Yes, I know. According to the strictest definition (factions battling violently to control the same government) the U.S. hasn’t had Civil War I — yet. But leave that quibble aside for the moment; there are other definitions. Suddenly, talk of upcoming Civil War II is everywhere.
Oh sure, predictions of war have been made on the political fringes for decades. But now they’re mainstream — or as close to mainstream as you can get without having the (increasingly empty-headed) New York Times do a cosmopolitan feature on what fashionable Manhattanites should wear apres battle.
I’ve never been convinced we’re headed for outright warfare. Urban skirmishes, sure. Already happening, right here in the Pacific Northwest neighborhood (Hello, Portlandia). Neighborhoods so bad they might as well be war zones? Welcome to Chicago. But outright, nationwide, everybody’s-on-one-side-or-another and everybody’s involved whether they want to be or not warfare?
I was a doubter. Still am. But maybe not so deep a doubter.
The last few years have revealed such cultural gulfs it’s impossible to see any place to lay foundations for bridges. And those on the “blue” side of the gulfs aren’t content to let those on the other side go their own way in peace.
Does thoughtful discourse ever recover once one side is reduced to frothing hatred of people they don’t even know? Can thoughtful discourse even exist in the Age of Twitter?
Now that the most ardent anti-gunners are making it increasingly clear they want all gun owners dead, imprisoned, or raided by violent SWAT teams — and now that Bloombergians are on the ascendancy in places that used to be blue but gun friendly — is there anything left to do besides draw lines and dig trenches?
When even free speech, which the left considered sacred for hundreds of years, is damned as a tool of oppression, is it worth trying to talk to those who don’t get, and don’t want to get, history?
Nope. It’s all coming down to the ever-more violent screeching of blue against red, women against men, self-decreed oppressed classes against whoever they believe is responsible for their grievances (real and imaginary) this week. When you’ve got Yale graduates ranting that unemployed, high school educated welders and delivery drivers in the hinterlands are using their white male privilege to keep said grads from … whatever entitlement they feel they’re not getting … you’ve got nothing.
When millions of perfectly harmless souls are dismissed as KKK thugs because they cast the “wrong” v*te in an election … you’ve got nowhere to go.
When every gun owner is damned as a murderer … you’ve gone as far down in the much-vaunted “national conversation on guns” as you can get.
When you’ve got a national legislature whose members think that wearing white in protest or sitting behind the president making faces is how their job is properly done … well, it’s a ridiculous show, but really, they haven’t been doing a useful job anyhow. So what does it matter if they’re now revealing definitively that our “leaders” are without civility, leadership skills, constitutional knowledge, or plain old commonsense Clue?
There’s not a sign in the world that government, media, academia, the corporate world, or the freelance intelligentsia is going to get a grip any time soon. There’s only evidence they’ve recently lost any tenuous grip they might ever have had.
Short of a Lathe of Heaven-style invasion from outer space to unite us (and who the hell wants to be united on those terms, or with people who’ve so loudly decreed their loathing for us, anyhow?), does anybody see a healthy, non-violent, rights-respecting way out of this?
Just in the last week (fairly randomly chosen):
SF writer Sarah Hoyt urged the need to find ways to be less vulnerable to the crazed left now that they’re convinced that everyone not as “woke” as they is an enemy who must be financially and reputationally ruined.
Keith Weiner laid out the stages of the death of goodwill and left us to ponder the catastrophe that leads to. [CORRECTION: This piece is several years old so doesn’t belong in a list of very current posts. But it’s worthwhile, so I’m leaving it here.)
Kevin D. Williamson (still trying to reason with the people who’ve already tried to destroy his career because of his views) observes the danger of standing in the way of those convinced they have a manifest destiny to rule but who find the peasants blocking their path to Glorious Destiny.
Nathan Barton uses the abortion debate as an example of how many issues are going beyond all possibility of solving, and into higher levels of rage and intransigence.
And Robert Gore has scaled his Straight Line Logic blog way back because he’s weary of doing Isaiah’s job. It’s a small thing, and he has multiple reasons. But one sign of violence to come is when good and previously vocal people go ominously quiet.
Most of these don’t outright mention war. They just point in the direction of inevitability. Pseudononymous “Johnny Paratrooper,” however, gets right down to “Civil Wars and Woes.”
Agree or disagree with the specific positions and beliefs, war talk in in the air.
A lot of us have pursued strategies of retreat — the strategic retreat of the survivalist, the practical retreat of the Outlaw Ghost, the difficult moral retreat of the Outlaw Mole or Cockapoo. We’ve gotten out of cities, academia, conventional jobs, and the political fray. We’ve created low profiles, laid out escape routes, and done other things to reduce our vulnerability to tyranny.
But war, if it comes, may find us anywhere.
Oh, I think if war does come, it will begin in urban conflicts. It would be comforting to think it would stay there, as well — with the woke battling the “differently woke,” media shredding media, politics turning violently against politicians, cops openly revealed as soldiers for hire, and academia tearing itself apart brick by brick and premise by premise.
But I’m not sanguine about that. At some point, the minds of the woke and the would-be divine-right rulers turn toward the people they already blame for thwarting their will — us ordinary peasants out here in the big sea of red. And … well, there’s just no telling.
Look at any past war you care to study. Hellish conflicts end up in the strangest, most obscure places just because there’s a road or a bridge or a dam or a crop or a hill somebody considers important. People die hideously because a random roll of the dice lands war on the place they’ve chosen to live.
Worse if the people living around that prominent, must-hold point are mere deplorables (clinging to their guns, their religion, their Constitution, their Bill of Rights, their individualism, their philosophy, or their way of life). Then who cares if they, their town, their homes, their fortunes, their land, their lives, their children, or everything else they hold dear gets destroyed?
In our case, matters could be extreme because we might not just be perceived as collateral damage, innocents inconveniently near some desired object. Already millions of us are actively hated by people who know almost nothing about us — and don’t care to know, because they’ve already judged us to be vermin, deserving only extermination. It could be more like Stalin and the kulaks than merely having to “destroy the village to save it.”
I don’t mean to be a complete downer here. I have no crystal ball and I’m certainly no military strategist. Far from it. I’m guessing, just like everybody else. (Except perhaps Selco, who has just published a new book about lessons learned from living through that kind of warfare.)
But I don’t think we can count on our philosophical or physical retreat or our conventional preparedness to save us.
Of course, as well armed as we are (and will continue to be), we can always put up one hell of an impressive defense. And while we’re not as evil as the Woke Twitterverse thinks we are, we’re not as dumb as they imagine, either. They underestimate us.