The Cold Civil War

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.

12 thoughts on “The Cold Civil War”

  1. I first encountered the phrase Cold Civil War in a Mark Steyn article in MacLean’s Magazine in 2007. He was drawing it from William Gibson’s [the inventor of the work ‘cyberspace’] novel Spook Country. It sadly appears to be true.

    Over at BELMONT CLUB, I originated a formulation that seems to have spread a little bit. TWANLOC. Those Who Are No Longer Our Countrymen

    Here is part of a longer piece I did there to explain it while discussing a larger issue:

    A nation can be roughly defined as a people with a shared language, history, culture [that may or may not include a common religion], and sense of that sharing; with a common attachment to a specific territory. If any of those factors are not shared, there is the potential for violent separation. If there is active hostility by only one side over one factor, violence is likely. More than one, and violent civil conflict is inevitable.

    The people of the United States are divided. Those who are of what is referred to as the Left, the Democrats and their allies; do not share any of these factors with us, and delight in offending those who do not share their belief system.

    We do not share a language. We share the same words, but they do not mean the same things to either side. Talking to one of the Leftists screaming in the videos if you are not a Leftist; you come away realizing that at a very basic level we do not think alike. And to be honest, when they talk with us, they come away feeling the same thing; albeit probably with an undertone that we have to be “eliminated” by any means necessary.

    The Left views American history as an unbroken history of atrocities against humanity deserving punishment. We view ourselves as being the last best hope of mankind and the citadel of freedom.

    The Left utterly rejects the Judeo-Christian culture, and the concept of the worth of the individual and inalienable individual rights; preferring a collectivist culture where “rights” are what are granted by the State, conditionally, and where an elite determines the lives of the non-elites.

    The Left defiantly marks itself out as different from the rest of us; rejecting the rule of law, civility, that we have shared rights under the Constitution, and our very worth and beliefs [q.v., the constant threats of death and violence, and violent acts coming from the Left, and the constant deliberate public acts of contempt for the values of others (the paragon of the Left caught on video in Portland saying that he wiped his a** with the flag after defecating and referring repeated to maternal incest has gotten not one word of condemnation from his side and it can be assumed more than a little fame)].

    The Left views this country not as a sovereign nation and homeland; but as being of lesser worth than any of a number of others; be they China, Russia, Socialist Europe, or any of a number of third world hellholes. Their interest in it is as a satrapy to rule over, not cherish and protect. They reflexively ally themselves with any force hostile to the US and its people, imbuing them with virtue based on the concept of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

    All members of our Political Class, regardless of party, hold those who do not share their “elite” status in contempt. But the hatred behind the oleaginous words of the Democrats seems far more palpable to us.

    And in the interest of accuracy, they view us in equivalent mirror image terms.

    We are no longer E Pluribus Unum, but rather the reverse formulation once mistakenly stated by a Democrat presidential candidate. We are two or more irredeemably hostile nations inside one set of borders. Our differences are so great that we can no longer settle them by dialog. This is not going to be resolved except by one side being destroyed by the other. They are no longer our countrymen, nor we theirs. Which side will survive is very much in doubt, and there is a long, dark night ahead for our poor country.

    I fear that since I wrote this, things are getting worse. The recent calls by a Democrat governor to cancel the next elections, by Obama’s former Director of the Office of Management and Budget to reduce the amount of Democracy in our system, replacing the powers of elected officials with “de-politicized” appointed boards, and today by the former White House “Green Jobs Czar” for an American uprising equivalent to the “Arab Spring” means that some significant taboos have been breached. Politicians do not say things by accident. And what they say in public, they have been discussing in private for some time.

    Subotai Bahadur

  2. Hate to say it, but get used to it, it will only get worse. As my login name shows I have been living and working with this sort of thing all my adult life (68 year old for the record). My occupation for 37 years was also an automatic target for charges of racism, etc. Get used to it.

    Our attitude outside of the workplace has evolved to “Ok if you believe that of me fine, now can we get on to real things”. If the other person will not get past this attitude we
    try out best to politely avoid this person.

    It is going to get worse…..and I wish I didn’t have to say this.

