The American Civil War didn’t end in 1865. It simply revised its methods. It’s an interesting fact that whatever is center stage in US politics devolves back to this one very basic Civil War dichotomy.
The Civil War had many different original sources. Slavery vs abolition was one of the catalysts, but it also reflected the very different economics and mindsets of the two sides. The war came and went, but never left American politics.
Mark Twain, in his Life on the Mississippi, mentions that in the South, every conversation in his day turned to the war. In the North, it was just an occasional topic. Not much has changed. The Civil War restructured America in to a more or less permanent adversarial perspective.
The Civil War was America’s worst war. 3% of the entire population were casualties, dead or wounded. Today, that’d be 9 million people. Roughly 10% of the population served during the war or 30 million today.
Talking about monuments to human suffering – After it ended, Robert E Lee was asked by a woman what to tell her sons about the war. His reply was succinct: “Tell your sons to abandon their antagonisms! Teach them to become Americans!”
It was good advice, and like most good advice, it was ignored. Just about all of America’s internal disruptions and dysfunctions ever since could have been avoided if that advice had been followed.
The gap between the South and those of similar views and America has never closed. The new “South” is a mix of the old and conservative groups which have basically grafted themselves on to the conservative milieu.
The original South, meanwhile, has been allowed to fester in its own local politics and a rut of over a century of economic malaise. Southern poverty is legendary, and very real. It’s a nasty image which is accepted as mindlessly as it’s constantly referenced. As Jeff Foxworthy said, the minute they heard his Southern accent, they instantly discounted his intelligence. It’s an unfair, regressive image, but it has stuck like a weld to the South.
Southern politics has never done much for Southerners, either. During the Civil War, Jeff. Davis was almost in despair at the constant barrage he received on the subjects of Confederate state’s rights and other issues. A few states even threatened to secede from the Confederacy.
“Not doing much” has physical realities in it in the South to this day. The generational poverty is still sticking around like an old, septic wound, too. The barefoot, almost destitute, rebels of 1865 are the people queueing up for free dental clinics in Alabama 150+ years later. Loyalty in the South apparently runs from the bottom to the top, but not the other way round.
The hatred, real and fictionalized, has simply been adapted to circumstances. Don’t Step On Me, a saying from before the Civil War, is still a rallying cry. In a hideously polarized modern America, it’s a sort of subliminal message. America was born fighting for its rights, and that instinct is instantly channelled by this type of “fight back at anything” reflex.
It’s the instinct that fought WW2 and won. It hasn’t won a damn thing since, because the fake version of Don’t Step On Me is just a jingle. That has set the scene for arguably the most obscene, disgraceful denouement of America’s high ideals and in many cases fully justified claims to greatness. The Disunited States is a horrible, ugly, mess.
The Civil War vs the world
The Civil War and the polarized version of America are the same thing. The world, which suffers as much from American politics as America in so many ways, isn’t benefiting from the fighting of an old, outdated, war and an America uselessly trying to cut its own throat at every opportunity.
The problem for the world, Americans, is that our idiots think that your idiots know what they’re doing. They’re impressed by these Occasional Americans. They don’t see the ingrained dishonesty, hypocrisy, and the undiluted self-interest.
They think that these repulsive, parasitic, corrupt, criminal glove puppets are real geniuses. “They must be smart – They’re rich, aren’t they?” is the logic. So our fools slavishly copy every tantrum, every jingoistic vacuum, and every sleazy political maneuver.
This is very primitive politics. Politics is the art of division of arguments, as well as slimy grovelling to donors and political sponsors. Us or Them is about as basic as it can get.
What gives politicians the right to promote hatred of other citizens? Is it a constitutional right? No. Does it reflect one single word or concept of the ideas of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness? Obviously not.
Are the politics of hatred democratic? How could they be? Hatred, at its extreme, means killing the other guy, not respecting his rights. You can’t all be created equal and then claim superiority, either.
You can see why the world feels it has a right to object to America’s Least Impressive. If it happens in the US, it’ll be right over here in a year or so.
The myth of populism in Civil War terms.
Calling modern politics populist is pretty right, but not for the reasons you’d expect. “Populism” isn’t an ideology. It’s not a crusade. It’s nothing. Simply saying what people want to hear is hardly an act of courage and conviction. It’s a form of cowardice, and it can prove it.
Unlike the participants in the Civil War, these guys don’t stick around to defend anything but themselves. Sometimes they won’t even do that. Consider the abuse heaped on GOP candidates during the nominations, and consider that all these guys are now working for the people who abused them.
Heroic? Not very. Would you support someone who denigrated your wife and family in front of the entire nation? No? Then you’re not a populist. During the Civil War, both Northerners and Southerners would have killed anyone who did such a thing, with or without the niceties of a duel. You could say, in fact, that populism, particularly in this form, is about as un-American as you can get.
Populist rabble rousers are another example. You could be forgiven for thinking that populism is some kind of revolution, but it’s not. A rabble rouser isn’t much of a rebel rouser, excuse the pun. A rabble is a disorganised group of thugs who generally take advantage of chaos to steal and commit crimes. A rebel is a person fighting at the risk of their own lives, not other people’s property. Rabble rousers are simply harnessing a rabble to their wagon, and using it for their own gains.
The Civil War, 21st century version, has to end. It can achieve nothing but damage to America and the world. There’s no reason for Americans to tolerate a pack of parasitic bastards enriching themselves at the expense of the misery of millions.
Point made? General Lee got it right, and it’s about time his view was embraced, for the sake of America and the world.