I can’t remember where the concept was first bruited about – someone else’s blog, probably one of the radical non-ranting centrists on the Chicago Boyz blogroll: Belmont Club, Neo- Neocon, James Lileks, or Classical Values, perhaps. To be honest, I have as much of a bad memory for where I read about something or other as I do a dislike for crazy rants, name-calling, straw-man construction and other social ruderies. I’d rather hang out, on line and in the real world with thoughtful, fairly logical people, who can defend their opinion with a carefully constructed arguments and real-life examples and/or references. In short, I’d prefer the company of people who don’t go ape-s**t when another person’s opinion or take on some great matter differs from their own. Well-adjusted grownups, in other words – who are comfortable with the existence of contrary opinion – and do not feel the need to go all wild-eyed, and start flinging the epithets like a howler-monkey flinging poo.
It’s not like I ever went out there looking for insane levels of contention in venues like the Daily Kos, or the Huffington Post, or conversely, Michelle Malkin, or Kim du Toit. That kind of partisan-ship on both sides … just wasn’t to my personal taste. In real life, I’m not particularly confrontational, although I can be pushed into it. In that real life, I have many other interests besides politics and the Tea Party: making homemade cheese, trying to grow tomatoes, and making my little corner of the world a cheerier and tidier place. I also write a lot: for two years I posted at Open Salon — I write at TheDeeping now and again, I’m an Amazon Vine reviewer. For a small remuneration I also write for a San Antonio-based real estate blog. Last year, I also scored a huge professional writing gig: the first three chapters of an academic study guide for those hoping to test high enough to qualify for a commission in the Armed Forces, the generous paycheck for which held up my whole personal economy for the last quarter of 2010. I also market my books, manage some websites and labor for the tiny publishing bidness, and all sorts of other stuff. The bottom line is that many of these activities are carried out among people who do not share very much of my political opinions, such as they are.
Which, inter alia, according to the last couple of surveys I participated in, put me in as tending toward towards the libertarian: strict constitutionalist, fiscal conservative, guardedly social liberal – look, I haven’t cared for decades what consenting adults do in private, just don’t be doing it in the road and frightening the horses. And you kids – get off my lawn!
In foreign policy, I’m an unreconstructed Jacksonian; mostly because I’ve read enough history to be fairly clear-eyed about the power of national leaders, city-states and mass-movements of people over the long haul of history. What they are capable of doing, they eventually will do – as the Melians discovered of the Athenians. I believe more in the unspoken power of the community to enforce standards of behavior and decorum, rather than written ordinance, I believe in keeping things simple and uncomplicated. I believe that the United States is a pretty radical construct, almost unique among nations as a Republic, that the Founding Fathers put together an amazing document, and one which ought not to be amended or revised for petty reasons and partisan advantage. I also thought Sarah Palin was a good choice for V-P. She was a pretty straight-up politician, and the citizens of Alaska had shown amazing good sense in electing her for governor.
For these opinions over the two years or so, I have been called a liar, a racist and the next thing to a Nazi, either directly on Open Salon, and Facebook, or indirectly in comments there and elsewhere, by various public and media personalities — some of which, like Morgan Freeman — I had once thought well of. My own sister-in-law, married to my dear little brother, posts on Facebook lamenting the dreadful stupidity of those Tea Party people. My little brother, the last time that I was at home (to support my mother upon the abrupt death of my father) upon a casual mention that I was a Tea Party sympathizer, remarked, “Oh, gosh – you’re one of those freaks? Well, I love you anyway, Sis. “ Family members – what can you say? My other brother and I have been warily stalking around each other for years at family get-to-gethers, while everyone holds their breath, waiting for the inevitable explosion. But that’s just family dynamics. Now we’re getting into the real world.
My dear and trusted next-door neighbor, an African-American lady of middle age and otherwise irreprochably circumspect conservative and religiously devout instincts – I have observed wearing an Obama tee-shirt. (Although not lately, I will admit.) Another neighbor; retired military whose hobby is making replica Native American bows, arrows and spears; he has had Obama-Biden and Kerry-Edwards signs and bumper stickers alternating with the service flags on his property and his cars for quite some time. So – how do you stand up for yourself and your beliefs, knowing that there is a dreadful risk of cutting off all civilised communication in even starting said discussion?
I honestly don’t want go looking for knock-down, drag-out confrontations; if people want to believe three impossible things before breakfast, it’s not and never have been any skin off mine. I suppose that I had just expected better from the people I had chosen to hang around with, in the real world and on-line. I had also expected, at the very least, some basic courtesy, rather than hear the Big Lie of the stooopid-raaaacist-teab***ger-mob-Koch-astroturf party line come tumbling off their lips.
There is a frightening aspect, in seeing all this anger indiscriminately being unleashed and realizing how terribly polarized places and spaces have become, along red-state, blue-state lines, along statist and constitutionalist lines and between people who bitched about government busy-bodies poking their noses into everything and the people who bitched about how there ought to be a law. Now and again it puts me in mind of the period just before the Civil War, when feelings about abolition and secession ran so very hot and high that ordinary citizens on either side of the issues could hardly have a conversation about it, each assuming the worst of the other. And then there came a point when there was no more talking – and it ripped our country apart for five bloody years, and set sullen resentments on the Southern side simmering for a hundred years and more.
The ‘cold civil war’ concept seems pretty far out, all these months ago, like the start of some inter-blog flame war, which would engage the participants and amuse the rest of us for a couple of weeks. But over and over again, the free-floating anger keeps breaking out in the real world. Early this spring, I repeated a political joke to another lady in my Red Hat circle; we were in a restaurant – and I looked around quickly, to see who was within earshot, and lowered my voice so that no one beyond our table could hear. This was a small thing, maybe even a little stupid – but a cold civil war is made up of small and stupid things. Having an old co-blogger call you a racist, being reluctant to put a bumper-sticker on your car, knowing that friends who still work for the DOD are keeping their heads down and their mouths closed, for fear of repercussions on the job and being very, very careful in casual conversations … no, not an exaggeration any more. Just a cold, cold civil war reality.