The idea of an upcoming second U.S. Civil War has been floating around for more than a decade. However, its only in recent months that the idea seems to have ballooned in many chat rooms and forums across the internet. And, there’s a good reason for this: according to numerous polls conducted by the Pew Research center, the United States is more politically divided today than at any point in our history, including during the time leading up to the first U.S. Civil War in 1861. This widening division in political values began its polarization during Barack Obama’s terms in office, and then exploded during the first three years of Donald Trump’s term.
Extreme political division doesn’t necessarily predicate a descension into civil war, of course. Its merely one of the indicators of the potential of civil war. Very few civil conflicts in history have ever been merely because of political divide. In order for a prosperous society to descend into the madness of civil war you need additional pressures. Things like: extreme unhappiness with the current political leadership, troubling financial problems or poverty, social stress due to outside circumstances or fear of an uncertain future…you know, sort of like all the things we’re currently experiencing.
Not only are we more politically divided than ever in the history of our young country, thanks to Covid-19, our financial future as a nation has never looked more in doubt. Skyrocketing unemployment and ballooning debt with a cavernous and widening wealth gap between the 1% and the 99% has left our society with fear and anxiety about such an uncertain future. Our national debt is teetering into uncontrollable territory. Brutal and draconian lockdowns due to the virus, along with divide as to it’s seriousness and the effectiveness of a wide array of protective precautions have left so many people bewildered and paralyzed by doubt and fear. Politicization of mask wearing and social distancing has spread discontent and anger almost polarly along party lines. Each of these things immersed into a society with a constant influx of agenda-driven news and views have drenched our society in a fuel of discontent as severe as if someone was pouring gasoline upon us.
And, while people like Donald Trump on the right and Black Lives Matter on the left are busily dousing us in gasoline, the media is throwing lit matches in our direction.
In 1861, discontent and political divide had been brewing for years, and was at a high that hadn’t been seen since before the Revolutionary War. When Abraham Lincoln, a republican, won the presidential election of 1860, and before he even took office, seven southern states banded together in outrage and announced their secession from the union. The height of the discontent was with the right of states to self-govern without interference from the federal government, mostly with regard to their rights to continue the practice of slavery. Although Lincoln promised during his inaugural address to not interfere with the southern states’ rights to slavery, that solace wasn’t enough. Confederate forces seized several forts in the new confederate territory and Lincoln ordered the commander of Fort Sumter in South Carolina to hold his ground. Shots were fired by confederate raiders who attacked the fort, and the civil war was born.
The fuel for the first civil war was the divisive position taken between slave owners in the south and activists in the north. As tensions grew, both sides dug in their heels and solidified their positions. Lincoln’s presidential victory was the final straw, and, although Lincoln was committed to avoiding war and peacefully solving the differences, the shots fired at Fort Sumpter was the match that exploded the country into the most devastating war we’ve ever seen.
When political division and discontent are at such extreme levels, the catalyst for the birth of war can easily be something minor and almost laughably insignificant. The Revolutionary War started when a British garrison was sent to destroy a colonial arms depot. World War 1 started with the assassination of an otherwise politically insignificant and unimportant archduke by a lost and mostly incompetent assassin who got extremely lucky. In both of these instances, the rumblings of discontent were building and boiling, but neither of these wars were unavoidable.
The current conditions in the United States feels like a boiling cauldron ready to tumble over. Protestors spill into the streets almost nightly at the faintest slight, stirring up violence, looting, and burning. The media fans the flames, enticing and encouraging the actions of the mob in an effort to get clicks and views. The Coronavirus continues to kill Americans at an unprecedented and increasing rate, while lockdowns cycle back around, killing small businesses and widening the wealth inequality. These types of incidents sow discord and distrust at levels that leave us teetering upon the brink.
Immigration, government aid to the needy, racial discrimination, military spending, and religion have divided us along partisan lines that have coalesced from lively talking points to unbreachable walls of self-righteous indignation. These views transcend demographics and rigidly follow party politics, and this inflexible heel-digging is killing us. Hardly a day passes without Republicans and Democrats accusing each other of actions that betray the nation’s values. Party allegiances have fractured America, trickling down to divide families, friends, and spouses. The American Civil War was well known for pitting “brother versus brother,” and things seem no different now.
