Charlottesville, VA, white supremacist rally
It Couldn’t Happen in America
Americans are living turbulent times, times when the last things you need are half the citizenry armed to the teeth and an unstable, egomaniacal, possibly psychotic at the helm. Is there the possibility of a 21st-century civil war breaking out in the USA? We have always confidently assumed that it couldn’t happen in the world’s greatest democracy. Or could it? The mighty Mississippi doesn’t start out as a great river. It begins as tiny rivulets struggling towards Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota, from whose headwaters it flows 2,340 miles southwards, entering the Gulf of Mexico as a triumphant giant. It’s the same with social movements, both benign and malevolent. They start with just a few people concerned enough to do something. Formerly they would die out or grow vegetatively into mass movements. Today, with the Internet, they can propagate like flash fires. This fact, coupled with the hundreds of rivulets of intolerance, racial hatred, inequality, individualistic greed, and armed militants, rife in the country, does not bode well. Could they all join together in a very short time to form a mighty river of civil disobedience and martial solutions? That is to say, a civil war.
There is no shortage of factors pointing in that direction, starting with the inexorable erosion of civil rights in the USA. The Patriot Act has seen to that. The rights of assembly and free speech are increasingly conditioned. The cutbacks in social programs foment insecurity and inequality. The privatization of education tilts the scales in favor of schools with miraculous religious agendas, and the pauperization of public schools, resulting in the dumbing down of American young people in both cases. Not since the armed Catholicism of Ferdinand and Isabella’s reign in 15th and 16th-century Spain has a country been so conditioned by religious fanaticism.
Sacrosanct American traditions, regarded as exotic in other first-world countries, also exert a negative influence on civic harmony in America. Infirm patriotism, predatory capitalism, cowboy-style rugged individualism and notions of American exceptionalism all contribute to irreconcilable divisions among individuals and groups within the country and misunderstandings abroad.
You Got Knives, You Got Forks, Gotta Cut Something
Thanks to the twisted interpretation of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, the United States is an armed camp. And not all of those millions of guns belong to lone locos; many of them are in the hands of well-organized locos, the right-wing militias. President Trump’s Education Secretary, Betsy de Vos is a member of the Christian Reformed Church who attended a Christian Reformed college in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She happens to be the sister of Eric Prince, founder of the Blackwater mercenary army (later renamed “Academi,” though any connection with academia is conspicuously lacking) that had a major (and controversial) role in the occupation of Iraq. Mercenary armed forces are the most sinister of all, as they are not held accountable by democratically-elected representatives. They are freebooters, and their loyalty is to the man who pays them. They would be a priceless asset to the organizers of a coup d’etat.
What about the American military services? If push came to shove would they, wholly or in part, come down on the side of constitutional democracy? Would their response be like that of the Portuguese Army in the 1994 Carnation Revolution coup to oust the dictator, restore democracy and end Portuguese colonialism? Or would they take the “just following orders” route? We can only guess, but the stakes are high indeed.
Perverted institutions are taking huge bites out of the American well-being, institutions like reactionary courts (and here comes yet another retrograde Supreme Court Justice), Congress with its big-business financing (from banking, pharma, energy, insurance, arms, etc.) and slavish adherence to the extreme right-wing Israeli Likud party’s truculent Middle-East agenda, the executive branch which has escalated the power grabs initiated since the Clinton administration… And let’s not forget the influence of the National Rifle Association, responsible in some degree for the gratuitous daily bloodletting on the streets of the United States. This is not the stuff a great country is made of.
“The Civil War Lies on Us like a Sleeping Dragon…”
From The Guardian, 20 August 2017
For historians, Trump has been the gift that keeps on giving. His ignorance of American history, his flouting of political and constitutional traditions, his embrace of racist ideas and groups, his egregious uses of fear, his own party’s moral bankruptcy in its inability to confront him, have forced the media to endlessly ask historians for help. That moral cowardice by Republicans shows some glimmers of hope; Mitt Romney has just called out Trump, accusing him of “unraveling … our national fabric” by his coziness with white supremacists, and Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee charged Trump with putting the nation “in great peril” by his incompetence and racism.
Blight quotes Lincoln:
Lincoln did not fear foreign enemies. If “danger” would “ever reach us”, he said, “it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”
How to Head Off a Civil War
It wouldn’t be easy in a country as polarized as the United States, where all sides are entrenched in their positions. People with opposing opinions are seen as enemies or idiots, not adversaries nor viable debaters. Compromise between enemies is unlikely, so dialogue is virtually impossible. This polarization has been incubating–and cultivated by those who want to divide and conquer– for decades and the result is a deterioration of good manners and common decency in public life. The question is further complicated by the fact that perhaps half the population of the country (perhaps the big half) perceives the issues through a deeply ingrained and immovable religious faith. This faith-based perception goes hand in hand with a reluctance to participate in any fact-based dialogue.
Some radical evangelical Christians adhere to the rapture tradition that maintains that the Apocalypse can be invoked by a holy war between the Israelites and the heathens, which would project the believers directly into heaven and condemn the rest of us (including the Israelites, interestingly enough) to hell’s fires. There are not a few of these cruel and unusual Christians. Credible sources estimate that approximately 50 million of them in the United States are registered voters, 95% of whom are in Trump’s corner. (That might explain his controversial decision to recognize the Israeli government’s suzerainty over Jerusalem by moving the US Embassy there.)
Read more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
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