Prelude to civil war?

Richard P. writes:

My mind reflexively wanders to historical analogies when thinking about current events. It’s a bad habit because there is never a perfect fit, but I can’t seem to help myself. For instance, the pervasive political correctness in our society usually makes me think of the post-Brezhnev Soviet sphere. There are no Gulags, but straying from the party line can cost you your employment, your education, and even your friends and family. In extreme cases it can lead to psychological treatment.

The events of the last week involving the Tucson shooting have brought to mind the early stages of Bleeding Kansas. The latter began as just a few small skirmishes between free-staters and slave-staters. However, the news reports of these events caused people throughout the country to begin to chose sides and harden their positions. Radicals on both sides moved into Kansas and ramped up the violence. This further radicalized the whole population. By the time of John Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry, Northerners and Southerners had largely lost common feeling for each other as countrymen. The public rhetoric following his raid created a final psychological break from the Union for many Southerners. [LA replies: Yes, I’ve made this same point several times.] The election of Lincoln was merely a needed pretext for secession. Most Southerners had already decided before the election that they could likely no longer live peaceably within the Union. Most Northerners had come to believe that it would be necessary to force a solution on the South.

I fear we may be on a similar path. The slow awakening of many conservatives that you have noted is much like the early days of Bleeding Kansas. People on both sides are beginning to see that there is an uncrossable chasm between us in our most basic beliefs. Like then, most of the population is not involved and doesn’t give these events much thought. It’s not likely to stay that way. Liberals began accusing conservatives of creating an atmosphere of murder within minutes of the shooting. A great many have stuck to this view even after the facts began to trickle out. it is now being made clear that our disagreements are not merely political. A line has been crossed. New events, even without violence, will spark new accusations and create further distrust. This will not end well.

We can welcome the new consciousness of some conservatives. But let’s not expect this means matters will improve. This may merely be the prelude to a much longer and bloodier fight to come. And we may well lose and be considered pariahs by future generations. I want my child to grow up in a world where words like mother and father still exist, and where there is a concept of transcendent truth, so I’ll persevere. But this week has sent a chill down my spine.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 15, 2011 11:24 AM | Send

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