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Ameristan: Did He Bring the War Home?

He Built a Wall

America’s Third Civil War is not a new topic. Typically, people have spoken a “culture wars” which sounds less violent than “civil war.” But underneath the more refined talk of a difference in culture or values was the threat of violence. That violence spilled out into the open on January 6, 2021. Now people are wondering if that was a one-time event or whether it signaled the elevation of a verbal conflict to a physical one: are we at Defcon OMG!?

The Third Civil War: A Look Back

America’s Third Civil War (The Atlantic)

In December, 2019, The Atlantic magazine cover proclaimed the need to act to prevent the culture wars from becoming violent civil war. In December 2020, I decided to do an anniversary examination of the articles in that issue. The goal was to compare what the writers thought back then with what had actually happened since their articles were written.

I did manage to write a couple of blogs that did just that. The blogs were

America’s Third Civil War: An Update

 The Texas Secession: Legally Dividing America

I thought I would be able to proceed in a nice methodical and leisurely manner through the magazine reviewing what people had written. Little did I know that the President of the United States would launch a “Steal the Election” campaign to undermine American democracy. Little did I know how far he would go to prevent the country from being able to celebrate its 250th anniversary because it no longer existed as a constitutional republic. As a result, I had to recalibrate. Perhaps I will resume this retrospective after January 20, 2021, depending on what happens.

 

New York Times Magazine, November 10, 2019, by Paul Sahre

  AMERICA’S THIRD CIVIL WAR

My first foray into America’s Third Civil War occurred during a battle for a Supreme Court appointment

America’s Third Civil War: Kava-Noes versus Kava-Yeses (10/19/18)

After writing about the first civil war in the American Revolution and the second civil war in the Civil War, I turned to the third one.

The third civil is different from the previous two.

It may be said to have begun in the 1960s. At that time, baby boomer males could be drafted into a war they did not want to fight and baby boomer females could have babies they did not want to have.

It may be said to have begun on August 17, 1992, when Pat Buchanan delivered his “Culture War” speech to the Republican National Convention.

It may be said to have begun in 2008 with Sarah Palin’s rally cry “to take back the country.”

Regardless of the preliminaries, history may well record that with the contentious and close vote on October 6, 2018, of 50-48 between Kava-Yeses and Kava-Noes the battle was fully engaged. There is no turning back now. When Charles Blow writes an op-ed in the New York Times that “Liberals, This Is War,” he fails to recognize that for conservatives it has been war for decades and appointing a fifth Republican legislator to the Supreme Court is a long overdue victory.

As with America’s first civil war, America’s third civil war will be intensely divisive at the local level. People who have known each other for years as best friends for life suddenly will morph into combatants. The family Thanksgiving meal will become a battleground. While it will be illegal for Kava-Noes and Kava-Yeses to marry, there is always the possibility that some of the guests will be from opposite sides of the divide. Any social engagement will run the risk of degenerating into a brawl. Hosts and hostesses will be obligated to do due diligence to ensure a peaceful event. College admission officers will need to scrutinize applicants carefully to maintain the purity of the campus. God forbid people from different sides should be assigned as roommates!  In short, people will constantly have to be on guard to make sure they know when it is safe to speak….

[W]e have a president who feasts on divisiveness. There will be no “come let us reason together” in this administration. Far from it. Instead he will stoke the flames of hatred and rejoice in the dividing of America. Never have We the People had a president who is so antagonistic to the very idea of We the People. Never have We the People had a president who is so willing, eager, and ready to campaign on behalf of hatred. Never have We the People had a president who is so antagonistic to the very goal of e pluribus unum, a motto that has been abandoned by both national political parties and mocked by our president. But there should not be any surprise that our president promotes the division of the country. What else would you expect from Putin’s poodle?

The Third Civil War (New York Times Magazine)

In general terms, the preview has come true. The Senate vote on the judicial appointment did not prove to be the breaking point nor did the judicial appointment two years later just before the presidential election. I was still writing from a cultural wars perspective and not a physical war with deaths from violence. I expected the presidential election to be the point of no return.

In my second blog on America’s Third Civil War (7/23/19), I quoted Nancy Pelosi saying:

This coming election, it is really an election that the fate of this country is riding on. This presidency is an existential threat to our democracy and our country as we know it.

Turns out she was exactly right. During the second impeachment she almost said the same words only now the election was in the past tense. Still the conflict was verbal. Then it changed.

JANUARY 6, 2021

Now the war has turned violent. My two political thriller blogs Seven Days in January: This Time It Is Not a Movie and Seven Days in January: Impeached Again were written immediately before and after the failed insurrection attempt. What happens now?

For the domestic trumperists, there are consequences to their actions.

1. They face the prospect of prison time.
2. They face mounting and expensive legal bills.
3. They may have lost their job.
4. They may rethink what it means to assault the government in the real world as opposed to at a political rally or in online chatter.

On the other hand, for many who participated in the attack or watched it, it was victory that produced a natural high. That intoxication may embolden them to try again.

