The increasingly strident debate over important issues long too sensitive to discuss suggests we are entering into a new period of fundamental, perhaps revolutionary change. How it will end is hard to predict. But it safe to say the old consensus is over.
The Archbishop of Canterbury proposes that Sharia law be partly recognized in Britain. There are immediate calls for his resignation. At the DOD Hesher Islam's criticisms that Major Stephen Coughlin is a "Christian zealot with a pen" sparks Coughlin's resignation. But he is reinstated very soon afterward following a counter-reaction. The Berekeley Council and Code Pink decide to oust a Marine recruiting station from the City. The Battle of Berekeley begins. Robert Gates accuses European NATO allies of welshing on their commitments in Afghanistan. He is criticized and asked to apologize by European officials. Undaunted, he plunges on.
Everywhere there is fraction and realignment. The final rites over the 1990s were pronounced by Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton and her snarling sidekick, Bill. On the Republican side, Fred Thompson cast himself as the standard bearer of the Reagan Coalition and soon exited the race. Cries of dismay are being heard everywhere. But on the whole these conflicts may be hopeful signs.
The clashes mean that on the most basic level certain issues are being met head on. The Battle of Berkeley will re-examine who Won the 1960s, but more importantly, whether the counterculture can opt out of defending America. Rowan Williams, Hesher Islam and Stepehen Coughlin are the center of an increasingly open debate about whether Islam is an ordinary religion or a conquering ideology. Robert Gates in drawing a line in sand over Afghanistan is fighting the Battle of Berkeley internationally.
These events are probably only the foretaste of more to come. The world that existed before midnight on December 31, 2000 has ended. The smug conviction that the West was at the end of history; that the EU was destined to dominate the continent; that the Y2K bug was the greatest thing, next to Global Warming, that society had to fear; that multiculturalism was the wave of the future -- all these and more -- burst with same finality as the rockets in the sky on that festive fin de siecle evening. But every end is a beginning. The question is: the beginning of what?