A recent Nielsen poll showed that 70% of Republicans and 60% of Democrats agree that the opposing party is a serious threat to the United States. A SERIOUS THREAT TO THE UNITED STATES! Because of their party affiliation and differing views on the various subjects listed above. If you seriously thought that somebody was a serious threat to your nation, what steps might you be prepared to take to protect your beloved country? There are a number of people out there fully prepared to take any steps necessary, and they look upon the other party as a serious threat — an enemy combatant even.
A civil war today, almost 160 years after the first will look far different than that brutal conflict. There will be no Mason-Dixon line separating one side from the other. Red states and blue states seceding along present state lines will not be possible. Even California, the bastion of liberalism in this country is not without conservative strongholds, and many states are contentious hotspots of nearly equal numbers of liberals and conservatives. States will be split, with battles and skirmishes spreading throughout the cities and the countryside. A military sent in by President Trump will be a threat to liberals, and a military deployed by President Biden will be a threat to the heavily armed right-wing militants. Guerilla tactics will be deployed, and battles will rage, with each side winning and losing victories. The military itself may fracture. After all, for every General Mark Milley or John Hyten, there’s a General John Kelly or Mike Mullen. Never has there been a more divisive U.S. president than Donald Trump, and military personnel are not immune to strong opinions and side-choosing. In what would seem to be an almost uncontrollable spin toward a bleak future of conflict, fractures and divides will only widen as battles rage.
How do we pull ourselves back from the brink of civil war, if indeed that is where we are? With discontent and political divide at such extremes, there is no easy answer. The U.S. election is tomorrow. If Trump wins a second term, the leftist mobs will riot, that is almost assured. Stores across the nation are already boarded up and bunkered in place, hoping to protect their property from violence. Walmart has pulled all guns and ammo from their floors in preparation for the inevitable looting that will occur. The White House has bolstered it’s perimeter by installing an unscalable fence, keeping the public at bay at a distance never before seen. Police departments across the nation are piling up on less-than-lethal chemical and impact munitions in unprecedented stockpiles in anticipation of the inevitable civil unrest.
If Biden wins, the right is ready to rebel, with Trump already sowing the seeds of revolt on numerous occasions with his statements indicating that he will not accept the results of an election that he claims has been filled with fraudulence from the start. He will almost certainly not concede, even in the event of a landslide against him, and definitely not in the event of a close contest. He will still be the president, with all the powers that office bestows upon him. His words to the White Supremacist group the Proud Boys during the debate a month ago ordering them to “Stand back and stand by,” emboldened his far right-wing observers, with many seeing the message that he might need their support in the near future. Gun and ammunition sales have skyrocketed in the past few months with stores completely sold out of the most popular weapons and ammunition calibers. These guns have mostly landed in the hands of right-wingers, and as Kyle Rittenhouse showed recently in the Kenosha, Wisconsin riots, they aren’t afraid to use them at the slightest provocation.
It would seem that no matter who wins tomorrow night, or whenever the results are finally tabulated, the United States is set to descend into madness and mass hysteria. A Biden win will throw the far-right into denial-driven fury led by the actions of a president who will not concede and will fight the results all the way to his politically stacked Supreme Court. A Trump victory will throw the far-left into a tizzy that will spill onto the streets with riots, destruction, and death across the country. Into this chaos only a small flame will be needed to destroy the country we know today. A shot fired at police, a federal building overrun, a mob cutting through the White House perimeter fence, a homemade bomb detonating at a governor’s mansion, a National Guard barracks under fire from a sniper position…any of these things and a thousand others could trigger a descension into madness that might result in a devastating and nightmarish civil conflict.
Think of the words of the Pledge of Allegiance: “One nation, under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” Never have any of these words seemed so despairingly inapplicable to the conditions we find ourselves in right now. God has never seemed further from our country. Our nation has never seemed less Indivisible. Liberty and justice for all has never seemed like such a farce. Our country is in a lot of trouble, and we need a savior. It may already be too late. If you’re not prepared, or you think such an action as civil war is an impossibility, you’re setting yourself up to be blindsided by a result that may indeed be already inevitable. One thing that is for sure is that extremist groups are fully prepared for civil war across the nation.
It just doesn’t seem like there’s anyone who will arrive in time. The savior our nation needs is certainly not Joe Biden. And, it’s undoubtedly not Donald Trump. Tomorrow may well be the start of a period of strife and conflict that will take us over the edge. “Now is the winter of our discontent,” wrote Shakespeare to start his play, Richard III. I hope this winter doesn’t prove to be the beginning of the end of our “more perfect Union.”
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