I doubt that many people foresaw the American Civil War in the 19th century. People who were close to the political issues of the day may have thought that there were antagonisms brewing that, if left unresolved, could have lead to violence of some kind and to some degree. But, I doubt that the war between the states would have been anticipated on the scale that eventually erupted.
The reason I bring this up is that there are some on the right who, after Obama’s election, are now anticipating a second civil war, something that might break out soon. The basis for this speculation is not, apparently, because people think there is some animosity about race that people are ignoring. Granted, there do exist great issues about race in the United States that are unacknowledged and left to fester. But, that is not why these people are speculating about warfare breaking out within our borders pitting Americans against each other.
From listening to them, the problem is represented by President Obama, but, it is not his race that is the problem. For the right-wingers who worry about this, the President represents a vast and powerful left-wing effort to ruin the country for it’s own nefarious purposes. Given the power that Obama and his leftish allies now wield, for these right-wingers, the only way to save the country is open violent revolt.
One might point out that the population at large is in no position to come to the aid of the country. The population itself is divided. The population would be no match, according to the right-wingers, for the military might that the left-wing could throw in against it.
The only saviors that stand ready to wrest the levers of power away from these left-wing usurpers is the American military. The scenario, I suspect, would proceed much as recently occurred in Honduras where the elected President and his administration was escorted out of the country in order, so the coup leaders said, that the Honduran democracy would be preserved. Apparently, there were many powerful but frightened individuals in Honduras who thought that their freedoms were being endangered by their own left-wing conspiracy.
I want to first point out that left-wingers, of a sort, have noticed the right-wingers worrying.
Conservative Columnist Promotes Possibility of Military Coup
There is an unmistakable trend in right-wing rhetoric in the direction of extremism and violence; the conservative contingents have gone stark raving mad.
Just eight months into a Democratic administration, Newsmax is running a piece speculating about a military overthrow of the elected leadership of the United States government. Seriously.
Newsmax columnist John L. Perry encourages his right-wing readers not to "dismiss" the notion of an American military coup as "unrealistic."
America isn't the Third World. If a military coup does occur here it will be civilized. That it has never happened doesn't mean it wont [sic]. Describing what may be afoot is not to advocate it....
Imagine a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution through an interim administration that would do the serious business of governing and defending the nation. Skilled, military-trained, nation-builders would replace accountability-challenged, radical-left commissars. Having bonded with his twin teleprompters, the president would be detailed for ceremonial speech-making.
Military intervention is what Obama's exponentially accelerating agenda for "fundamental change" toward a Marxist state is inviting upon America. A coup is not an ideal option, but Obama's radical ideal is not acceptable or reversible.
In April, a common Republican talking point was the notion that Democrats were creating some kind of "banana republic." In retrospect, the irony is rich.
There is an unmistakable trend in right-wing rhetoric in the direction of extremism and violence. It's not at all healthy, and it's a sign of conservative contingents gone stark raving mad.
So, there are people on the right who, as Benen above documents, who believe that things are coming to a head and that the military, or true patriots somewhere, have to take back their country from the left-wingers.
My concern is that Benen does not seem to understand that his response, that we should understand that these people are “…stark raving mad” is not enough.
Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee might have appeared to be “stark raving mad” when they suggested the southern states could go it alone as the Confederacy, but they attempted it anyway.
People on the left should not be so quick to scoff at the suggestion that our country has been hijacked and so, the people need to rise up to take it back. Just a little while ago the left-wingers were thinking similar things when they saw president Bush beating up foreign countries and giving away the store to his corporate friends. There may not have been the thought expressed that the military should throw Bush out in a counter-coup. The left assumed the electoral process would kick out Bush and his cronies soon enough.
The right-wingers may be just more desperate because they may not see that their electoral efforts would either be effective or soon enough to do any good.
I think there are good reasons then to take these right-wing worries more seriously. And Benen’s short report does not attempt to suggest how serious we should be.
The best place to start, I believe, is to try to better understand why the right-wingers think Obama is such a threat to the country.
The best way to answer that question is to address the question, not why the right thinks this or that, but whether Obama is, in fact, a threat to the country. The right-wingers argue that Obama is a threat to the country because he represents the power of the left-wing and as President is able to carry out the left-wing plan to destroy the country for its own nefarious purposes.
