The partial government shutdown is about more than a shutdown. It’s civil war. There are not guns or violence, at least not yet. The U.S. military has not turned against any portion of the citizens. Nobody has openly called for secession yet, at least to the point where it can credibly happen. Not just yet. Yet all these things are just beneath the surface. Any one of these things could happen, almost at any time, although — for perfectly understandable reasons — most of us prefer not yet to know it.
Donald Trump came along in the midst of this growing crisis. He didn’t start the fire, nor did his supporters. He merely represents the frustration and outrage of the half or so of the population who has simply had enough. The people who dominate all those red counties on the political map, and who also comprise a sturdy but usually silent minority (bigger than you think) in those blue map locations.
A civil war, in psychological terms, happens when two sides reach a point of irreconcilable differences. The government shutdown and the border wall, while very important issues, are not the only issues dividing this country. The country is divided on even bigger things, such as whether we should move toward higher taxes and socialism or lower taxes and capitalism; more regulation or less regulation; more control for the Democratic-Republican establishment in D.C., or less. Should we use all our military force against militant Islam, or bow down and blame ourselves, as Obama did? Should we permit other countries — China, European countries — the advantages of capitalism while imposing on ourselves the disadvantages of socialism? Or should we fight back, as President Trump has done?
The root issue of all political conflict, including our own, boils down to one factor: The individual versus the state. Does the individual have the right to make up one’s own mind about one’s life, or should government be involved in making many or most decisions for us? Whether the issue is gay marriage, abortion, taxes, capitalism/socialism, whether or when to utilize military force, what the budget should be, or anything else, that’s what it all boils down to. Even the border wall issue applies here. To border wall advocates, it’s an issue of whether the federal government should set up boundaries between our (hopefully) free country and individuals or nations who are not free, who may be hostile and threatening, and should in some way be screened before coming into our (hopefully) free country. This didn’t used to be controversial. But the Democrats have moved so far left — no border wall, no borders at all — that the divide seems new, and it is new for that reason.
Our country today reminds me so, so much of a marriage at the end of its time. I am sorry to say it, but it’s true. Sometimes a marriage therapist tells a couple, “It just seems like so much work. You’re fundamentally divided on so many matters. Why don’t you just divide up your property and go your separate ways? Set yourselves free?” There are times when it’s rational to conclude this, which is why divorce and breakups are often rational.
The smart couples do break up and rationally divide up their property — even time with their children — and move on, often to better and calmer lives. Will that happen in America? Not a chance, based on the way it looks right now.
Americans no longer seem to agree on the fundamentals. The Second Amendment is now up for grabs. For years, Democrats have claimed to support the Second Amendment in theory, but now they are prepared to pass legislation in effect outlawing guns (or ammunition, which is the same thing). It turns out when they said, for all those years, that “the Second Amendment applies to the military, not to individuals, even peaceful ones,” they really meant it. This alone is an unsustainable and unresolvable difference. Am I wrong? Prove me wrong. I’d love to be wrong. I see no compromise on this point.
And now the First Amendment could be at risk too. Increasingly, it seems that leftists, self-described progressives and Democrats really mean it when they say, “Hate speech isn’t protected by the First Amendment.” Seriously? What is hate speech? I have been called a promoter of hate speech for supporting President Trump on many matters and opposing Democrats. Is that what we’ve come to? Is hate speech now speech I don’t like? And regardless of how one defines “hate speech”, how on earth do you reconcile the First Amendment with anyone’s speech — however it’s characterized — being subject to any kind of government regulation or chilling whatsoever?
When two or more parties disagree on matters of principle, you’re at a point of civil breakdown. The First and Second Amendments are at the top of our Bill of Rights for a reason. When the two major political parties disagree on these two most precious components of individual liberty — the right to defend your body and to speak your mind — then civility is over. What a literal civil war would look like, in the twenty-first century in the USA, I frankly have no idea. Maybe we’re already in it. The government shutdown is a metaphor for the impossible, irreconcilable differences between two schools of thought. I keep thinking: This is what civil war looks like. Each side wants the other to humble him- or herself. But it’s not going to happen. Never, ever with the Democrats, who have never once caved on anything, ever. And no longer with the dissenters or so-called “deplorables”, at least if President Trump is any indication.
I don’t know the answer or solution. I only know one thing: The cause of the breakdown, whenever it happens, always resides in the most important issue in any political or social matter: The individual versus the state. If there is any solution to find, it will be there.
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