America is at war with itself. The country has never been this polarized in over a century at least but is it really war? Yes. It’s a cold war but it is heating up. What is fortifying the hostilities is that many have embraced hate as a unifying theme. Some groups have utilized hate to pummel their opposition into a corner and humiliated them using the most vile and acrimonious words they can muster. No single side has a monopoly on these tactics but it does seem that the more incendiary the topic the more hate is involved.
Amidst all this it is easy to recognize that the country is much different than it was a few decades ago. Issues that were previously of no import to most Americans have now taken center stage and people are eager to throw down over them. From transgenderism to that little red MAGA hat, hate speech and more, people have picked sides. For those who have not picked, they have been assigned one by those who have. The list of issues is long and getting longer. There is no position trivial enough to ignore and people are strident about every one. Back when, people who disagreed on only twenty percent of topics did not become one hundred percent enemies. Not anymore and that leaves little room for civil discourse.
Previous generations had an easier time with big issues. For example, the twentieth century fight for civil rights was really quite simple. Folks believed that all people were created equal or they did not. Each person decided whether they were going to be a racist or not and that is where they stood. Right or wrong. Aside from a vocal few on both sides, people simply went on with their lives from there. That movement largely took on none of the vitriol or violence that is seen today in large part because of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.’s code of non-violent conduct for those who marched with him, particularly rule number 8: “Refrain from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.” These rules are antithetical to the hate that is so pervasive in today’s battles.
It is true that there were skirmishes in the fight for civil rights. People were hurt and some even killed but it never came close to full-scale, declared war because those responsible for guiding the country largely came together to do the right thing. In those days Americans shared a common set of values used in the founding of the country. They knew the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, and they usually proceeded from the position of good.
No more. Steadfast values have been scuttled and replaced by self-serving, situational opportunism. Values are now fluid. Many people just want what they want when they want it and woe betide the poor soul who gets in the way. Add to this that the pseudo-anonymity of social media where people freely say things that they would never say person. On social media, compassion and even simple civility have gone out the window. Hate has taken their place, and grace is merely an anachronism from an earlier age.
Another casualty to fall was truth. It would be one thing if people fought their battles with truth but they do not. While truth might be helpful if it furthers their agenda, but if it does not they will lie loud and long. The sad fact is that lies do work. Long ago Joseph Goebbles said, “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.” It is true. History proves it and it is now a featured arrow in the quiver of the hate merchants. People are now using the NAZI minister of propaganda’s playbook. Let that marinate for a moment.
What is even crazier is that those who speak truth are called liars by those who lie so those who do not do their own research into an issue, which is most people, have no idea what the truth actually is. It then casts aspersions on those adhering to truth, undermining all perception of integrity. So all are perceived as inveterate liars, only out for their own ends. Without honesty, truth and a modicum of goodwill there is no way to work out differences on the battlefield of ideas. None.
There are those that believe that they who they are and what they think are the most important thing in the universe and everyone else needs to sit down and drink their can of shut the heck up. The Baby Boomers are largely responsible for this generation of spoiled brats. The self indulgent, EST trained, stoned, ersatz hippies had no clue how to be parents. They really did not even try to be parents. The laissez-faire attitude toward their children allowed them do largely anything they pleased, leaving them free to indulge their selfish and self-indulgent tendencies. Within that context, is anyone surprised that the country is at war today?
The younger generations and their parents are not the only ones culpable. There are also oldsters to blame, most of which live inside the beltway. Democrat, and to only a slightly lesser degree, republican politicians now stand resolutely foursquare against whatever the other party wants. It is as if they took Groucho Marx’s song from Horse Feathers, I’m Against It as their mantra. This win-at-all-costs attitude is not a productive way to govern a country and it ratchets up the polarization and feeds the hate with the constant drumbeat of the other side is evil and hates you. This is not what leaders do, but it is what rulers do.