Is any of this make sense? Benen tells us that we should take these worries as "…stark raving madness” I have to say, Benen does not try at all to explain why we should jump to this conclusion.
Benen does not try to show that there is no such conspiracy, nor that Obama does not work to accomplish it. Nor does he explain how we should understand the conflict between the left and right so that it makes sense that the right-wingers are the maniacs and not the left.
If we want to recognize the concerns that people have about the necessity of civil war in this century, then we have to look at these issues which Benen has left unaddressed.
This brings me back to the metaphors that I have been talking about. My favorite of the moment is the one about the bully in the playground. All our understanding of the left and the right, and so forth, depends on our having some underlying understanding of reality upon which we carry out our arguments. Similarly, there is a battlefield and on it we can describe and talk about the battles that occur. The metaphor about the playground is just a way of describing the layout of the ground upon which our discussions of the left and right can be carried out.
So, to understand ourselves, we first suppose everyone agrees that we are like kids living on a playground run by a bully. The bully spends his time picking on the weaker kids in the playground, mostly stealing their lunch money.
Given this is the way we understand the basics, how are we then expected to understand the conflict between the left and the right? My discussion is just rudimentary, at this point, because I don’t see all the pitfalls in my initial suggestion. However, to begin, it seems right to say that the left sees itself as a defender of the kids against the predations of the bully. The left tells the kids to organize themselves together. The left tells the kids to make unions, for example. But, some on the left think that there is really no good defense against the bullies short of eliminating the bullies altogether. This is what Marx advocated. Get rid of the bullies and do all the work yourselves.
The right basically advocates for the bullies. One argument in defense of the bullies is to say that the right too advocates for the interests of the kids in the playground. According to the right, it is not in the kid’s interests to have the left eliminate the bullies. This argument says that ‘freedom’ and our ability to survive involves our being able to take advantage of others. If you allow the left to eliminate the bullies, then you are thereby taking away everyone’s ability to survive by the only means we have to do that. The left, according to this argument, is saying you shouldn’t be allowed to succeed. This is how the right argues that it is in the kid’s interest to keep the bullies stealing lunch money. They are saying, well, everyone wants to be a bully, and everyone could be a bully and enjoy the fruits of other people’s lunch money if the left is defeated.
The conflict between the left and the right, therefore, has everything to do with how we deal with the bullies and our place in the playground.
If my explanation of the conflict between the left and the right is correct, then we can see that people sympathetic with the right-wing account of what’s in the kid’s interests would believe that Obama, as a representative of the left, would try - not out in the open …but secretly so no one would know how to stop him until it’s too late… to destroy our ‘freedoms’ and innate abilities to fend for ourselves.
Mr. Benen tells us the people who claim Obama will destroy our country and must therefore be stopped by a military coup, if that’s what it takes, will not come to their senses because Benen calls them mad. Benen won’t keep people from seeing Obama as a threat by trying to bad-mouth his right-wing critics. I’m here arguing that we must deal with the arguments that lead people to these conclusions, not just attack the conclusions in isolation. By going after the conclusions, Mr. Benen is trying to close the barn doors after the horses have already escaped and are wandering around in the pasture.
Let’s say we want to dissuade some group of American military leaders from taking the country back from its left-wing usurpers. The way to do that cannot be to just say that such a coup would be crazy. People concerned about ‘freedom’ or ‘survival,’ and think that the left-wing threatens both, will not give up doing anything about that because someone says direct actions would be crazy.
The coup leaders in Honduras have not given up on their coup even after they’ve been called worse than crazy.
The only way to prevent a civil war is to resolve the conflicts going on in this country. The basic conflict has to do with the kids and the bullies. The whole dispute between the left and the right, according to my rudimentary explanation, gets started as a response to the problem of the bully always stealing the kid’s lunch money. If the constant and unending bickering going on between the left and right seems to be leading us to civil unrest and some violent warfare, then, to avoid that kind of result, we must address these real issues and come up with some better, more effective resolutions.
If we are kids who live on a playground run by a bully, what must we do about it?