Civil war? I doubt it

Everyone’s talking about it. It’s in vogue. It’s the “it” thing. You would think we are talking about a new gadget or the newest Tesla. But, no, we’re not. 

We’re talking about this. 

Civil war. 

Yes, it’s a possibility—but so are Martians landing on Earth. Civil war is possible, but I don’t think it’s likely. 

This morning my wife listened to a podcast where the CEO of Whole Foods said that what he most feared in the near term was a civil war. Then, she asked me if I felt the same. 

And, the truth is, I am scared. The idea of a war on domestic soil where citizens, neighbors, friends, family take up arms against each other should send the fear-shivers down anybody’s spine. 

But, when I stop to think about, I’m less afraid. 

Here’s why. 

Those who really believe that civil war is probable are underestimating how difficult it is to mobilize a group of people willing to fight for a cause. Normal citizens don’t usually want to go to war, get bullets shot at them, feel like they don’t have a place to rest. Then add the additional complexity of fighting within and against their own country and countryman makes it all the more improbable. 

The Civil War, back in the 1800s, made sense. The Southerners had their livelihood, wealth, and way of life threatened (I’m not defending slavery at all; abolishing it was right; I’m just outlining the core reasons the South rebelled). And they all lived in a similar location or same region, where they had an overlapping culture. In other words, they had an existential cause and other characteristics that made mobilizing to fight the federal government easier. 

But it wasn’t easy. 

Mobilizing a war machine is never easy. And, I mean, anger and QAnon and white supremacy and Evangelicals do not hold those characteristics that the South had when Lincoln was the president. As radical as some of them may seem, I don’t think that they will be radical and organized and overlapping enough to actually band together to create a hierarchy or even some sort of loose coalition to begin a war. And I doubt that most of them would lay down their lives for Trump or some other cause.

Some livelihoods are at stake. Unions and blue-collared workers do feel threatened. And many of them will vote for Trump. And they may think that their salvation will come from Trump, but I am still skeptical that they will be able to form a war-making effort. 

People will fight, but I doubt they will make war. 

See, I believe there will likely be violence. The frequency of it will probably grow and escalate. There will be more protesting with higher amounts of violent clashes. That could and probably will happen no matter what happens after November. But, that doesn’t mean we will have warfare. 

You see, civil unrest isn’t the same as a civil war. 

Look, I get it. We’re all afflicted with worst-case-scenario thinking these days. How can we not? With a historic election, our countries weakened standing in the world, the rising of new world powers who want to take our country’s lunch money, a recession and deep economic uncertainty, and, not to mention, a pandemic, its easy to think negatively, pessimistically. The times seem apocalyptic.

But it’s not the apocalypse. Or, at least, I don’t think so. 

And I won’t say that a civil war is impossible. It’s not. It could happen. But we can’t live in the mindset of worst-case scenarios. Living in fear is no life. And it’s certainly not reality. 

One more reason I think this way is the stock market. It’s a pretty good gauge for where people’s minds are at and how they see the future. Investors are betting their money not just on today but also on tomorrow. And, as the market continues to climb, it appears they believe the world is going to be ok. Of course it’s not a crystal ball. But it is an indicator. The future is always murky, but it’s good to read the signs. And the market is signaling everything is going to keep chugging along. 

No, everything won’t be ok. There is much work to do to heal all of the fractures our country is experiencing. There will be unrest after the election. But it needn’t stay that way.

But being afraid of a civil war won’t help. We need to change our mindset from one of fear to hope. Better yet, we can find ways where we can take responsibility. 

And if we want to worry about anything, I think we should be worrying about this. 

How we can better care for our neighbors.


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Things got weirder

These past few days things just got weirder.

An image of a married couple brandishing firearms and pointing them at people who were peacefully protesting shocked me.

They live in my city. They’re not far from me, which only added to the weirdness.

These people, who are basically my neighbors, looked like some strange mash up of Rambo and James Bond. And I couldn’t help but wonder, ‘What would cause someone to do something like that?’

And the only thing I could think of was this.

Fear—naked and unadulterated terror.

It distorts reality, dements our thinking, bends our minds away from facts into a terrible fiction. It makes peaceful protestors into “terrorists.” It can make something uncomfortable into a nightmarish scene that came from a movie like The Ring.

