This post has to be long. Histories have to be considered. Social tides and trends examined. That most troublesome of all factors Human Nature faced. It is hoped you find this grim reading, but not sensationalist. This is a precursor for you to discuss in your homes, your blogs, your meeting places. These words are based on histories of communal violence throughout the world. Including the USA. I have tried to be apolitical, most of the time. It is not always possible. Blame has to be laid in places.
The present view that so politically polarised the USA has become, a civil war could take place has moved from blog site discussion onto the mainstream where more sober assessments are. For example:
Brookings in the following assessment of September 2021 concluded there was a sizeable proportion of the USA population who were of this mindset:
In January of this year an article in the UK Guardian raised this possibility along the lines of the UK’s own experience in Ulster
It should be borne in mind that Racism, Intolerance, Profiling and Subjugation are regrettably part of the Human Construct. No race, people, community, grouping, belief system have been free of it. So it is within the USA.
Although legislation and more constructive outlooks made moves to minimise the effects of these corrosions it requires a mammoth task of social engineering to purge them. Something which would challenge even the most efficient and established of authoritarian states.
Thus not the passing phase of the 1960s counter-culture whose short tenure could reduce it to arguably a fashion. Instead it was in the deep-rooted places of a Human Insecurity in sections of The White Community fed by the fear of loss of position in society where the nascent rebellions would grow.
The US involvement in Vietnam with a cost of wasted blood and treasure, left on one side a sense of worthless loss, on the other an anger at some sort of betrayal at home; possibly the first cultural fracture line in The White Community; the dominant group within the USA. These would be played out in the Culture Wars. Not enough attention being given to the mindset which gave rise to the Oklahoma City Bombing of 19th April 1995; this was the warning.
Then in the opening years of the 21st Century came two tipping points:
9/11 and the election of an African American into the Whitehouse, twice with majorities. The former had shaken America and set loose the toxic fantasies of Conspiracy Theories, for the long term trust in government of the USA as dangerous as any handgun. In the case of the latter, the fact he was a Democrat made the backlash easier for one element of the White Community. Had Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice accepted a Eisenhower type draft and won, the Republican Party and Fundamentalist Right would have suffered a truly existential crisis. But they had a black democrat. This made everything much easier.
Civil Discord (The Path to Communal Violence)
It is now necessary to move from the historical to consider the dynamics of civil discord which lead to a break down in the common currency of discourse, bargaining, and the tacit, sometimes humorous acceptance of tribal lines.
Firstly the notion that ‘There is no Democracy’ has to be put aside, for people are able within the USA take to the streets, the airwaves, the internet to give voice to their feelings. Thus there is freedom of speech and action, however in an atmosphere of heightened feeling this freedom comes with tensions and reactions. The first tension arises when people feel their views are not being listened to, or being stifled. The second tension arises when those frustrations are inflamed by the feeling ‘The Other Side’ are not just ignoring, but are seen to be imposing. At this point there occurs a fault line when a shared perception results in ‘The Other Side’ being seen as a threat and there can be no discourse, the only facet shared by both sides being this mindset. At this stage both sides will feel the need to demonstrate, one will feel it is defending, the other will perceive this as aggression, engendered through the fault line affect. Initially it will be seen one side is more aggressive and assertive thus encourage within them a certain sense of triumphalism. This adds to the danger as in playing to its own support it fails to take into account that the very forces which placed it in this position will also work within the opposition. There is made a fundamental error that the triumphant side can use Democracy and the Other Side will adhere to that rule. In addition some of its more strident supporters will feel the leaders are not strong enough and perceive the need to be ready to defend or if necessary attack with unconstitutional force. The stance sets within The Other Side the feeling they had better prepare. You need only scroll the internet to see that the ridiculously named ‘Snowflakes’ have been starting to own guns.
2016 to Today
To support my views in the previous section it is necessary to consider the last two presidential elections. In 2016 the victory went not to the candidate with the most votes but the electoral college votes. Thus from Day One the losing side felt robbed. A more astute winner in 2016 would have sensed the issue and navigated. By 2016 this was not wanted by the winning side and the other side were willing to take up the fight. By 2020 the lack of discourse had reached such a pitch that the losers of that election believed they had the right to seize back power because of a fraudulent election.
The Republican Reaction as seen from The Other Side
Although cast out of the Whitehouse and seeming to fail in the courts of law, aside from the Supreme Court, the political machines now holding control of the Republican Party have been working at a pace to unravel the social, legal and communal trends of the past 50 years as they seek to defend their own ground. Instead of the usual slow, methodical approach in this heightened tension they have sought to dismantle the processes of The History of Race Relations, Sexual Orientation and Abortion with no effort in trying to convince the opposition of their causes, they pass a simple edict. As they see it, this was done to them, it is now time to undo it. This is against the wishes of the Executive branch, the Whitehouse. Another layer of confrontation therefore plays into the dynamic of continuing Civil Discord. In both cases ‘The Other Side’ are a threat.
