Commentary Magazine


Topic: war on marriage

Put an End to the War Metaphor

Several decades ago, Lyndon Johnson declared the “war on poverty.” Since then, the war metaphor has been turned on its head, with those involved in political debates insisting that their opponents are waging war on the subject de jure. In the last few weeks, for example, liberals have said that Republicans are declaring a “war on women.” Conservatives, on the other hand, have said the president and Democrats are now declaring a “war on marriage.”

The martial metaphor is inappropriate as a general matter — but particularly when real wars are being fought around the world and real servicemen and servicewomen are being killed in combat.

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Several decades ago, Lyndon Johnson declared the “war on poverty.” Since then, the war metaphor has been turned on its head, with those involved in political debates insisting that their opponents are waging war on the subject de jure. In the last few weeks, for example, liberals have said that Republicans are declaring a “war on women.” Conservatives, on the other hand, have said the president and Democrats are now declaring a “war on marriage.”

The martial metaphor is inappropriate as a general matter — but particularly when real wars are being fought around the world and real servicemen and servicewomen are being killed in combat.

So perhaps both sides will put on the shelf the war metaphor, right next to the comparisons to Hitler and Nazi Germany. These are examples of (at best) lazy thinking, and at worse they’re meant to libel opponents.

It’s a tired rhetorical trick and, I suspect, an ineffective one. Let’s hope it comes to an end.

 

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