Second Civil War

Alt-right members preparing to enter Emancipation Park holding Nazi, Confederate Battle, Gadsden "Don't Tread on Me," League of the South, and Thor's Hammer flags. Photo by Anthony Crider via Creative Commons

“We’re just sick of it. We’re not gonna take it anymore. I see a civil war coming.” 

An Iowa Trump rally attendee let loose recently on the failures of Republican elites and what she perceives to be an impending national crisis. However, she makes a few notable exceptions, like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. The internet reacted accordingly, pushing the phrases “civil war” and “civil war coming” to the trending page on Twitter. On seeing these words, most Americans think of union blue, dixie grey and cheesy reenactments. But day-by-day, an unsettling alternative is becoming increasingly likely. More than ever, Americans need to recognize our precarious place in history and come to terms with how we got here.

What would have sounded like ridiculous Boogaloo conspiracies just a few years ago is now common political messaging for American conservatives. The Republican Party has shifted toward a policy of anti-democracy and outright hostility. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, two-thirds of Republicans think the 2020 presidential election was illegitimate and 85 percent of Republicans want their candidates to agree with the overall policies of the instigator of these claims, former President Donald Trump. Not to mention, 78 percent of Republicans want Trump to run in 2024 despite his being caught on tape trying to steal the Georgia election. 

In response, other Republican candidates have begun challenging the results of elections they’ve lost, sometimes before election results are even called, as was the case when California gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder went so far as to suggest an armed takeover of the state if he wasn’t awarded the governorship in court.

Similarly, in Idaho, far-right Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin attempted to seize power, to deploy the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border and to rescind the state’s COVID-19 vaccine requirements while Gov. Brad Little was absent. While Texans are now used to outsiders coming to our state, we tend to prefer they come under better circumstances. At least bring a casserole.  

Events like the Charlottesville, Va., protests, threats of secession and the Jan. 6 Capitol riot are only becoming more common as right-wing violence further cements itself into mainstream politics. With political partisanship rising sky-high, simply owning the libs is valid justification for political motivation and action. 

These threats are no laughing matter — right-wing violence, domestic terrorism and hate crimes are the highest they’ve been in decades, with extremist beliefs thriving out in the open. The renewed threat of civil war and the politics of our hazardous present are a culmination of all these factors.

To understand why we’re in this situation, we have to first go back to the root of the issue. Today’s politics are informed by the conditions of the past. Everything from Black Lives Matter to Confederate statues are directly tied to the post-Reconstruction era.  

After the first American Civil War, Confederate leaders were banned from holding office. President Abraham Lincoln and his allies began developing a framework to ensure the South was rebuilt in a way to move past its bloody history. As we all know, this Reconstruction didn’t really happen as intended. 

Lincoln was shot and Southern sympathizers took office. Lincoln’s political Reconstruction ended prematurely in an electoral compromise and in 1872, Confederate leaders were granted amnesty, returning to public office. The result was a century of Jim Crow, segregation and the propagation of the Lost Cause mythology. The consequences have followed us to this very day, serving as the foundation for our current political landscape.

One stark example is the nearly 140 year gap between the South’s first two Black senators in 1870 and 1874, respectively, and its third, Tim Scott (R-SC) in 2013. 

After fighting America’s bloodiest war, to forcibly weld the country back together, the nation’s leaders wanted to wash their hands of the issue.

“It’s all good, no hard feelings, resume office and get back to business as usual,” was the sentiment at the time.

The first American Civil War killed 2 percent of the country’s population. An equivalent proportion today would be nearly seven million, roughly the total population of a state like Tennessee, Massachusetts or 12 Wyomings

Conservatives who most want civil war are not in the economic or strategic position to win it. Even if they somehow do, what happens afterward? Our track record with holding ourselves together during crises doesn’t inspire confidence.  

It’s easy to ignore the issues around us and let them get lost in the news cycle. But Americans need to recognize that our own internal peace is not guaranteed. The signs are all around us, and situations are only getting worse.

If we want any hope of preventing mass tragedy, we must learn from our past, not cover up our mistakes and most certainly not repeat them. The path forward is uncertain, but above all, we cannot let the violent consequences of our history catch us by surprise.

Zachary Freeman is an anthropology senior and opinion columnist for The Battalion.

(7) comments

TexaninVA

This article is impressive because it manages to get it exactly backwards. The threat to the Republic today clearly comes from the Radical Left. The Biden presidency is a rolling stone in terms of its increasing destructiveness – open borders, the initial stages of inflation, surging gas prices and the hegemonic expansion of a militant China. Worry more about Antifa than a handful of eccentrics who seek attention with discredited flags used solely for media distraction.

Caples425

Your blatant ignorance, naivety, and fear-mongering is exactly why I am so disgusted to continue living in this country with people like you. You have no idea what you're talking about sir because you've been conditioned to believe this rambling non-sense from watching Fox News and other right wing propaganda outlets. You've been so brainwashed you don't even know what the truth is anymore. So enjoy your little civil war buddy, in a couple years I'll be gone from this s-show of a country we live in and you'll probably be off fighting the imaginary Antifa, liberal armies from your trailer park in Bumpkinville, Texas. Have a great day!

Dan

Adios! From your rant, it appears that you are a young person. Your rant has not one factual comment but reflects only personal anger and lack of appreciation for what you have. For someone with no justification for calling this country a "s-show" and not sharing with us some of your ultimate possible destinations; I am only wondering what is keeping you here now.

TexaninVA

Textbook example of the pot calling the kettle black 🤓

Dan

My 6:05am comment above was to Caples425 & not to Texanin VA. Otherise, not sure the reference to "the pot calling the kettle black."

Austin Aggie

Mr. Freeman's opinions fail to meet the reality tests. He sees the world through blue tinted glasses and therefore misrepresents what and how events unfold in the real world. Unfortunately his bias is accepted by those who fail to think clearly. More objective opinions should be published.

Dan

Zach, let’s begin with the photo. That group is very small, not carrying weapons and no fear in instigating a Civil War. However, why didn’t you publish a photo of the other side who is going to participate in the Civil War? I have in my mind three flags they would be flying.

You quote a woman who yelled “We’re just sick of it. We’re not gonna take it anymore. I see a civil war coming.” Really Zach? This woman speaks for whom and who is she? You quote her like she speaks for all women and their supporters.

Then you researched and made this statement, “The first American Civil War killed 2 percent of the country’s population. An equivalent proportion today would be nearly seven million, roughly the total population of a state like Tennessee, Massachusetts or 12 Wyomings.” So, even though there is no relevance to your opinion article, you should have made allowances for today’s military and done the math. You know, factor in tanks, Apache helos, nukes, F-35’s, etc.; Civil War, I don’t think so. Most important Zach, the American way is the ballot box. 2022 will make the political correction in a very profound way.

Zach, you are being treed by a Chihuahua. Sleep well, your U.S. military will defend you against all enemies; foreign and domestic. No more talk of a Civil War.

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