, heavily gay area of the city, not so much where I was at, but more toward the lake. And it is in this area of the city that the annual Gay Pride parade is held.

The first gay pride festival I ever saw would have been in Chicago and I refuse to remember how many years ago it was. So, there you have Wrigley Field, the symbol of Chicago baseball, of masculine sports. And there you have New Town, dubbed Boy's Town by many because of its heavily male population. And, for all the time I lived in the area, never the twain were to meet. There was Wrigley Field in its isolation, like some giant fortress hung over the neighborhood and there was Boy's Town, as different as night and day.

This Sunday something different will happen as the Gay Pride parade weaves through Boy's Town. In the parade will be a float from the Chicago Cubs. Sports Illustrated noted that just that gesture alone would have won them new friends and fans. But the Cubs went farther than that. Riding the float will be Mr. Cubs himself, the legendary Ernie Banks.

In the world of symbols this gesture tells us just how much America has changed—and I think for the better, at least in this regard.

Chicagoans take their sports seriously and they have been a happy lot since the Chicago Blackhawks won hockey's Stanley Cup in a 2010 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers. A group of gay hockey players sent a letter to the Chicago Blackhawks inviting them to the Pride parade and the team accepted.

The decision was made to take the Stanley Cup into the Pride parade and display it along the route. Defenseman Brent Sopel volunteered to represent the team and will accompany the Cup. Sopel has said he intends to bring his wife and his four kids, Jacob 12, Lyla 8, Jayla 6, and Paul, 20 who was adopted three years when he lost both his parents. Sopel said he wanted to do this and is honored that he can.

Sopel said he was doing as his chance to honor Brendan Burke, the son the Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke. Brendan, who played hockey and helped manage a team at university admitted he was gay and many in the hockey world openly showed their support for him. He was killed in a tragic car accident not long ago. Sopel said:

"When Brendan came out, Brian stood by him, and his whole family stood by him, like every family should," said Sopel. "We teach our kids about accepting everybody. Tolerate everybody, to understand where everyone is coming from."

Blackhawks President John McDonough says he understands the symbolic power of the cup and "we recognize the importance of doing this." He made special arrangements to have the cup flown into Chicago, it was on display at the NHL draft in Los Angeles, earlier than scheduled because, "It's important for the city and important for the franchise."

Toronto will be holding its Pride parade as well and Brian Burke will be there. He will be marching the parade route with the Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays group. Many people don't realize that the U.S. Olympics hockey team all wore name tags saying: "In memory of Branden Burke."

These are all just symbols but behind the symbols there is a shift of gigantic proportions taking place in America.

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