I chose to be a conscientious objector from the culture wars in America.

The most recent reminder of why comes in the form of the latest volley in the never-ending “culture war” involving Indiana politicians and a law they claimed was necessary to protect “religious freedom” in the state.

I don’t have much interest in focusing on Indiana’s law. Or the laws of any other state that has decided that the greatest threat to America’s future is the so-called loss of religious freedom.

Today, as the father of a 14-year-old and a 12-year-old, I find the obsession with fighting “culture wars” by both the political left and right in America to be the greatest threat to America’s future.

In Minnesota, our largest city is a target-rich environment for radical Islamic terrorist groups preying on our young men and women — a far greater threat to our national security than whether or not a gay couple wishes to order a wedding cake.

The current U6 unemployment rate in America is roughly 12 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and 16 percent according to Gallup. The fact that millions of Americans remain unemployed or underemployed or are barely earning enough to keep food on the table is a greater threat to our economic security than is a lesbian asking to have a bouquet of flowers delivered to her lesbian partner.

There are anywhere from 1.7 million to 2.4 million Americans who are incarcerated — depending on whose numbers you believe — and that puts America near the top of any nation in the world with the most people locked up and behind bars.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 45 million people, or 14.5 percent of all Americans, who live below the poverty line.

Many online sources cite a study by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy that says 32 million adults in the United States are unable to read.

It is estimated that it will cost, at a minimum, $3.6 trillion to repair America’s crumbling roads, bridges, dams and other critical infrastructure.

Today, throughout our state and our country, there are veterans struggling to find health care, women trying to get out of abusive relationships and children dying of disease.

California is running out of water; global climate change is changing our very way of life and more than 11 million of our neighbors are under constant threat of eviction from our country because Congress can’t agree on a solution to give them a path to citizenship.

Yet, like all things in politics today, the main thing never is the main thing. The list of challenges facing our country is immense, complex and daunting.

Which is why, all too often, those challenges never get addressed. They aren’t sexy. They don’t generate headlines. They are tough and difficult and require compromise.

Just imagine all of the positive things that could be accomplished if we came together to demand actual results from our elected officials on things that really matter.

If it were possible to calculate the lost opportunity to this country because of the obsession to follow the bright, shiny objects that politicians throw up in the air, I think we would all be appalled.

The “culture war” is a phony war.

Its generals are chicken hawks who won’t get into the field where the real battles facing our future need to be fought.

Its soldiers are just following orders and are left behind when the political consultants decide the hill they took no longer has any political value.

When the fighting is done, and the real freedoms our children deserve are left smoldering in a heap of political rhetoric, it is their future that is the true casualty of the lie of America’s culture wars.


Erich Mische has been active in local, state and national government; politics, and public policy for more than three decades. He lives in St. Paul.