War is coming.
“Get ready” say people sniffing the political winds, eager for war to begin.
In this instance, the war party is not lathered up about hostile foreign powers, and it’s not hot to smack around bad actors who have attacked the United States.
No, what these guys want is another go at the sort of conflict that tore the United States apart between 1861 and 1865. They want civil war.
They are in earnest, they say, and I say let’s take them at their word.
Here’s my question to them: have you given much thought to what a civil war is? Do you know that the last time Americans engaged in a civil war, they slaughtered their countrymen in our cities and streets and homes and fields, and more than 600,000 people lost their lives? Without a doubt, many more would perish today.
Also, are you aware that of all conflicts, civil wars are the most ugly, most personal and most bitter, setting brother and sister against brother and sister, fathers against children, engendering hatreds that span generations?
Is that what you want? Why?
Yes, this nation has big problems, which politicians on both sides are failing to tackle. They seem to have settled instead on scoring political points and demonizing anyone who doesn’t agree with them. Choose your lunatic asylum.
As Gerry Rafferty sang: “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right…”
Despite all I’ve read and heard, however, no one has made a case that would compel me to kill other Americans. Countrymen with whom I just happen to disagree. Our founding fathers were smart guys, and they realized that they couldn’t even get 20 impassioned people in a room to work things out without a lot of shouting and perhaps a few punches thrown around.
What would be the aim of such a civil war? Guys like Steve Bannon say democracy has failed and seem to be aiming for some form of autocracy, and to do away with the free press.
But one of the things I have picked up from the hot talk of late is that a key aim of the war advocates has little to do with actual policy. They want to use the back of this hardest of hard hands to stifle dissent, and then grind their ideological opposites into the dust under their feet.
It seems their war engine runs on pure hatred, and that seems to me a paltry justification for civil war. Particularly when so much of the hostility and division is the work product of mountebanks who’ve contrived to get hold of, say, a bullhorn, a microphone or a television camera, then enter the electronic town square, ascend their perch and push their falsehoods.
In many cases, what they say is stupendously, demonstrably false. But it doesn’t seem to matter anymore whether there’s a spot of truth in what they say. They lie their heads off and get away with it. Some talking heads have even revealed — at a moment unaware the tape was rolling — that even they don’t believe in most of what they’re pushing. As long as they can continue to stir up rage, they’ll stay on top of the ratings and make a a pile of money. Alex Jones has admitted he didn’t believe the Sandy Hook shooting was a false flag operation, but he pushed the lie because it made him money.
Consequences schmonsequences, boys, we’re getting rich.
I get it, like pornography, hate wrapped in lies sells. But just because a fellow can sell something doesn’t mean he should. And the hard fact is there are millions of Americans ready to kill other Americans because people lied to them, and they believed sincerely in what they were told.
So, will the firebrands get what they want? I hope not. My take is that, absent a Pearl Harbor or a 9/11 to rally the masses, their prospects for lighting the boiler are slim. Problem is, the hot heads are growing impatient. I worry that some cabal weary of waiting for a spark could stage a ghastly event, perhaps a bombing, blame it on the objects of their hate, and the rubes who share their opinions will buy the fabrication and pick up arms.
It’s an old ploy. It worked for the Nazis on Feb. 27, 1933, when the German parliament building, The Reichstag, burned down. The Nazi leadership then used the fire to claim that Communists were planning a violent uprising, and that they, the Nazia, needed emergency legislation to prevent this. The resulting act, known as the Reichstag Fire Decree, abolished a number of constitutional protections and paved the way for Nazi dictatorship.
So, as Abraham Lincoln said in his first inaugural address on the eve of the Civil War:
“In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war.
Robert Whale can be reached at email@example.com.