  3. What has caused this polarization? I think it start during with the Vietnam War. At least the concept of “them” and “us” seemed to start there. 1940 was equally polarized – with half the country believing Hitler should be stopped with the other half wanting isolationism. But it wasn’t acrimonious.

    I have seen the intolerance on both sides, although the Left seems to hold the predominance of it. Or do I say that because I am not of the Left? Some of the things they say seem so preposterous – just go to Big Hollywood to hear the latest Jeanene Garofalo rant – it seems as if their heads are wired polar opposite with no glimpse into the reasons. And cursing, to me, simply reveals the lack of a coherent argument to the contrary.

    I wonder too why entertainers feel the need to tell us what they think about politics. The meltdown and implosion of the Dixie Chicks resonates with me – here they work their way from playing on sidewalks in Dallas to world stages – to – oblivion. All because they felt like telling their fan base what they thought of George Bush.

    When I had my own business for many years it did not occur to me that my customers would want to know my political beliefs nor did I consider it wise to inform them. Chances are one would find disagreements somewhere! It must be ego with these entertainers.

    I do believe that we haven’t had this polarization since the Civil War.

  4. The politicization of all aspects of life rarely leads to a good outcome.

    Sebastian Haffner, in his memoir of growing up in Germany, made an interesting observation about the reactions of certain people to the (unfortunately temporary) stabilization of German society and the economy in the mid-1920s:

    “A generation of young Germans had become accustomed to having the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions…Now that these deliveries suddently ceased, people were left helpless, impoverished, robbed, and disappointed. They had never learned how to live from within themselves, how to make an ordinary private life great, beautiful and worth while, how to enjoy it and make it interesting. So they regarded the end of political tension and the return of private liberty not as a gift, but as a deprivation. They were bored, their minds strayed to silly thoughts, and they began to sulk…To be precise (the occasion demands precision, because in my opinion it provides the key to the contemporary period of history): it was not the entire generation of young Germans. Not every single individual reacted in this fashion. There were some who learned during this period, belatedly and a little clumsily, as it were, how to live. they began to enjoy their own lives, weaned themselves from the cheap intoxication of the sports of war and revolution, and started to develop their own personalities. It was at this time that, invisibly and unnoticed, the Germans divided into those who later became Nazis and those who would remain non-Nazis.”

    While I don’t think the politicization has progressed as far as it did in Germany, we do seem to have a unwholesome number of people who expect to have “the entire content of their lives delivered gratis by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions.”

  5. “I think it start during with the Vietnam War.”

    I dunno. Republicans have been called Nazis and Fascists by Democrat politicians since there were Nazis and Fascists. Many of the elite academics and artists (Trumbo, Hellman, Hiss, here; Philby, Shaw, overseas) were Communists who hated America, freedom, democracy, and religion. The boomers were second- or third-generation communists; by now were at fifth- and sixth-generation. Why these ideas have any traction is beyond me.

  6. Not the first time I am surprised by the Conservatives’ surprise re: lack of civility.
    It is an ideological war. What civility you expect in a war? The times of red uniforms going into attack with banner, drummer and a ceremonious bow to the enemy are gone for about 2 centuries.
    It is a war for survival and dominance.

    I am repeating, basically, what Conservatives themselves have been saying for decades; so why are you surprised? Either you didn’t believe your own conclusions or playing some sort of game.

  7. The contempt and loathing casually dished out by the left and flung at their opponents also reminds me of the period before the Civil War. I recall that as the political crisis worsened in the 1850s Northerners and Southerners cut social ties. Even churches split, so today we have Northern and Southern Baptists.

    The nastiness of Bill Maher and countless others today is akin to the attack by SC representative Preston Brooks on Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner. Expecting deference and submission, they get intensely angry and hostile when they don’t get it. This is a response to the slow collapse of the social and political dominance the left has enjoyed since the New Deal, akin to the slow collapse of political dominance the Antebellum South experienced. Obviously the attack on senator Sumner was notorious enough to make it into the history books, but I expect countless other incidents were not. They were known to Northerners from personal experience, however. Today, we’re living through that in our personal lives as the left runs out of other peoples’ money and attempts to defend the indefensible in a myriad of ways.

    This isn’t a sign of strength. After all, you don’t fantasize about cancelling elections you expect to win. Pity them.

