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Are we in a Low-Grade Civil War?

Another mass shooting and they are happening more frequently. We know the routine by now. We have a distraught family member telling us about their loss. We hear about deep religious faith as well. Thoughts and prayers will quickly be sent from all corners of civil society, perhaps not by the National Rifle Association. However, we dare not talk about actual legislation that might bring some of this under control. Some because we are afraid of what would happen if we actually acted, and passed even effective background checks.

In the corners of civil society dark forces have taken over the narrative regarding firearms. These groups refuse to even engage with the issue in any rational way or allow for legislation. We are told, but if you pass this, soon all our guns will be confiscated. We need to those guns to fight the government! Never mind some of the legislation is desired by most Americans, such as background checks.

But here is a dark thought, one that fits the present condition if you look at the much bigger picture. And yes, there is a bigger picture. What if we are in the early stages of a hot civil war? And no, not all mass shootings will fit this particularly dark narrative, but some definitely do. And there are some groups that desire to collect as many guns for the coming war as they can.

Some of these major items have crystallized in the recent past.

As of now, CNN staff is getting armed security. Why? There are death threats against them. We have had demonstrators outside of Tucker Carson home. Incidentally, neither of these is normal in a functioning society.

Then we had bombs sent to former presidents, CNN, former cabinet secretaries, and critics which are also not normal. This was attempted murder, pure and simple. In the same week, we had the murder of two black people, since the perpetrator could not get into the church, and a mass shooting at a synagogue. Mass shootings are increasing in frequency.

These events have a few things in common, which are the literal elephant in the room none wants to speak off:

- White males are the perpetrators in most, if not all cases.

- A sense of deep loss for the country they knew.

- We are living through a shifting culture.

- Status loss.

- In some cases, there is an actual ideology of white supremacy, combined with racism and antisemitism. This can be tied clearly due to social media posts, or other evidence found by law enforcement.

Then there is the Christian Right, which at one point stayed out of politics, which wants to establish a theocracy. They desire to bring forth their vision of the United States as a Christian nation. Oh never mind that it was not founded on Christian principles, or come out of the Cotton Mather concept. That would be New England, which during the 17th century you could argue was a theocracy. This is no longer a mystery. Matt Whitaker, the acting Attorney General made that clear about judges having a biblical view of the law. He is hardly alone, but he is situated in a perfect position for that vision to come to be.

It is not even coded or hidden. We also have lawmakers who want to establish a theocracy. At the very least the intent to weaken the constitutional separation of church and state to the point that it becomes a joke. This is a clear point of division.

These are the points where a civil war could go hot. We have been in a quiet Cold War that has been more cultural than physical. It’s been fought for over three decades. The usual talking posts about Hollywood liberal views which are un-American is code for this. The culture wars are precisely this. And at this point, this war may be going hot.

It is not that every mass shooting is part of this dynamic. But some are likely seen by the perpetrators, if not received that way by others, as single operations to save the country from the liberals. We have seen language that seeks to literally kill liberals for the last twenty years, and it finally may be weaponized.

While we might like to pretend that the cultural divide is not clear, we have some places where it emerges with clarity. The first is the rural-urban divide. It is clear that there is anger in rural areas, that trend more monocultural and conservative. One reason for this anger is that there is quiet desperation. It is not something that we can blame people in rural areas for. Life is hard, and it is getting harder.

For this, they blame the loss of goods and services that are instead going to cities that are deeply resented.

The members of the Downtown Athletic Club don’t want to live in a downtown, but they do know that society as a whole confers respect to such places. There is a sense in conversations that people in rural America are not getting their fair share of attention, resources, and respect. They think they deserve more, and that cities and the people within them are getting more than they deserve. They mainly blame racial and ethnic minorities, but also white urban elites.

People living in rural communities across the US face difficult odds. American economic growth and recovery is concentrated in a small number of highly populated urban counties, such as LA County in California and Miami-Dade in Florida. The rural population is declining, from more than half of the US population in 1910 to just 20% in 2010. The abandoned main streets show the wear and tear of an economy that has shifted away from rural people, and of public policy that has forgotten to pay attention.

I have heard the same language from people in Ramona and Julian in San Diego. Their complaint is also coming from the same resentment and the belief that government bodies could not care less about them. Both of these little towns are doing better than Wisconsin, or Michigan or Ohio, where the switch to urban centers is far more pronounced. Yet, the animus is similar and similarly placed.

When hospitals close, and they are doing all over rural America, and the main street starts to look like a ghost town that is a problem. The young have no hope of making a living in the same places their parents did. Many are leaving, and in some cases, they are leaving to the cities and the other side of the cultural divide.

It does not matter that this is part of a global trend. The result is that parents are left to age in areas that are less and less vibrant, with no opportunities for a dignified retirement. Also, when their children leave these monocultural areas and experience for themselves the energy and excitement of multiculturalism, that can go to the other side of the cultural divide. One of the division points is religion.

Pew found this among young people, who do attend services less often than their parents:

In their social and political views, young adults are clearly more accepting than older Americans of homosexuality, more inclined to see evolution as the best explanation of human life and less prone to see Hollywood as threatening their moral values. At the same time, Millennials are no less convinced than their elders that there are absolute standards of right and wrong. And they are slightly more supportive than their elders of government efforts to protect morality, as well as somewhat more comfortable with involvement in politics by churches and other houses of worship.

These and other findings are discussed in more detail in the remainder of this report by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. It explores the degree to which the religious characteristics and social views of young adults differ from those of older people today, as well as how Millennials compare with previous generations when they were young.

These are the front lines of the cultural divide. This is a battle that their elders, in some ways, may be losing. Thus the fear and sense of loss they feel. With this comes fear.

So who have been the shooters? Many are part of the far right of American life. They could be seen as fringe. They are also white and in some cases working class.

Civil wars are no longer about formations fighting each other on bloody battlefields. In fact, the only civil war Americans think about, had a prelude of about ten years. The Little Kansas war was far less organized and filled with violent incidents, that in some cases parallel those mass shootings. There were many political assassinations starting in 1854. And there were massacres too.

The president and the language he speaks is not helping. We know that hate crimes have gone up since President Donald Trump took office. Nor is this accidental.

Hate crimes are a form of terrorism, even if it does not meet the legal definition. While the United States is living through a period of low crime rates, mass shootings are so unpredictable that they have terrorized the population. The reaction from the president has only added to the flames. So we must ask, are we in the early stages of a hot civil war? And if so? Why is the president encouraging it?

A war, or a deepening violence spiral, could allow for the suspension of civil rights. To be clear, we are far from that point. But if your goal is to consolidate power and suspend rights, this is one way. Especially if you believe you can control the demons that are unleashed.

There is a definite cultural divide and instability. When seven out of the last eight elections have been changed elections, that speaks to it. Low-grade civil wars are like low-grade fevers. Both can be treated, but if ignored, they will get far worst. The first step though is to take that temperature and if need be, take a pill for the fever.

Written by

Historian by training. Former day to day reporter. Sometimes a geek who enjoys a good miniatures game.

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