Obama’s Civil War?

John Voight, in a recent interview with the Washington Times, said the following regarding President Obama and the prospect of another civil war.

“There’s a real question at stake now. Is President Obama creating a civil war in our own country? We are witnessing a slow, steady takeover of our true freedoms. We are becoming a socialist nation, and whoever can’t see this is probably hoping it isn’t true. If we permit Mr. Obama to take over all our industries, if we permit him to raise our taxes to support unconstitutional causes, then we will be in default. This great America will become a paralyzed nation.”

Sadly, this is a theme I’ve heard far too many times, particularly over the past 9 years, when it has become somewhat mainstream in certain circles, circles which can now grow very easily and aren’t limited to small, unorganized militias. In fact, a Russian academic, Igor Panarin, has been suggesting that the US would disintegrate in 2010.

I wouldn’t be surprised, actually, if there was a major disturbance at that time. Disintegration? I’m not sure, but a civil war isn’t entirely out of the question. (Honestly, in the US, has it ever been?) Jefferson’s thoughts on “the tree of liberty” comes to mind. All this said, I can’t help but wonder why people feel this way, and what has led us to this point. Here’s my take:

If another civil war were to be brewing, it would not be caused by Obama. It may ignite under Obama, but the fuel would have had to be in place long before. In fact, I venture to say that it would have really picked up steam during the Bush years, since it was during that time that political partisanship skyrocketed to levels unheard of throughout most of American history. But of course, the seeds of that go even further, to Nixon, and the betrayal of the American people, after which point people stopped trusting their government. (Polls indicated that pre-Nixon, ~70% of people trusted the government to do the right thing. Post Nixon that number dropped to ~30%.) A little of this steam was let off when Reagan was elected under the “let’s drown government in a bathtub” banner, giving the feeling that “One of us” was in charge. Of course, the lines were being quickly defined here. Then some more steam was let out when Clinton was impeached over a clearly partisan witch hunt, another event which made some people feel vindicated over their mistrust of government. Whatever feeling faded, however, returned with the 2000 election, when trust in our electoral systems were shaken. Evidence has come out to the effect that indeed some manipulation, at least of the also-contested 2004 election, did indeed go on, as admitted by Tom Ridge, former Secretary of Homeland Security, who “was pushed to raise the security alert on the eve of President Bush’s re-election, something he saw as politically motivated and worth resigning over.”

The lines were drawn even deeper when Congress became implicated in the criminal activities of the Bush administration (pretty much everything done under the mantle of “Protecting the country from terrorists”). While some attempt to excuse themselves by saying “we didn’t know”, the fact that the leadership of both parties in power refused to investigate allegations and push “impeachment off the table” means that they were both implicated. That’s because the Bush doctrine very clearly drew a line, explaining it (as they did so many times) in Biblical ways: “You are either with me or against me,” or more specifically, “you are with us or you are with the terrorists,” the crux of the Bush doctrine. Another perfect example of that was the more common “America: Love It or Leave It”, featured in bumper stickers everywhere, usually on the back of a pickup truck.

Now, how does Obama fit into all this? The lines were clearly drawn, left vs. right. As a perceived member of the left, Obama has become a lightning rod for all of this, particularly during this time of economic upheaval, when the very worst fears of many, the fear of a socialist oligarchy, in which only a select few are the social beneficiaries, have become manifest. Obama is way for some to focus and embody their fears. The fact that we have a Democratically controlled Congress means that some conservatives, the group most likely to mistrust the government (considering Nixon and Bush, the irony here is dripping, isn’t it?) feel “trapped”. Entertainment media feeding that fear will help create a feedback loop of fear which would make this the most likely group to start striking out. This, of course, is a natural reaction to feeling trapped and powerless. (All the times in my life I’ve struck out in anger have been times when I felt there was no other recourse available to me. In other words, I felt powerless to stop whatever external force was creating that sense of powerlessness within me.) The Tea Bag parties are a perfect example of this, and as we’ve seen, the health care debate is its extension: generalized fear over the loss of control. (Again, a feeling perpetuated not by any actions we can see around us, but by some media outlets telling us that we’re seeing all that around us right now. The fact that it’s now so easily to talk exclusively to people who feel exactly like us makes that cycle all the more pervasive.) For people who believe that any government action is aimed at exactly that, removing personal control, and for which that can be its only aim, then any action taken by the government which is not retreat into seclusion is a threat to them. And once you feel under threat and out of control on all sides, what do you do? The only logical choice: you strike out.

Obama’s no more the cause of this civil war than the sky is the cause of the color blue, but because he’s in power, and because there is a large group of people who oppose everything they think he and his kin stand for, he gets blamed for things like dividing the country to a civil war.

Remember the story of Moses, when he parted the Red sea. He may have been in charge, but he didn’t part the sea: a force far greater than him parted it. He could wave his hands around all day long and that water wouldn’t have done a thing if there wasn’t a force greater than him at work. In Obama’s case, there are very few things he can actually do to divide people more than they are. Historical forces are already doing all that work for him, whether he likes it or, as I suspect, not.

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