Are We Engaged in a Great Civil War?

Photo of United States Capitol

Written by Kent Politsch

August 14, 2022

I’ve been thinking about the outrage China expressed when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan. The rhetoric coming from Xi’s spokespeople was very threatening.

Of course, the banter between China and the United States over Taiwan has been ongoing for several years now. However, Pelosi’s visit seemed to escalate tensions surprisingly. Why such a big deal that a politician – important to lawmaking, indeed – but not an official of the Biden Administration; not a woman one would expect to wield strong influence over international or military policy; and not a person who constantly harps on Chinese efforts to dominate Asia and its surrounding waters… so why?

I’ve not seen or read an acceptable explanation, and I’m somewhat surprised that Republican critics of Biden’s handling of foreign relationships have not been more outspoken about Pelosi’s trip. She must have gotten Biden’s blessing despite her independent reasons for making the Taiwan stop.
What I did surmise from the rising tensions is that we have entered a new version of a Cold War. That alarms me, because the Russian-Ukrainian conflict already has the world on edge about a third international conflict in which each country will need to choose sides. If it does come to that, the results could be catastrophic.

That’s enough to worry about, but it doesn’t seem like the only thing with which we Americans are faced.
Thinking about the people who must decide how far to push the Chinese and the Russians while criticizing their handling of relationships in Asia and Europe, triggered concerns about today’s politicians. Can they put aside political bickering long enough to consider all the consequences of entering a war? Do enough of them have children or grandchildren of draft age to weigh on their conscience? Would young women be made eligible for the draft should we need it?

Reports that Ukraine is waging a good counter offensive, and Russia’s efforts to enlist mercenaries and prisoners, make me believe Russia’s military minds are not up to a conflict with the United States. China, on the other hand, shows much greater discipline. Those who fought in Vietnam and Cambodia, and those who heard legends of Russia’s performance in Afghanistan, will understand the difference.
Nevertheless, are we ready for war with either Russia or China?

My answer is no. Here’s why: We are too deep into our own Cold War at home, a confrontation some are calling the “Cold Civil War.”

Domestic wrangling today is fed by familiar issues that divided the United States more than 150 years ago when a line was drawn between Richmond and Washington, D.C.

Several things separated the South’s interests from the North’s demands, but the catalysts that brought the mounting ire to a head was the treatment of blacks and the perceived economic risk outlawing slavery meant to Southern farms and businesses.

Today’s political scene is reminiscent in the sense that both sides express arguments that have become disparate attitudes and irreparable differences. Exaggerated anger and name-calling resemble the pushing and shoving in a high school hallway. It’s time to grow up.

But… I don’t see it happening and the danger to America is civil war.

I know many people will scoff at such an extreme premise, but show me where leaders in powerful positions are acting reasonably? It’s not just in Washington, D.C., but throughout the nation in state capitals, in industrial complexes, on Wall Street, in educational centers, on farms, in suburban neighborhoods, and in the hearts of cities. Even those among us who hate the thought of choosing sides are faced with doing just that.

Here is what irks me about this situation: While we argue and throw public barbs at one another, “Rome is burning.”

Yes, the Senate made a bold move recently by passing the “Inflation Reduction Act,” a politically charged name for legislation, I agree, but a law that I support. The effort to pass this legislation is a clear example of the division in American politics.

While the motive behind the bill was to solve pressing issues, the sides were clearly divided by politics. No Republican senator voted in favor of the bill. And the prediction is no Republican House Representative will vote in favor when they return from summer recess.

Those of us who want action from Congress want anything… even if it’s the wrong thing… do something that tries to address the problems we face, like climate change. Most of us are not impressed by the wrangling; not impressed by the sophomoric game of chicken where two sides threaten each other with a head-on collision to see who will flinch first.

I’m also not impressed by Senators Manchin and Sinema’s power plays. We can assume they got something they wanted from Senator Schumer for their votes, but it did what the Democrats wanted: It gave them a pure political victory.

Politics played at any time, but especially during a cold civil war, suck. It makes today’s situation worse, because the story is about the division, not about the fact that we’re finally addressing the biggest issue for our future, how to stop the erosion of our planet’s livability.

And that’s my point: How much longer are we going to focus on the cold wars we engage in rather than uniting forces to save the only planet we know for certain where we can live?

Before we can regain confidence in our nation’s ability to tamp down the threats from China and Russia, we must end the “Cold Civil War” in the United States, which is much easier, because we’re intelligent people aware of the stakes. People observing the politics don’t give a damn about Republican or Democrat, they want leaders who will acknowledge the growth of diversity in America, legislate fairly, and accept openly the burden of world leadership. Unity is what it will take to fix the planet’s climate and give all of us hope for the future.

I realize this is not what nearly half the population of this country wants to read. They believe diversity is what threatens this country, and they want to go back a hundred years to when white European ancestral men dominated thoughts and directed the nation’s policies. It can’t work that way anymore. Civilization changed. If we don’t accept that, we are going to waste time and lives while destroying what we built in the name of liberty and justice for all.

We don’t need Republicans and Democrats anymore. We need people who understand what is happening with changes in nature and changes we’ve created through neglect. We need statesmen who will focus on those things, not politics, not gamesmanship, and not righteousness.

We need a strong, technically advanced military to discourage any adversarial threats. We need superior national intelligence to monitor rogue ciber aggression and quash pockets of greedy individuals who rip off unsuspecting victims.

We also need to repair relations between minority communities and law enforcement. That will begin when we have stronger state, city, and county leaders committed to jobs, better schools with renewed emphasis on arts, music, and sports to help make school fun and aid in the socialization of youth. And we need to assure parents that schools are safe from angry people with access to military style weapons.

There are many needs being neglected because we face out-of-control anger and fear; anger and fear that is stoked by political pressure to isolate from reality.

The world is changing. It has always been changing, but there are no longer unoccupied frontiers where the frightened and angry can escape. So, like Jefferson Davis, they’ve drawn a line in the sand. Or in this case, the steps of the United States Capitol.

The remediation must begin now, and we must recruit people of the world to combat the real threat to our existence – the damage we’ve caused through hasty and neglectful living that is speeding an adverse climate change. Science has shown that we either adjust our lifestyles now or we adjust them later when it will be ten times as difficult, when all sources of energy will be needed to cool our living spaces so we don’t die from constant heat exhaustion, when our food sources will be limited to things grown in hot climates, when the sea is void of creatures that once provided us food.

Civilization is at risk. People and other living creatures may survive Earth’s rage for abusing her, but life on all continents will be more difficult, which will increase the anger and tensions among us, compounding human distrust and anxieties. Work must begin now to rectify the problems, to solve the Cold Civil War first. I don’t see the bill passed being as effective as we need it to be if we can’t do that first.

So, let’s begin: Replace resentment with civility; replace anger with tolerance and pride; replace poverty and racial distrust with equality and prosperity for all; and replace political gamesmanship with fair play, statesmanship, and governance that shows a true love for our country as it exists now.

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