But the fact is that we all live with fear. They just lived it in public, captured on video, shared on public media.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not defending them. What they did was absolutely wrong. They could have killed someone. Their actions were reckless, foolish, and terrible.

But, I am trying to understand why someone in my city would do something so outrageous. What would cause someone to think, “You know what? I’m going to grab my semiautomatic rifle and take it out to the lawn and hold the line,” and then I say, “Hey, Honey! Grab your pistol and meet me out there!” I mean, you don’t do that unless you thought it’s a good idea, or felt compelled somehow.

And that’s the issue isn’t it? What made them think it was a good idea?

Any rational human would have known it would get filmed and splashed on social media. Anyone who would have taken a second and breathed in and out and asked themselves, “Is pulling out firearms in public the right move?” would have realized how idiotic it was.

Yet they didn’t. And they stood their ground, holding the line, imagining they were defending their hill to the death even though death never came for them.

St. Louis is one of my favorite places in the world. I’ve live in other parts of the country (New York City and San Diego). I’ve traveled. But St. Louis is great. It has amazing amenities, it has rolling hills, lakes and rivers, bursts with color with the autumnal foliage, and the nicest people. (They usually don’t wave their guns around.) Really.

They will smile and wave at you. That’s right. Complete strangers look at you in the eyes, acknowledge your humanity and then greet you warmly. Let me tell you something, that didn’t happen in NYC. I love that place but it isn’t known for its friendliness. But St. Louis is friendly, exceedingly so.

Now you juxtapose that with these two gun slingers. It’s strange. But in a way it’s not.

St. Louis has some of the loosest gun laws in the nation for a reason. We love our 2nd amendment here in Missouri. And it doesn’t take much to see it. When I scroll down my Facebook feed, I’ll see friends holding their AR15 or a family member talking about this new “easy conceal and carry” that they bought for the missus.

And the city’s love for guns is largely due to the fact that we are a very conservative (I’m not using the term in the political sense, although that’s true, too) city. We love safety, comfort, ease of living. I mean, there’s a reason why this is one of the most affordable cities to live in and pays some of the highest wages. We love to be fat and happy here, quietly living in our fiefdoms in fly-over country, unbothered, unmolested, eating pasta, toasted ravioli, custard, and thin crust pizza until we are rub-your-belly full.

But then you have barbarians “breaking down” the gate terrorizing a private street, invading their land, penetrating their border and ransacking their village of a city block.

That broke up the tranquility of this couple’s existence and disturbed their daily life, the safety they felt. It’s likely they’ve been feeling uneasy for months, not just from the pandemic but the “riots.” Tensions within in their home might have been high, as it has been for many of us.

And seeing strangers barging into their neighborhood was the last straw, and their frayed nerves were exposed for the world to see, witness, jeer at, and ridicule.

They are the butt end of a national joke.

And yet, they’re not. There are many in our nation who believe them right and good, righteous even. More said, “Good for them,” than I ever thought would have, as if what they were doing was their God-given right and the best idea to execute. People even seemed to envy their behavior and saw it as something to aspire to, as if waving a gun at innocent people was an act one should do.

It’s disturbing.

The most ironic part of this whole situation was that the couple said that they believed in the Black Lives Matter movement. They didn’t want people to think that they didn’t believe in it they said in an interview after the incident. That was the weirdest thing I’ve heard in a long time. And that caught me off guard the most.

And I thought, ‘How could a couple who believes in Black Lives Matter point weapons at protestors who were for Black Lives Matter?’

We humans are frail creatures. Empathy isn’t just needed for some people, but for all people. I know what these people did was completely wrong and stupid. But if I’m honest with myself, I’ve been idiotic, brash, harsh, foolish. I don’t own a firearm but I’ve thought about it.

So, in all of this weirdness, I’ll end with this weird thought.

It’s easy to point the finger and wag our heads and say what is off with those people. But I wonder if we shouldn’t be grateful that we’ve been spared from doing something like that and acknowledge that if we were in the wrong place at the wrong time, that could be us. We could be caught doing the dumbest things we’ve ever done on video.

And if we think like that, maybe, just maybe, our world could be a little kinder, and generous, and gracious, even to those who are having the worst day of their life.


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