Because I’m a Marvel fan. (Captain America all the way!)
Actually, it’s because, as a historian, one of my favorite topics was the United States Civil War. While the actual battles captivated my attention, I have studied the causes leading up to it, and it’s that knowledge that alarms me based on what I see in current day discourse.
I have a Bulgarian Liberal friend who was surprised that I would even mention the possibility of civil war. In his mind, it would take much more drastic steps to trigger a civil war. He thought vaguely that it would require an outbreak of domestic terror groups and then an extremely brutal suppression wave by the government. All in all, he didn’t think civil war was a realistic possibility.
While I appreciate his optimism, our civil war required far less incentive. In that case, it began because of intractable disagreement over a hot-button issue that led to blood being spilled, the infamous Bleeding Kansas. Before the nation reached that point, there was a gradual distancing between the two sides over this issue. What began as an awkward topic of conversation at the birth of the nation grew as polite disagreement transformed into shouting matches then into physical violence as evident by the Caning of Charles Sumner.
I see our nation in the early stages but, unfortunately, past the first stage. Slowly, the two opposing sides are losing their commonality with each other. I can think of no better example than the reaction to the Orlando massacre. Previous terrorist attacks have rallied the nation together, but this time, divisions were not only on display, they worsened. It’s no longer arguing about what what the proper response on a localized spectrum but on completely different planes. The Democrats are not arguing against Republicans about what is the proper response to ISIS, but have completely avoided ISIS to blame anybody else and then prescribe gun control measures that won’t actually improve the situation.
I cannot stress how massively bad that is. Instead of the United States, we’re swiftly becoming the Divided States as the mainstream culture is split into two camps with the boundaries between them growing in strength and hostility. Before the first Civil War, the slave-holding South began to suspect the North of being part of a large conspiracy undermine their way of life. Any major move by Northern politicians were regarded with accusations as threatening to ‘states’ rights’. We all know the climax when Lincoln was elected, and the South enacting secession, despite the fact that Lincoln had no desire to end slavery within his term, believing a long, slow death of slavery would happen without his direct intervention. It didn’t matter what Lincoln said, the South believed he was a threat and reacted as such.
I’m sure the Orlando parallels are obvious. The enemies, according to most Liberals, aren’t the terrorists claiming responsibility, but their Conservative neighbors. It is they who conspire to stop their noble efforts at gun control. It is they who are encouraging the death of gay people. The evidence, despite standing right in front of them, is ignored.
What would be the next step?
As bad as the conversation was becoming between North and South, everything escalated with Bleeding Kansas and then John Brown’s Raid. The first event led to death on both sides of the divide, driving the wedges deeper, while the latter event seemed to confirm all the fears of the South, despite Brown’s lack of support in the North. In our case, so long as we can avoid death on both sides of the argument, we don’t have to worry about escalation.
Despite all of this, we don’t have to have a second civil war. We are still in the early stages, we still have time to leave this course. That’s why I said it was a Yellow Alert and not a Red Alert. By sounding the alarm of our current course, I hope to do whatever I can to avoid that dark future.