America's Seismic Cultural Revolution

A massive, silent cultural revolution has changed America


It happened without a Summer of Love, without Timothy Leary, without a groovy anthem or a shaggy new national look. In the past decade or so, there’s been a silent revolution in American culture, one at least as profound as the ’60s upheavals.

... Compared to just a few years ago, we have a completely different set of ideas about what constitutes acceptable behavior. As Caitlyn Jenner puts it in her new reality show, “I’m the new normal.”

We’ve hardly taken notice of it, because it happened in people’s minds instead of in the streets, happened in ordinary people instead of in the elites and the punditocracy.Consider America circa 2002: Not that different from today, seemingly. A time traveler who spent a few hours walking around your town then and now might have a difficult time filling a small notebook with observations about what’s changed. Maybe there are more Starbuckses. And what happened to Blockbuster Video? Yet support for gay marriages to be treated the same as straight ones went from 39% just nine years ago to 60% today, according to Gallup.

As recently as 2010, a clear majority opposed gay marriage. Today, a large majority support it. As for the broader issue of whether gay and lesbian relationships are even morally acceptable, only 40% said yes in 2001. Today that number stands at 63%.

... What caused all these changes? It’s hard to say. Older Americans are dying off. Popular culture not only deals with homosexuality approvingly, but has added more and more gay personalities to the mix.

... Americans are simply, broadly, more tolerant of others who are unlike them. As a general trend, that’s heartening. On the other hand, what comes along with this mass departure of moral judgment from public life? Let’s say we grant that it’s morally acceptable to smoke weed. Is it morally acceptable, then, to spark up a joint every day at lunch? Sure, as long as you’re not endangering others. It’s still not terribly wise, though.

... Increasingly, we don’t want to judge others for anything, even if what they’re doing is destructive. But is being non-judgmental the same as granting tacit approval, even support?
Comments: Image source of Easy Rider is Flickr. A good book on the kind of change we are seeing is The Intolerance of Tolerance

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