When I was in gradeschool during the 1970s and 1980s – it was fascinating to look at the American Civil War. What made it so fascinating was the unthinkable concept of ‘brother versus brother’- my teachers, my classmates, and me – none of us could imagine political ideologies so strong that they could rip families apart and cause brothers to shoot guns at brothers. It was simply unthinkable and thus – fascinating. It remained unthinkable throughout my life – until the election of 2016.
When I say it was unthinkable, what I mean is that I couldn’t conceive of any cause or concern that would create enough animosity between Americans that they would risk ripping up our 200+ years of democracy and take up arms against each other. Sure, there were stark differences about the environment, labor, corporatism, civil rights, and things like abortion – but only a small fringe of nutcases actually took these differences to a violent level. It was rare to hear about families who no longer talked to one another over their political differences.
It’s not rare anymore. We may not (yet) have brothers taking up arms against one another, but there are countless families where people no longer speak to each other, friendships have ended, people have moved to different regions because of political concerns (my family did) and never since the 1850s has there been such polarization in the United States of America. We may be bound together by our government, but we are no longer united. And that’s just the way it is.
More than anything – the division seems to be about the power of Christian white people in the United States. One camp feels that Christian white people are being disempowered unfairly and the other side sees the playing field as being leveled as disempowered people of color, LGBQT, women, latinos, and non-Christians are given an equal voice in determining who and what the USA is. It’s not a coincidence that the major Trump policies have been about empowering white ‘prosperity’ Christians and disempowering immigrants, Muslims, women, Asians, African Americans, the poor, LGBQT, Latinos, and other groups that rose in political power during the Obama years.
I am not saying that this is a strictly racial divide. It’s a religious divide as well. It’s also a profits versus people divide as one side believes that as long as business prospers the citizens will do well and the other side believes that the government’s primary objective should be to take care of citizens directly. But mostly, all of that is a bit like saying the civil war wasn’t about slavery but about state’s rights versus federal rights – it’s true, but the civil war was mostly about slavery – we all know that. The next civil war will be about white privilege. Since the colors have already been assigned – we can say that instead of blue vs. grey or North vs. South – the next civil war will be Red vs. Blue and unfortunately for the blue side – there is no cohesive geographic area. If anything it seems to be a Northeast Coast and West Coast vs. Interior and South.
In general, it’s something like this 2018 map of state legislatures:
So, what sets it off? Personally, I think the John Brown moment will be the moment that Donald Trump refuses to give up power if he loses the 2020 election or retains power through 2024 or gets impeached. I don’t believe he has any intention of stepping down. His refusal to step down will cause the State of California to secede. This will cause chaos as there are a number of important U.S. bases in California. What happens in that situation? Do all the California loyal troops rise up and take the bases? Are the Californian troops on those and other bases rounded up and put in camps? Does the U.S. evacuate California? Do the troops turn on each other? I have no idea. It’s almost inconcievable except that the catalyst event is not hard to imagine. It’s such a confusing situation that it’s not hard to imagine shots being fired as U.S. troops and California loyal troops try to navigate through the situation.
I believe that Hawai’i, Oregon, and Washington would quickly side with California. It’s not unthinkable that Illonois, Massachussets, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, and Maryland would follow. Politically, the city of Washington D.C. is much more aligned with blue states but since it is the U.S. capital and currently held by Red – it could easily be a major flash point. None of it would be as simple as this. From Redding, California all the way up to Eugene, Oregon and everything east of the Cascade and Sierra Nevada – this is all deeply red territory. Cities like Miama, Atlanta, and Austin are solid blue.
So, the flashpoints and battle fields are probably going to be military bases in blue territories and areas like those mentioned above where red people are in blue territory or blue people are in red territory. If actual hostilities break out – red sympathizers will quickly form ad-hoc militias. It’s no secret that most of the anti-government, gun hoarding, militia forming preppers are either vocal Trump supporters or at the least fundamental Christians with sympathy towards white nationalism. These folks won’t wait for orders. They’ve been waiting and training for decades. The Northern California/Southern Oregon region would probably quickly secede from California and create their long desired State of Jefferson.
So, here’s the big question. How ugly does it get? Fire fights in the streets of Sacramento? Bombs from F-18s leveling the skyline of Los Angeles? Washington D.C. in flames? One side using nuclear weapons? Yes, that’s a very real danger in an American Civil War. The militias might be the biggest danger of escalation.
So, all of that is conjecture. The hard and fast truth of the matter is that we have reached a point – in 2018 where it no longer seems impossible that brothers would take up arms against one another. The college educated brother in the city versus the brother who stayed on the farm. The brother who goes to church versus the brother who is agnostic. The brother who votes Republican versus the brother who doesn’t.
God help us all.