Since about this time last year, the vitriol and bile in American politics has gone from a low simmer to just short of a boil. On one side, we have celebrities on social media and crowds in the street calling for violent action. On the other, we’ve got folks believing that one gentleman can take ten rascals, so let the bastards come.
The left seems to think that we will see a glorious revolution of the human spirit brought about by denying a stage to folks who profit by being shouted down, massive demonstrations with no cogent point, and maybe a little violence around the edges, just to show the other side they mean business.
The right, on the other hand, well, I’m not sure what the right believes on this one. At the moment, the people I listen to are pointing and laughing at the left. I am finding it difficult to find anything more than an attitude that they’d rather not have a civil war, but they’ll have one if the other side insists. Not saying there aren’t whackjobs calling for the use of CAS to clear out the quad at Berkeley, but they’re not part of my personal political echo chamber. The things I’m reading and hearing do tend to lean toward the “It’ll be easy, because we’ve got the guns” side of the counter-argument, and more than a few seem to be poking the left just to see them twitch.
The one thing I think both sides are saying is that violent revolution, no matter who starts it, will be quick, clean, and productive.
They’re both wrong. If we continue down this road, both rhetorically and politically, what we will create will make the Civil War of the 1860’s look like a rather unpleasant dust-up.
There is no “North/South” or “Free/Slave” geographic dichotomy. Densely populated liberal counties are sprinkled across the continent. Granted, they are more prevalent along the periphery of the country, but they aren’t remotely as contiguous as the Confederacy ever was.
In other words, enemy territory just might be a couple of blocks over for much of the country. There will likely be no true safe areas, no matter how red or blue they are.
The second Civil War will probably start when heated words turn to violence that is reciprocated. What will happen when a store owner shoots the guy in a black mask who’s smashing his windows? What happens when the fires from a protest consume a middle-class neighborhood? What happens when all of this is broadcast over every cable network and the Internet, inflaming everyone on both sides who has had quite enough and just wants it to be over? What happens when some demagogue harnesses that anger and calls for a crusade?
I doubt that we will get many Gettysburgs, but I guarantee that we will get a bushel full of Srebrenica’s and Beslans. Our war against each other will more closely resemble The Troubles than The Wilderness. If you think abuse of civil rights is bad now, just wait until middle America is worried that some jerk is going to throw a molotov cocktail in the foyer of their kids’ school. In the end, it will rend our nation apart.
After a time, the sides may coalesce into geographically contiguous entities as areas are cleansed of the unbeliever, but in the beginning, it will be as easy to find someone from the other side as it is to go to Kroger for milk and eggs. This will be a war of gangs and squads and flash mobs. It will be a war of bombings, assassinations, and massacres. It will be a tit-for-tat, score-settling family fight where the memory of a political sign on somebody’s lawn gets their house burned to the ground.
The war will gain steam as folks who would normally turn away from the violence are struck with it. It’s hard to convince someone whose children have been harmed that they can’t blame an entire block of other people for the crime. It’s even harder to do when atrocities become commonplace. Folks who normally wouldn’t harm a fly will revert to savagery against their neighbor when they’re scared or angry, and they won’t much care if that neighbor is actually their enemy.
In the end, we will all lose. The slave/no slave, federal power/states’ rights argument of 1860 was simple compared to the gobblety-gook we have now. We aren’t arguing about what the other side is doing, we are attacking the other side for who they are. We have all gone a long way toward dehumanizing the other side already, and when you do that, it’s not a long walk to where our cities are burning and we’re filling in pits with bodies at the bottom.
So, to wind this up, I’m begging all of you – slow down. I’ve seen the innocents hurt by civil war, and I know what the aftermath looks like. It’s not where anyone wants our people to go. If we do not turn from our current path, we will soon come to the place where folks will want the killing to start just to get it over with, and few of us will come way from that unscathed.
For the sake of our nation and our children, please don’t run toward our destruction.