The Simone Biles controversy is proof the culture war will rot your brain

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Simone Biles.
Simone Biles. Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock

The culture war is bad for lots of reasons — but the most decisive one may be that it turns its most passionate soldiers into blithering idiots.

Just look at the response on the populist right to news that gymnast Simone Biles would be bowing out of the women's team competition at the Olympics, citing mental health concerns, after a poor start. Doing what culture warriors do — treating one woman's decision as proof positive that THEY are destroying all that his noble and good about America the Exceptional — the right pounced, dubbing her a "quitter" and a "selfish sociopath" who had "brought shame to the country."

Never mind that long before the opening ceremonies in Tokyo, Biles had proven herself to be arguably the greatest female gymnast of all time, with a combined total of 30 Olympic and World Championship medals to her name. If she had retired long before this week, she would still be considered one of the greatest athletes to ever live — and one who had earned more respect and honor, and brought more glory to her country, than 10,000 editors at The Federalist.

So why would so many rabblerousing ideologues cruelly spew venom in the face of a national hero at a moment of rare public vulnerability? Because that's what the culture war does: It promises to transform every person — as long as he or she can plausibly be assimilated into the ranks of the cultural Enemy — into potential fodder for political gain. A young woman of immense talent who's taken our breath away and made tens of millions of Americans proud on numerous occasions over the past 10 years? No matter. Now she's merely emblematic of all the bad things our ideological opponents hope to do to the country.

That's pretty powerful. But also immensely stupid.

So please, bow out of the culture war, show a little generosity and gratitude to Simone Biles in her time of struggle, and refuse to sacrifice your mind for the fleeting promise of momentary political advantage.

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