Make no mistake, this is a no holds barred, take no prisoners war for “my side”. If your position is not totally congruent with theirs it is not just a difference of opinion. You are the enemy and they hate you. Climate change deniers are shouted down by environmentals. Those who think that the president is Hitler are the enemies of those on the Trump Train. A Christian baker that does not bake a wedding cake for a gay marriage is pounced upon by the fascist elements of LGBT seeking to drown them in an ocean of lawfare. Those who say all lives matter are hectored by those who chant, black lives matter. The list is virtually endless.
The war of words is not new. It started getting louder during the George W. Bush presidency to where it is now a full-throated scream and there is now violence in the streets. It started in Ferguson, Baltimore, Dallas and elsewhere. To practically no one’s surprise, protests ramped up on college campuses as well. Back in 2015 violence bubbled just below the surface at Mizzou as professor Melissa Click called for some “muscle” to remove a photographer from a protest. More recently, the mid-century bastion of free speech, the University of California, Berkeley denied Milo Yiannopoulos’ right to speak. Then, they descended upon Ann Coulter. The heckler’s veto now comes with the threat of a Molotov cocktail. In 2014, Senator Rand Paul got a standing ovation for a speech there. That was just three years ago. How quickly things have devolved.
In the wake of Ferguson a new front broke out. The war on cops. USA Today’s Dan Gainor called it back in 2014 in the wake of the Occupy Wall Street. That year hate grew large enough for a gunman to execute two New York City police officers that were just sitting in their cruiser. In 2016, amid armed protests in Dallas, five cops were murdered and seven others wounded in the deadliest attack on cops in the country since 2001.
What else are these people on about?
•News is now false.
•By simply virtue signaling people claim the moral high ground and everything they say is right.
•Speech with which people disagree is now “hate speech.”
•Non-Hispanics who celebrate Cinco de Mayo with margaritas and guacamole are guilty of cultural appropriation and therefore racist.
•White privilege is keeping people of color down and must end.
America is drowning in a fusillade of idiocy from the selfish entitled. Armed with dog-eared copies of Alinsky’s Rules For Radicals, they hector everyone with which they disagree for the purpose of their complete humiliation and ostracization. This is not new, but this crowd has grown by several orders of magnitude. Its is a trend that has legs.
The question that begs asking is where does all of this ultimately take America? It is hard to know the specifics because there are too many variables on the left side of the equation. When calculating possibilities is necessary to dive into some math. In algebra, A+B=C but the value of C is unknowable without some understanding of what A and B are. If they are not single values but rather ranges of values then C will also be a range. That means if A is a value ranging from 1 to 3, and B is a value ranging from 2 to 4, then it can be determined that C has a value from 3 to 7. Algebraic reasoning must be applied in forecasting America’s future but the equation is dramatically more complex with nearly countless variables. The biggest one is probably the most significant, human emotion. In that light the country’s future is not promising because it lies within the arc of current societal trends that are increasingly negative.
The haters do not want peace, which is completely absurd to anyone with a rudimentary understanding of war. The goal of a war is to end the war. There are two ways to do this. The superior army defeats the lesser army then goes on to wipe out every living soul within their territory. While a popular approach with warlords centuries ago, the more enlightened approach is to show the inferior army that it cannot win and then hope that they sue for peace starting with an armistice. From there a peaceful path to normalcy can be developed. Reasonable people see war as a means to an end. Those seething with their hate see it as the new normal. Every hill is the one that they want to die on and they will keep fighting to their last metaphorical breath. Or yours.
Will there be violence? Probably, but how much is hard to predict. Will the pendulum swing back the other way as it has in the past? Possibly but it has not happened yet and nothing is assured.
America is now in alien territory and no reasonable person can predict with any specificity where this will go. But the trajectory is obvious and it indicates that the war of hate will escalate. In 1999’s Dress to Kill, comedian/actor Eddie Izzard said that America was the new Roman Empire. “So you’ve got vomitariums and orgies to look forward to.” Was he wrong?
What else lies ahead in this new American civil war? Perhaps D.H Lawrence understood what was to come when he said this.
“Men fight for liberty and win it with hard knocks. Their children, brought up easy, let it slip away again, poor fools. And their grandchildren are once more slaves.”