Is another Civil War possible in the United States?

Let us look at the pre-war symptoms.

A friend sociologist, Jorge Riopedre, with good political judgment and great experience in the analysis of conflicts (they’re called polemologists), fears the answer is yes. And in a risky literary game, he supplies a year for the start of hostilities: 2052. And a year for the end: 2055. Just three years. The clash would be the result of an ethnic mismatch between some resentful minorities and the disdainful relative majority that today is the mainstream, or main current of U.S. society.

The dates were not casually chosen. In mid-century U.S., “the whites” will no longer be the absolute majority in the census. Nobody will occupy that space. The whites would form only the most numerous minority, but far from 50 percent of society. The Hispanics will number about 100 million people. Together with the Afro-Americans and the Asians, they’ll share the other half of the demographic pie. In his essay, J.R. quotes a well-known statement from Yasser Arafat with relation to Israel: “The womb of our women is the best weapon to overwhelm the Jews.”

I suspect that my friend is under the impact of the episode in Charlottesville, Va. The obscene spectacle of the KKK and the supremacists shouting anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant slogans and attacking the opposing demonstrators (among whom were a few but bellicose antifas inserted among the democrats, a few anarchical types who call themselves anti-capitalists), with the grim balance of a murdered woman who had nothing to do with the antifas, seemed to J.R. to be a rehearsal for another Civil War that will incubate slowly with each clash, with each minor blow, until the coming of Armageddon.

From the start, let us admit that no country is exempt from splitting in rival factions that end up shooting at each other. Today, it seems impossible that the United States could drift in that direction, but the Germans before 1933 said that the outlandish Adolf Hitler would never win the favor of the electorate of Europe’s best educated and most powerful country. A few days before the start of the Mexican civil war in 1910, The New York Times praised that country’s strength, achieved under the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz. There are many similar examples.

Let us look at the pre-war symptoms.

Didn’t the American people elect Donald Trump, a man apart from political parties, a true outsider who says something today and affirms the opposite tomorrow, to the extreme that Bill Kristol, the intellectual leader of the Republican neoconservatives, says that Trump’s expertise is not the art of the deal but of demagoguery? Doesn’t Trump say that the electoral system is not to be trusted and that the press lies constantly? Doesn’t he insult or fire the members of the Cabinet who he himself has selected? Isn’t it a fact that Republicans and Democrats disagree in almost everything on legislative issues? Isn’t it true that, for many years now, Tyrians and Trojans have taken different roads in foreign policy?

Nevertheless, although all those symptoms point to an almost total delegitimization of the system, I don’t believe that the political situation in the U.S. is today worse than in other eras. The tenseness of the Kennedy era, the confrontation between young people with Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Johnson, and the bitter period of Nixon’s administration, which culminated in his resignation from the presidency, seem to me just as grave — or worse — than the situation today.

The American republic, essentially conceived by James Madison, with its brakes and counterweights, has shown proof of great resistance and flexibility. When I acknowledged J.R.’s letter, I told him that, although a forthcoming U.S. civil war was possible, I didn’t think it was probable. The foundations are much too firm.

Published in Spanish by El Blog de Montaner on Sunday August 20th, 2017

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