Civil War II: Whose side will you be on?

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Abraham Lincoln monument in Washington, DC

Civil War reenactments, for some baffling reason, remain an engaging tradition on either side of the old American battle lines. Perhaps it’s a means to celebrate our history, to embrace our heritage—or far more plausibly, an excuse to put on old-timey costumes and get drunk on the local kite-lawn. But these are pale imitations of warfare, in which everyone has a fixed fate and a predetermined ending to pantomime—it’s theatre. It’s hardly the sort of exercise that steels real soldiers for actual warfare. And that’s a pity, really; those who harbor romantic notions of our first Civil War will be no more equipped for the real thing than drama students when the time again comes to pit American lives against American lives. It might be wise for them to head for high ground right now, because as 2016 campaign rhetoric devolves into calls for rioting in the streets, Civil War II might be upon us any day now.

And yes, dear readers, that talk of rioting and rhetoric is in reference to He Who Shall Not Be Named. To paraphrase H.P. Lovecraft’s description of this dreaded, anti-human thing, he’s “a monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like toupee, its poofy tentacles akimbo in the wind… whose face was a mass of scaly bronze leather, prodigious claws on a penis too small for the eyes of man to see, and a long, pathetic history of bankruptcies.” Or, for the sake of search engine keywords: Donald Trump. Sorry if allusions to Cthulhu insufficiently prepared you for the true terror at hand.

Yes, that horse’s ass amongst horses’ asses, Trump. The one who pandered to his pugnacious supporters by advising them, if met with protestors, to “knock the crap out of ’em, would you? Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise.” The one who warned (warned!) ABC News that any failure of the GOP to crown him nominee—even if he’s failed to secure the delegates needed to, um, actually win via the legal, democratic process—would be met with “riots” by his following (and sorry, but if we’re going to elect our presidents based on intimidations and threats of violence, why hold elections at all?). But the damndest thing is that his repeated calls for fisticuffs have been met with berserk enthusiasm; click here for footage of a Jed Clampett-type, emboldened by the Donald’s bluster, throwing a disgraceful and unprovoked punch at a guy who, ahem, sure doesn’t have the skin complexion of your average Trump voter. If this media-savvy media whore insinuates the threat of riots, his blind, batty “Trumpeters” might really become an unofficial, unthinking army of foot soldiers.

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So who the hell are these maniacs? For the purposes of this article, they’re either the rebels you’ll find yourselves warring against to uphold American democracy—or they’re you. For the sake of convenience, we’ll address this piece to those who consider Trump and his ilk a dire enemy, just as any just God surely must. The New York Times sought to elucidate the baffling question of “What kind of moron falls for that Oompa Loompa’s obvious lies?” in this recent piece. It marvels that these voting anomalies defy any sort of expected geographic distribution; it then goes on to assure you that all your other horrible preconceived stereotypes about them are totally, totally true. They’re the worst kind of white male Americans—the kind who’d been told for generations that their snow-colored visages entitled them to easy, successful lives, and that any lesser fate was a thing only darker-skinned peoples deserve. And for a voting bloc that pretends to value personal responsibility, they’ve put little or no effort into bettering themselves; if they’re anathema to employers, with nothing in the way of useable skills, they’d sooner blame that (expletive!) Obama and the ding-danged Mexicans than actually put four years towards a high school diploma. As another piece, this in Cosmopolitan, points out: for minorities, women, gays, and swaths of others, America has never been a greater place to live than it is right now. So who are these folk who contend that this country needs to be made “great again?” The useless ones, those who’ve accomplished nothing without the slave labor and institutional oppression to make it happen.

But let’s again note that Trump’s electorate cannot be defined in terms of relation to the Mason-Dixon; this piece is by no means an anti-Southern tirade. A blanket damnation of Dixieland and a hall pass for the Yankees would be underserved and completely untrue. We’ll instead consider that the United States has harbored two warring cultural mindsets since Ben Franklin’s time and before. One is attributed to the effete intellectualism of this country’s English forebears, the other to a punch-first, ask-questions-never Celtic inheritance. Cultural anthropologist Conrad Phillip Kottak, in his Prime-Time Society: An Anthropological Analysis of Television and Culture, essentially described it as such: that English tendency to analyze to the point of paralysis is best personified by Star Trek’s Mr. Spock, and the one for blind, reactionary animal kinesis was manifest is Dr. “Bones” McCoy. The genius of the American endeavor, Kottak argues, could be likened to the character of Captain James Tiberius Kirk; he’d weigh the input of both Spock and McCoy—the intellect and the savage heart, or if you prefer, the Barack and George W. of interstellar space—and marry the two, effecting gainful change in the smartest way possible.

It’s a rosy appraisal—and almost certainly unjustified. The unity of the those two factions was never more than tenuous and fragile; for the sake of throwing English yokes from our backs, it was a loveless marriage born of necessity. And as we know, that imperfect stab at a perfect union was damned near undone four score and seven years later by that schism, that uneasy bipolar twitch programmed into our national psyche. While it’s true that Celtic fire and English iciness were once synonymous with the Johnny Rebs and Blue Bellies, respectively, the first of our American Civil Wars took place well before the automobile or interstate highway system. Those two opposing cultural attitudes, so long tethered to a static geography, have since set up camp willy-nilly, thanks to the advent of 20th Century mobility. And mobility is a funny word to invoke here, given that a great number of Trump supporters live in mobile homes—and yet in every sense, these people have never gone anywhere.

riot police

The irreconcilable divide between Americans and Americans was perhaps the first thread woven into our national fabric; Trump may exploit it, but he hardly invented it. As long-smoldering coals are stoked—as a soulless billionaire fascist inflames slumbering calls to white male supremacy, American style—we’re as close to an outright civil war as we were on Lincoln’s Inauguration Day. Have you decided which USA you’ll be fighting for?

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