The Third American Civil War

The Third American Civil War

By Ludovic Bertron - Flickr: Ellis Island, CC BY-SA 2.0,

By Ludovic Bertron - Flickr: Ellis Island, CC BY-SA 2.0,

You may wonder why I'm writing about the "third" American Civil War. Wasn't there only one?

The First Civil War was what is more commonly referred to as the Revolutionary War. About a third of the colonists sided with the British, and many fought in Loyalist contingents against the revolutionaries.

The Second Civil War is the one we all know about, when the southern slave holding states seceded to preserve their peculiar institution. That trended with the First Civil War, in that Loyalist sentiment was strongest in the South.

We are now in what many people are calling a Cold Civil War.

We see it all around us. A large portion of the country is at each others' throats. There is no common ground. The part which supports Donald Trump—which seems to be shrinking—does so solely because it aggravates the other part. We have radical leftists who want to burn everything down which doesn't meet their purity standards. Many liberals don't care about why people voted for Trump, seeing them as lost causes.

We've seen this before. America, 1859. Spain, 1935. The results weren't good.

We can almost speak of two Americas. The America of places like California, my state, which progress on, which carry on the work of liberals from times gone by. The America of Texas, which seems to regress with every day, reviving ideas which had been consigned to the dustbin.

We have a fractured polity. In a state as large and diverse as the US, fracturing of some sort or another is inevitable. But what we have now is beyond that. We have parts of the country which are living in a different reality. There is no common language to tie the country together. Alternative facts rule the day, as reason is jettisoned. Education is seen as a liberal plot. Expertise is frowned upon in favor of gut feelings.

We see this fracturing breaking out in spurts of violence. Dylan Roof in Charleston. The Portland man who killed two heroes who defended young Muslim girls he may have killed instead. We saw it as far back as Trayvon Martin. A population whose "rights" are being taken away is not going to take it lying down. That population will fight back to preserve what it sees as its prerogatives. And in Donald Trump, it found its braying champion.

One can say that this Third Civil War is the rekindled War Between the States. That war never ended. Reconstruction ended due to a corrupt deal between corrupt politicians. The "New South" supposedly born out of the Civil Rights movement is regressing back to the Old Confederacy. Many parts of the North were and are as racist as their Confederate cousins.

This Third Civil War will only end when a Second Reconstruction is seen to its successful conclusion. There can be no other outcome. It has to be a political solution where the polyglot urban centers of the country rise up and tell the backwards areas that no, this nation will not go back to cater to its needs. We are the drivers. We are where power resides. Without our largesse, swathes of this country would atrophy and die. It's time for us to make our power felt.

And don't say that a cold civil war can't flare into a hot one. It's unlikely, but it's not impossible.

The ascent of Barack Obama wasn't the end of something, but merely the beginning. His presidency was the necessary impetus to rip open the scabs which polite society had ignored. It's supreme irony that the country's first black president made it acceptable for racists to say "nigger" again. The racial animus hidden by code words exploded out into the open.

What this civil war is about is what the other two were about. Will we look forward to the future or back to a dark past? Will we embrace diversity, or enforce conformity? The authoritarian streak in American life has always been strong, kept at bay only by a stronger rebelliousness.

I stand with the people in the graphic which fronts this essay. I stand with diversity. I stand with the people of the world coming to this country to make it better, make it bigger, make it greater. I stand with hope against despair. I stand with love against hate.

This is what will save us. Or we will perish.

Author's note

Apparently, the creators of Game of Thrones are developing a new series for HBO centering around... the Third Civil War. I'm sure it will be a dystopian mess full of violence. I hope that our current, very real civil war doesn't descend into violence.

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