Friday, January 20, 2017

The Second Civil War.

One hundred and forty four years ago, on April 12th, 1861, a fort that had been built after the war of 1812 as a defense against foreign invaders from capturing the strategic city of Charleston SC was fired upon.  The fort and soldiers inside were not fired upon by the vessels of Great Britain or France.  No, the fort was fired upon by those who until recently had called themselves citizens of the United States.  The act began the US Civil War.  The act was not sudden.  It had been a long time coming.  South Carolina, along with other southern states succeeded from union over the election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency.  Lincoln represented a clear and present danger to the south as he wanted to deal with the original sin of our country: slavery.  Sentiments on both sides had grown hostile to the point where unity became impossible.

4 years and tens of thousands of lives lost later, the union won.  President Lincoln begged that the union not exact revenge on the south and wanted to restore the American union lost, this time without the bane of slavery.  144 years later there is still pockets of resentment about this era of history.  We still feel the repercussions of our original sin.

We now stand again with two sides looking with intense anger and fear at each other who are supposed to be our brothers and sisters.  This is not broken down so much by states as it is by ideologies.  The sides could be, in my humble opinion, be broken down into two camps: globalists and nationalists.  Each use these nomenclatures as insults against the other.  Each believes that their own ideology is on the side of the angels while the other side's ideology is malevolent and corrosive.  Both sides have a fear and loathing for the other.  Conversations between these groups end quickly in a cascade of insults and character assassination.  The further we go, the further  the heels get dug in and conflict becomes more of an inevitability.

Where people quit listening and prefer the consolation of echo chambers, violence will erupt.  The faults of 'my side' are ignored lest the case for my side be weakened.  The faults of 'your side', real or imagined, are to become a narrative by which propaganda is driven.  Neither is based in reality.  Each fights to control institutions: schools, churches, workplaces, higher education, media, and government itself. These institutions are commandeered so as to spout only one side's propaganda.  The more entrenched they become the greater deceit is approved and stereotypes utilized.  Gone is the ability to accept defeat and it is replaced by the throwing of violent temper tantrums.

No infection takes over the body instantaneously.  It gains ground cell by cell.  But if caught in time the infection can be contained or even eliminated.  The older I get, the more I have seen this infection spread.  We must stop.

How?  How do we stop this careening into a second civil war?  I posit we already in the second civil war.  Its fights are not on conventional battlefields like Shiloh or Gettysburg.  They are the streets of our cities.  They are on the airwaves.  They are in halls of Congress and state houses.  Forward motion comes to a halt for fear that whoever has the upper hand now will continue to have the upper hand.  I posit we are in a civil war because we forgot that we are supposed to be a people and have turned into a collection of conflicting tribes playing a zero sum game.  The deification of the self started in the culture in the 1960's is coming home to roost.  When what is best for us as a country is defeated by what is best for me, then breakdown is inevitable.

If the battle is to cease, then we need to start listening to each other.  That doesn't mean that we are going to agree.  It might help to understand that perhaps the majority of people on both sides are good people who are scared about the future and have bought into one way or the other of thinking as on how to address it.  If we start conversing, it will be harder for the Machiavellian puppet masters to divide us.  We could address each concern without the zero sum game.

There are going to be some issues we will have to choose a side on.  That will not be easy.  The balance, though, should fall on whether we are respecting the humanity of a person or group or stripping their humanity away so as to justify our violence towards them.  If we want to evolve, we will have to choose against that which strips the humanity away from a person and group.  At the time of the Civil War it was over whether it was just and moral to enslave a group.  Now it is whether it is just and moral to kill the unborn.  Certainly there are many other issues, most pointedly what should be the scope and power of the federal government (also at issue 144 years ago).  But reasonable and just people can debate these things and come to just conclusions.

I write this column on the date of the inauguration of President Donald Trump.  It is my sincere hope that he can be another Lincoln, something that was hoped of President Obama.  We need someone in the Oval Office that will not gin up the rhetoric of division and hatred.  I sincerely hope that a new direction can be taken.  I do not want a direction that inflicts retribution on one side over the other as we saw in the last administration.  No, I want a direction that reminds us of the union we are supposed to share, how we can disagree but remain united, who will lead us away from anything that strips the humanity of any group.  It may be a pipe dream, but I look to the day when we fellow Americans can see our country as a garden and not a battlefield.

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