Many talk of the threat of civil war in an increasingly polarized America. The antipathy of the left for the right has certainly reached a high level of irrationality and vitriol. No area of culture and politics is exempt, as conflicts seem to have sprung out spontaneously over the past few decades, surprising everyone by their intensity, daring and scope. Once a metaphor, civil war is now considered a literal possibility.
However, the standard parameters that define civil wars are absent from the present scene. Such wars take place in time and space. Thus, there should be a geographical location for this conflict. While there are red and blue states, every state is a mixture of the two in varying degrees. This civil war has no physical boundaries; division is everywhere, even within households. We are two nations inextricably intermingled.
A Civil War With No Root Cause?
Past political conflicts revolved around the burning concerns of the day. Slavery, socialism, labor problems, race, the Vietnam war and other issues divided America into defined ideological and moral positions. Today, issues like procured abortion, same-sex ‘marriage’ and moral matters are highly contentious and passionate. However, these have not yet reached the intensity to spark this conflict.
There is a significant division in the country, but it is not centered on burning issues. We can say that the new civil war defies the issues. No single subject provides clear lines of demarcation. There is a general malaise where the right vents its discontent over the present state of politics, economy and culture. And the left vents its discontent over the present state of . . . politics, economy and culture. A volatile standoff prevails that appears to have no single root cause.
This lack of definition allows some to say it is a civil war about nothing. “The more the vitriol has risen,” writes Politico’s John Harris, “the less consensus there is about the origins of anger.”
Instead of focus, the debate is reduced to explosive political personalities who express but do not define the anger. A growing temperamental incompatibility weaponizes everything. Nothing is exempt—sports, grammar, education, fashions, lawns, music or (racist) mathematics. Discord inserts itself into our daily existence, making life unbearable.
The Civil War on Social Structures
Here, indeed, is the central focus of this strife. This is a civil war about everything.
In a civil war about everything, the issues become secondary. As with a divorcing couple, they can be chosen almost at random. Similarly, in America’s new civil war, the target is not a single dire situation but the systems and social structures that make up our way of life. This is the center of our bitter battle that targets everything, even the most un-ideological detail.
All societies consist of agreed-upon social structures that regulate and organize people to live together in peace and virtue. Structures like traditions, customs and manners embody principles and engender ways of being and acting. Political structures like governing bodies, hierarchies and jurisprudence give the nation stability and continuity. Cultural structures in the arts express the spirit of a people.
What makes all these structures so controversial in our decadent neo-pagan times is that they are imbued with a Christian character. The Christian West embedded moral, philosophical and religious principles throughout society that tempered the passions unbridled by original sin and built a civilization within metaphysical and supernatural frameworks.
This Christian influence is entrenched in countless aspects of our daily lives. What remains of this Christian civilization keeps society civil, lawful and charitable. As society decays, however, these same remnants, no matter how small or vague, make life unappealing to a maddened left.
The Left Wants the American System Destroyed
Thus, America is a jumble of structures mixing Christian fragments, Enlightenment ideas, modern dynamism and postmodern chaos. It satisfies no one. This inconsistent America is the target of the new civil war over everything.
The left makes no secret about its goal. Radical leftists are unanimous in calling for “systemic change.” This does not mean the reform or replacement of some aspects of our social structures. It means destroying all structures not informed by the left’s ideological utopia. More often than not, the remnants of the Christian order, no matter how tiny, must be eradicated—the flag, patriotism, the Ten Commandments and religious symbols—everything that speaks of God and country must be destroyed. Leftovers from yesteryear’s Enlightenment mindset—freedom, progress, science, logic, reason and identity must go as well.
Even some misguided elements on the conservative side, sensing the decay of America’s present system, advocate for unbalanced options that deny the Christian ideal.
A Great Discomfort, a General Irritation
Over the centuries, there have always been some that have challenged the system in America, but they have been at the political margins. They have never commanded that critical mass needed to trigger, much less wage a civil war.
What makes things different now is that large sectors of the left have problems with the American system and its medley structures. Life inside the old structures restrains and frustrates them. Their growing irritation could explode into a civil war about everything.
The immense decadence of our society also plays a major role in this irritation. The right experiences the restlessness of not living up to its moral standards; the left is impatient to impose its dying revolution on the nation. Both sides resort to simplifications, conspiracies and hyperbole, looking for a way out of the mess. A general frustration fuels the unnamed anger that sweeps the nation.
Not only is there a battle between two sides, but this heterogeneous America has evolved into a place where neither side feels comfortable. People want out of the system, the swamp or whatever you want to call it.
Like individuals trapped in a burning home, many stagger to the exits, gasping for air, seeking relief from smoke and flames. Instinct, more than reason, drives their actions. In their tortured pain, the confusion of the fire becomes their enemy, not the fire itself. The solution becomes anything, no matter how absurd, that offers some kind of relief.
The focus should be on tracking down and arresting the arsonists firing up the debate for their own purposes. It should be directed toward understanding the nature of the fires. These should be riveting questions for anyone intent on avoiding a civil war about everything.
This topic might be addressed in a later article.