I cannot help but feel that we are a nation at war… with each other. We are two nations splitting along fault lines that may not be repairable.
America has not come to the blue and grey divide of the 1860s yet. We are more in the “Bloody Kansas” and Missouri border wars of the 1850s stage. What happened at the Capitol last week may have been the modern version of John Browne’s Raid of the Harpers Ferry armory in 1859. Coincidentally, Col. Robert E. Lee led the federal troops that crushed this insurrection.
If the authorities are correct about armed insurrection at all the state capitols later this week and next, then that could be our Fort Sumter. At some point if all 50 statehouses are attacked, there is a good chance at least one will fall to the modern-day rebels.
The Antifa and Maga sides of their day used violence against each other by those endorsing the expansion of slavery into the western states and territories and those that did not. The elites on both sides of the argument didn’t become involved in the border wars themselves but stroked the flames for their followers to fight.
In the decades leading up to the Civil War, there were at least 70 documented cases of congressmen and senators physically assaulting each other. It was common for members to carry pistols and knives on the floor. In 1856, Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina walked onto the floor of the Senate and proceeded to “cane” Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts leaving him unconscious and severely injured. No one apprehended Brooks as he left.
We are close but not at that stage of the divide yet. Perhaps it is because in the 1850s there was what was known as a gentlemen’s code that required action when one’s honor was besmirched. It was a misguided code, and I am not suggesting that we return to that. Yet in our age there does not seem to be any code that is followed by these elected officials even a misguided
Inequality the Root of All Evil
For a long time, I thought we were coming together as far as race was concerned. America had come a long way from the Jim Crow era. Yet at the heart of our problems for 400 years has been the original sin of slavery. Our ancestors all came to America because they wanted to be here except for those from Africa who were brought as chattel in chains.
There has been inequality in American society forever. Immigrants were segregated into their own ghettos. There was discrimination of the newest arriving group that wasn’t the least subtle. Franklin said that Germans who were settling in colonial Pennsylvania were too stupid to learn English. The Irish, Italians, and Poles were likewise thought of the same way by those that came before. Through generations of assimilation, each group became indistinguishable from those that were later arrivals. That is if they were Christian and white.
It will always be simple to single out those that are different. Any misfortune that befalls you can be blamed on those “other.” Changes in our legal system have made it harder to keep entire races and ethnicities economically down. People can now live anywhere they can afford regardless of color or origin.
When you have entire political movements solely based on perceived grievance, it is inevitable that scapegoats must be found. The scapegoats are usually those that are different. Jews, Blacks, Mexicans, and Moslems are the problem. It cannot be “us” that is to blame. Yet what happens when Christian white folk are heading from majority to minority status? People do not go quietly into the uncertain night.
There is the politics of inclusion and that of exclusion. Presently, the Republican party is trying its darndest to exclude as many people as possible. If you believe in science then you’re a RINO, and the same is true of climate change. You are a Socialist if you think that tax dollars should be spent on an economic safety net for all. The only place taxes should go is away.
Even when things like universal healthcare would benefit those protesting, they have been indoctrinated to claim it is harmful. Republicans now must believe in wild secret conspiracies when common sense would tell you that no secret is ever kept once two or more people know about it. No need to have a policy platform when we follow the leader as lemmings off a cliff.
Yet it all comes down to disenfranchisement based on race and difference. America is a multi-racial and cultural society. We are a big tent country that some refuse to accept. That refusal of acceptance is the new lost cause. The waiving of Confederate flags and adherence to monuments of traitors are the new symbols of the aggrieved.
Are We Heading Toward an American Rupture?
The Civil War of 1861 was one of sectionalism. North against South or Free versus Slave state was an easy way to identify your enemy. States seceded from the Union. The Confederacy was born with its own government. It would not happen that way this time.
It wouldn’t be New York against South Carolina. It would literally be neighbor against neighbor. And that may be what saves us from the precipice.
What happened at the Capitol was horrendous. It was fueled by the rhetoric and lies of the American president. Why would the head of state want to see his government crash down? It isn’t logical. His world and that of some of his most ardent supporters has evolved into a version of “Game of Thrones.” Can people really believe that the political opposition are all pedophiles?
The spell must be broken. The only way to do so is to make sure those who participated in illegal acts against the United States are prosecuted. None of those that stormed the Capitol are 21st century Sons of Liberty. Nor should they be called patriots. The same goes for the politicians that encouraged them. Those elitists may say they are with the troops, but unlike George Washington, they remained safely in hiding.
I am hopeful that after this period in our history we can move on to a better America. One that is fairer and more equitable. Not an America stuck in grievance but one of promise.