For the country, there are consequences just as there were after 9/11. The post-9/11 changes have mostly been confined to airports where people now take security inspections for granted. Otherwise, life pretty much has returned to normal. This time may be different.

1. The Capitol is now in the Green Zone – How long will that last? What will it mean to tourists and school trips to see the nation’s capital in a permanent shutdown due to terrorist threat?

2. How many more Green Zones will be needed? Will even Alabama and South Dakota need to protect themselves? A lot of the chatter may turn out to be hype. Think of the army of 50,000 poll watchers that was supposed to be raised on November 3. Maybe the expected assaults will fizzle out.

3. Will there be lone wolves and soft targets? – After 9/11 there was a lot of attention/discussion on soft targets. The veterans with Iraq and Afghanistan experiences are well-trained in such tactics. There is plenty of information on the web about how prepare a bomb and the tactics to be used to deploy it to maximize effect. Will mentally-ill young males switch from attacking schools to attacking other locations that provide more vulnerable targets?

4. Who can you trust? – The supporters of the insurrection can be in Congress, the Capitol Police, the National Guard, the local police, the military, and the Secret Service. They could be your neighbors, your co-workers, and even members of your friendly local historical society. How do you know?

At this point it is too early to tell what will happen. The people who participated in the insurrection and who have been arrested are claiming they were following orders, answering the call of their President, and requesting pardons. Such pardons would be an open admission that the President really is an “existential threat to our democracy and our country as we know it” just as Pelosi said and the second impeachment claims.

The next round in the war will be the pardons issued on the final full day of his presidency. The parting gesture of the Loser undoubtedly will unleash another round of at least verbal conflict. It also may be seen as throwing the insurrectionists under the bus if they are excluded.

January 6, 2021 transformed the culture war into a civil war. It’s become a double civil war. It is a war between the Trumpicans and the Woke for control of the country. But it also is a war between the Trumpicans and the Republicans for the control of a political party. No one knows how either war will turnout. What can be said, is that it won’t end on January 20, 2021 and it will prove more dangerous to the future of this country than COVID-19 has been.

Woke American Exceptionalism Is Still American Exceptionalism

American Exceptionalism (“A Union in the Interest of Humanity – Civilization Freedom and Peace for all Time.” ca. 1898, Donaldson Litho Co.; Library of Congress)

Woke American exceptionalism is still American exceptionalism. This realization occurred to me last week when I was watching a Woke presentation online and the term flashed in my mind. It wasn’t exactly a “eureka” or OMG moment as the light bulb clicked on. But it was a coming together of thoughts that brought order to chaos and helped me make sense of what has been transpiring in the culture wars especially recently.

Woke American exceptionalism is a derivative of standard American exceptionalism. America is still inherently different from all other countries but from a different perspective. It retains the Christian, Protestant basis. But it expresses not simply an “America First” value but an “America Alone.” In other words, it pronouncements often occur as if the rest of human history hadn’t occurred and that the only humanity that matters is the one here because we are exceptional.

Below are the examples that led me to this realization.

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

The American Revolution looms large in traditional American exceptionalism. We were God’s New Israel fighting Pharaoh for freedom. We were led by people of Providential inspiration who brought us to victory. We were born and constituted by sacred documents.

Not quite with Woke American exceptionalism. If anything it was the reverse which happened. The people who led the so-called Revolution and the documents they created are to be condemned as the products of a racist, sexist, imperialist people. The country they created far from being an example for the world completely failed to meet Woke standards.

So where does the United States in 1787 rate on the Woke scale of judgement?

How many multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious countries were there in the world in 1787?

Of those countries, how many declared their basis on the principle of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” or something similar even if it was honored in the breach?

Of those countries, how many had never occupied the land of another people?

Was what was exceptional about the United States in 1787 was that it existed in a world of multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious  countries of no slavery and freedom for all that included no conquered land and were in compliance with Woke standards?

Perhaps instead of judging the United States of 1787 based on Woke values today, it also would be appropriate to examine the United States in comparison to where the rest of the world rates on the Woke scale. Instead of simply condemning the United States for failing to live up to the vision expressed in 1776 and 1787, how many multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious countries even had such a vision then in the first place that they could fail to observe?

TOPPLING STATUES OF SLAVE-OWNERS

In the last few weeks, the toppling of the statues of slave-owners has accelerated. Founding Fathers who also owned people have been particularly targeted. In a previous blog, I wrote about the competing views of two New York Times op-ed writers (To Topple or Not to Topple Statues: The Battle between “Come Let Us Reason Together” versus “Abso-fricking-lutely!”). One, Bret Stephens, called for determining whether the person in question had helped advance the country towards the goal of creating a more perfect union. The other, Charles Blow, drew a line in sand: if you own people, then you should be toppled.