The Acceleration of Civil Discord
In this frenetic atmosphere attention must be given to the structure of the USA at federal level. In use of the three office system: Executive (The Whitehouse). The Legislature (Congress/Senate) and Judiciary (Supreme Court) mirrored at State Level it was believed enough checks and balances had been built in. However with Conspiracy as deadly to the body politic as Covid to the population; dismay raised to horror by one group or another at the result of the last four presidential elections, the legislature abrogating its traditional and beneficial wheeler-dealing to consensus and the Supreme Court no longer perceived as a body above The Common Brawl another layer of toxicity has arisen. Belief that the system is no longer working. Either dread for the future, anger at The Other Side, grim preparation to defend the home becomes a norm, or violent intention to impose The Will of Our Side(s).
The Tipping Point into Communal Violence
One action leading to a sudden call to or inexorable slide to fully conventionally armed groups is not how this will start. In a nation nearly inured to gun crime you might even miss the start; another shooting, unless of course it is between two groups. The next tranche of violent confrontations, would be by the bombs, IEDs, the murder of prominent activists or journalists, politicians and any combination. These will be the signals the Tipping Point has been reached. This will lead to the ‘No Go Areas’, the latter being underscored by some very unwise incursion by one group into another and the subsequent ambush. It would appear police are already experiencing these; the next step in this will be the targeting of individual officers. From here will come the targeting of official buildings of government, of one party or another, and then for some twisted thought process a hospital, parents might well start to keep children away from school, seeing the history of school killings this would hardly be surprising.
In this atmosphere although groups will be surveyed, there will be the under the radar individuals for each person has their own tipping point. In recent years I have read the remarks of avid anti-war believers and pro-gun control supporters intimating or outright suggest a violent response is a feasible solution. You will never know when the normally placid person will take a gun with the specific purpose of solving a problem, or the group who decided to investigate how to make bombs, because they’ve been pushed too far. Of course each of these actions will bring the reaction.
The Institutionalisation of Violence
One fatalistic view is, considering the level of gun crime, this state is already in place. However the level can become more intense, once armed groups with names and agenda become seen by one community or another as legitimate alternative police or local guard. There is another level though, this being when the group imposes upon the community a code of behaviour and underground tax to support them, the tax does not have a right of appeal either. With this comes disputes within the group and rivalries with other groups. Hardened now by violence and fuelled by suspicion the violent solution is seen as the norm. And of course wherever there is chaos and violence goes crime, gangs would quite naturally seek to impose their own will either to take over a group or keep a group out of their activities. Those who felt it was only necessary to parade in paramilitary style in a threatening way will find themselves quite out of their depths as a fearful natural selection takes place.
The Official Response.
This is where matters are not so predictable. The National Guard would of course be called in to areas where the police are losing control. Being in a local part-time force with local affiliation it has to be assumed that members or groups within the guard will have sympathies, or feel a certain intimidation. Direct and open large scale mutinies would be very unlikely but expecting all The Guard to be a faceless, emotionless unified body acting only for the defence of Stability and safety of all is naïve, there will be fractures.
The Security Services be they Police, FBI, NSA etc would face the same pressures from within. Also they being closer to the body politic and the civil viewpoint would be in the position of doing deals or reaching accords with whichever group or groups they feel they can work with. In all civil discord this is an ugly fact. Whether in a federal system such as the USA this would be a uniform approach is again highly unlikely.
Whether or not the Armed Forces become involved would depend on whether the nation is still governable as a working state comparable with the pre-violent situation:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” Is open to interpretations, if some decide ‘The President’ is not legally ‘The President’. One thing would be certain, the element of internal security and supervision of members of the armed forces would be increased. Forget Conspiracies. Think of Factionalism.
The Resulting Political Overview
In this area prediction is near impossible, as a great deal would depend on the strength of character of individuals around which groups marshal. There are many possibilities. One of the least worst outcomes would be the fragmentation of the current USA into states which have autonomy. Washington, The Whitehouse and Capitol Hill being reduced to places of symbolism and the possible headquarters of Americanised versions of The EU and NATO, in an attempt to shore up America from outside influences while making workable the large armed forces and corporation based trading systems onto the world stage. How workable this would be is beyond the scope of this post.
Whereas The Ulster Conflict was conducted under a higher level of government the situation in the USA has the potential to reach up to the highest levels as already demonstrated and this is a most distressing situation. Thus what can a US citizen fearful for this scenario do? My suggestion is to voice your concerns, not in a partisan way from your own standpoint but as an appeal to stop this slide. Raise this spectre which everyday seems to draw an inch nearer. Demand of your representatives a return to consensus. Warn them, that they in the final analysis in any failure to bring discourse and consensus to the issues; that they in pandering to, or failing to confront the extremist levels will be complicit in the deaths of their fellow citizens. Raise this in conversation. Not as a warning to prepare, but as a concern as to what might come. The concern must become a talking point in the run up to the next elections. The violent minorities must be marginalised and the conspiracies put back in the toy box.
And finally hope that in years to come this post will be viewed as ridiculous alarmism from an outsider.