  8. This article is roughly where you are in terms of events on the ground:

    July 6, 2011
    Democrats Unveil the Weapon of the Future
    By J.R. Dunn

    What do the political battles in Wisconsin and the Spanish Civil War have in common? A disturbing characteristic.

    The Spanish Civil War is one of those events that are on the way to becoming forgotten history. The term “civil war” is a bit misleading, since the conflict internationalized itself in short order, with Hitler and Mussolini lining up with the rebels, or “Nationalists”, and Stalin backing the “Republicans” (actually a motley gaggle of various left-wing elements). The dictatorships utilized Spain as a proving ground for new tactics and weapons, including the Me-109, fighter-bomber, the Ju-87 Stuka dive bomber, along with Rotte fighter tactics and area bombing raids, such as that carried out against Guernica. The war ended in 1939 with the defeat of the Republicans, even as World War II was looming. The Germans learned quite a lot in Spain that they applied to the Blitzkrieg campaigns against Poland and France. (Uncle Joe might have picked up a few things if he hadn’t decided to have most of the officers sent to Spain shot on their return.)

    Something similar, though on a much lower key (no massacres or bombing raids yet) has been occurring in Wisconsin over the past few months: a nearly open civil war instigated by the left in order to test an array of new tactics.

    Much snippage later

    What all this amounts to is the baptism of fire of what I have taken to calling the “liberal superstructure.” This superstructure is the vast constellation of advocacy groups, think tanks, single-issue outfits, unions, and various other flotsam constructed by the left over the past half-century or so. There are literally thousands of these groups, ranging from the ACLU and the Sierra Club with their hundreds of thousands of members to the local “Friends of the People’s Venezuela” outfit which amounts to a retired feminism professor and her six cats. These organizations are ubiquitous, universal, and networked to a fare-thee- well. They are also liberalism’s last great hope of controlling politics in the United States.

    It’s scarcely arguable that, in the political sense, liberalism is on the ropes. Obama spent their last nickel. They have lost the House and will lose the Senate, with little chance of regaining them in the near future. The same is true of the White House once the messiah gets the bum’s rush come 2012. Liberalism is on the skids, its programs uniform failures, its ideology barren, its slogans worn out, its long hold on the independents being relentlessly pared down by the Tea Parties.

    So what is a political movement to do, particularly one as fanatic and apocalyptic as this one? Well, if you have an alternate system made up of outside organizations not subject to governmental oversight, a system populated with self-selected fanatics and true believers, a system poised and ready to march, you can do what was done in Wisconsin. You can turn the superstructure loose to threaten the public peace, smash things up, abuse the electoral process, create a media spectacle, and pressure the state to do things your way. You can use nonpolitical organizations (in the electoral sense) to get a political result.

    All the groups involved in the Wisconsin campaign were superstructure groups. The unions, the very core organizations of the superstructure, without which it’s no more than a pack of vegetarians and aging hippies. The media, which serves as its propaganda arm. And the judiciary, which is broadly infiltrated by leftist partisans whose allegiance has been awarded to something other than the law.

  9. I am pretty tight-lipped, so instead of rushing into a debate, I just put the burden on the other person to convince me of their point. From there I can just disagree with their premise, question where they got their information or just counter with known facts.

    It may sound passive-aggressive, but again, leave the burden on them to convince you.

  10. Check out my book, Sgt. Mom. “The Cold Civil War: Our Divided House is Falling.” Just make sure you bring a sense of humor. I get the feeling you believe that our soldiers are dying for freedom, despite the fact that every Amendment in the Bill of Rights is violated on a routine basis. Most Americans have drank this Kool Aid, despite the fact our government lies to start wears. You’ve certainly bought into the politically correct cowardice which has divided this nation on every level.

    I have a little dose of reality for you, Sgt. Mom: You cannot overthrow a corrupt and overbearing government with pleasantries.

  11. I also love how you claim that you can single-handedly disregard the First Amendment in Comments Policy #4, just because you blog. YOU are an enemy of freedom, Sgt. Mom. Come over to my Facebook fan page, folks. I won’t try to tell you how to think or what to say. I won’t reject the truth because I don’t like the way it sounds. I live and breathe free speech and every other right which Sgt. Mom is fond of violating. I don’t just pay lip service to freedom.

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