At the very end, after I had written the blog, a thought occurred to me. I added this ending before I posted it:

P.S. The damnatio memoriae (or “condemnation of the memory”) was tried in ancient Egypt on Queen Hatshepsut and King Akhnaton. Will we now have to erase the names of Pharaohs who had slave labor including Nubians and demolish their buildings or is that up to Egypt? What should we teach about these “abhorrent and depraved” people like Tut?

It was this comment that started me towards Woke American Exceptionalism a week later, to thinking beyond America. How many Pharaohs, Caesars, kings, and emperors didn’t own people? If George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are to be toppled, what does that mean for the non-American slave-owners? What does it mean for the tourist sites of many countries once tourism begins again? What does it mean for the holdings of museums? Are all slave-owners from all places from all times to be toppled or just the white ones?

MOUNT RUSHMORE

The event that put the pieces together in my mind was a program “Whose Hero? New Perspectives on Monuments in Public Landscapes” by the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience on June 24 and 26. I was only able to watch part of the initial program and it was a few weeks before I could see the taped version of it. The specific presentation in question was by Sally Roesch Wagner, the Executive Director, Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation (whom I know). She is from South Dakota. Her topic was mostly about Mount Rushmore. It has been in the news lately and will be the subject of a future blog.

Much of Sally’s presentation was information about Mount Rushmore, its design, its purpose. Then she strayed into not history or politics but to psychology. I will not repeat or summarize what she had to say about the heterosexual white male except to note her enjoyment in denigrating them for these expressions of power like Mount Rushmore. It was at that moment when I had my moment of clarity.

What I thought of was Abu Simbel.

Ramses II at Abu Simbel (Wikepedia)

You are looking at four giant-sized statues of a male. Unlike Mount Rushmore, the four personages are the same person, Ramses II, Pharaoh of the Exodus. He is a slave-owner who needs to be toppled by Woke standards. The Founding Fathers identified with the Israelites “who were slaves in Egypt” and sought to escape the yoke of Pharaoh as they did of King George III. It was while listening to Sally about Mount Rushmore that I thought of Ramses at Abu Simbel. Then I thought of the other Egyptians male rulers who had built giant statues to themselves. Then I thought about rulers of other lands like Mesopotamia. Kings (and Queens) build things. They build cities, temples, forts, palaces, irrigation systems, roads, and victory monuments and statues in their own honor.

We used to build things in America. From the Erie Canal to the Apollo Moon Landing, we were a society that built things. Only lately, meaning in the 20th century, did we start building edifices for each and every President called Presidential Libraries. In human history, it is hardly unusual for rulers to shout their praises to the heavens. Typically rulers commemorate themselves. In any event, listening to Sally talk about Mount Rushmore led to think about Abu Simbel and then to all the ways rulers have for millennia throughout the world build in their own honor.  Part of what is unusual about Mount Rushmore is that none of the people on the mount commissioned the work. Mount Rushmore is part of a larger story of the human experience. But then again, Woke American Exceptionalism isn’t interested in what people elsewhere have done, only what evil Americans have done.

SAVAGES

Now that I was aware of Woke American Exceptionalism, I was prepared for it. I then watched an education program by the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). In that program, the presenter spoke about the use of the word “savages” to describe American Indians. He cited both primary sources and textbooks.

His references to “savages” immediately caused me to look beyond white Americans. Once again, Egypt was way ahead of us on describing people as subhumans who live like animals.

Lo, the miserable Asiatic,
He is wretched because of the place he’s in:
Short of water, bare of wood,
Its paths are many and painful because of mountains
He does not dwell in one place,
Food propels his legs,
He fights since the time of Horus,
Not conquering nor being conquered,
He does not announce the day of combat,
Like a thief who darts about a group.
(The Instruction to Merikare)

Just so you know I am not picking on the Egyptians, the Mesopotamians voiced similar views.

The Martu who know no grain
The Martu who know no house or town
The boors of the mountains…
Dresses in sheepskins,
Lives in a tent at the mercy of wind and rain
Does not offer sacrifice
He digs up truffles in steppe but does not know how to bend his knee
He eats raw meat. In life he has no house, in death he lies lot buried in a grave.
(The Marriage or Myth of Martu)

The uncivilized “other” has been around for a long time. Typically the “other” is portrayed in unflattering terms.

Here is an example from a World War I recruiting poster. Without the words, would it have occurred to you that Germans were the savage other?

The Hun versus Lady Liberty (Recruiting Poster https://en.wikipedia.org)

 

One of the lessons I was reminded of from Woke American Exceptionalism is that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Science fictions fans are aware that First Contact and Close Encounters of the First, Second, and Third Kind can be fraught with danger (Columbus Day: Close Encounters of the Third Kind). Sooner or later, people with disproportionate power over another people tend to use it….and justify it on the basis that the foe aren’t real people as we are.

Finally, let’s not forget Christianity and Woke American Exceptionalism. Once upon a time, indigenous people throughout the world lived in peace and harmony with each other and nature. Then white people arrived and the Original Sin occurred. Now those people need to repent and restore the purity which once existed. It’s one of our oldest stories.