America at war
By Jim Poling Sr.
And so it begins; the second American Civil War.
It is not like the first American Civil War (1861-1865) with uniformed armies shooting at each other, but there are frightening similarities. The first civil war started when the political system failed to resolve differences over the spread of slavery.
This one is civil upheaval resulting from a political system unable to reconcile the differences between two distinct populations of citizens with different values. The differences have hardened into hatred infecting the two main political parties, the right-wing Republicans and the leftist Democrats. The centre seems to have disappeared.
This second civil war has been a long time developing, most notably since the divisive Vietnam War of 50 years ago. All the signs have been obvious but ignored because this could not happen to “the greatest nation on earth.”
When a country’s institutions deteriorate, when citizens begin rejecting authority, and when a political system can no longer bring people together, civil war begins. In the U.S., the Congress is frozen in a state of intolerance for other political views, the justice system has been weakened by the country’s own leaders, and the Supreme Court has become politicized, rendering it less respected, and less effective.
Critical issues such as climate change, global migration, health care and collapsing infrastructure are not being addressed and will not be solved in a country at war with itself. Also, there is a danger that countries such as Russia, China and North Korea will find advantages in the weakened U.S.
The actual start of the first civil war was easy to pinpoint. Soldiers of the confederacy of pro-slavery states attacked and captured Fort Sumter near Charleston, South Carolina in April 1861.
Identifying the actual start of this second civil war is not so easy. My guess is that July 23 just passed is when this one officially began.
On that day, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrived in the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee. ICE is the federal agency that has been rounding up thousands of undocumented immigrants and holding them in makeshift prisons.
They were trying to get a man and his 12-year-old son, who had locked themselves in a van. The ICE agents planned to grab them when they left the van to go into their house.
However, neighbours gathered and formed a human chain around the van, allowing the man and his son to get out of the van and into their house.
ICE had called in the local police, who just stood and watched, saying they would not get involved unless fighting broke out and they had to keep the peace. When citizens form up to stop federal law enforcement officers, I call that a sign of civil war. When local police refuse to be involved, I call that a sign of civil war.
Another sign is refusal of many victims of recent mass shootings to meet the president who came to visit them.
Even if you don’t believe civil war has started it is hard not to believe there will be one soon. Recent polling shows that roughly one-third of Americans expect civil war within the next five years.
Supporting that are rising gun sales, which increased 3.8 per cent over the last year. There now are believed to be 400 million firearms in the hands of Americans.
All those guns – more than one for each American man, woman and child – are not being used for hunting and recreational shooting. Many Americans you talk to will say people are buying them for protection against increasing violence and the possibility of civil war.
Hate groups continue to grow in the U.S., not just the white supremacists of the right but loosely-organized Antifa (Anti-Fascist) groups, which have been showing up more prominently at high-profile public rallies to protest, sometimes violently, racism and hate.
There is a lesson here for Canadians, particularly the politicians seeking election this fall.
They need to stop the nasty, vindictive politicking and talk about how they can respect each other and work together to give ordinary citizens the things they need to have better lives.
If they won’t, and continue to work on behalf of their parties instead of the people, we can turn our gazes south and see our future.