Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Butterworth and the Impending Civil War

Mark Butterworth stopped by and commented on a thread below after googling his name and finding a post I’d written in response to something he wrote on his blog almost a year ago. I thought I’d move it up here so we can carry on a public conversation about it in the comments. The gist of his post, which I replied to, was that the culture wars in the US will either lead to a real civil war here, or totalitarianism, or the dissolution of the country:

The day is coming when this nation shall again convulse in spilt blood. To deny it is folly and ignorance. In fact, if this nation does not go to war with itself, it shall not survive as a nation. It shall go the way of Italy after the fall of Rome, and become balkanized.

The only other alternative to that disintegration is totalitarianism which is a possibility.

In his comment, he says that the inevitability of another American civil war is “beyond dispute”, but the only arguments he makes for that is that A) it happened before and B) there’s no reason to think it won’t again. That’s a pretty thin basis for arguing that something is “beyond dispute”. He then says:

Tensions in a people can’t be stopped. The question becomes which side one is on and if they are willing to die for their cause.

And while I agree that tensions are inevitable, I don’t think that that means they will eventually have to go to war over them. One gets the feeling that Mr. Butterworth is just itching to start shooting people over this, especially in light of the fact that his initial post was agreeing with Dennis Prager that the war over same sex marriage and the war against Osama Bin Laden were two fronts in the same war. That’s pretty frightening rhetoric. It’s also rather absurd given that Bin Laden and his fellow Islamic radicals would fully agree with the religious right on gay marriage and gay rights. Let me ask Mr. Butterworth this – are you committed enough to the cause of stopping gay marriage that you would start a real war to stop it? Are you willing to die for that cause? Or are you just warning us that other people might be?

Comments

  1. #1 Mark Paris
    February 25, 2005

    If the US were ever going to have had a second civil war, it would have been in the 50s or 60s, during the civil rights struggle. Perhaps Mr Butterworth is too young to remember that.

  2. #2 Mark O
    February 25, 2005

    Not over gay rights, I’d pick abortion as the one to get us in a shooting war if it came to that. Mr Jefferson predicted that “every few generations” would be spilling their blood for their liberty.

    … on the other hand, one difficulty these days with respect to a shooting war is the (expensive) technological advantages our military has over the civilian population. In the time of the framers, a town militia was inferior to the trained Continental army, but not by so much. Today there’s just no comparison between anything that civilians might muster compared to the US armed forces.

  3. #3 Jason Kuznicki
    February 25, 2005

    Mark, before concluding this you should take a look at Iraq. The civilians of a much poorer country have been giving the U.S. military an awful lot of trouble.

    Yes, many of the insurgents in Iraq are former military themeselves. But if a civil war ever came to the U.S., it would almost certainly divide the military just as it divided the rest of the country.

    But I don’t think the current culture wars are anywhere near this bad. What could gays possibly get out of an Islamic militant victory over the United States? I mean, getting buried alive is just what I’ve always wanted!

  4. #4 Nick
    February 25, 2005

    Are you willing to die for that cause?

    And more importantly, is he willing to kill for it?

  5. #5 Andrew Reeves
    February 25, 2005

    I tend to believe that the rhetoric of violence on the internet is a consequence of being freed from the constraints of interactions with actual human beings. People who would in real life not start a fistfight, who would not shoot a fellow human being, and who are polite in their conversation nevertheless feel perfectly comfortable in describing streets running with blood while typing away on the computer. Talking about shooting (or severely beating) someone is much, much easier than actually carrying out said beating.

  6. #6 Pat
    February 25, 2005

    While I can’t imagine a war breaking out, I find the violent rhetoric directed at liberals somewhat alarming. It occurs to me that while the social conservatives may be winning some momentary battles, they are quite clearly losing the “culture war”. I think they realize this too. And I think that a minority of them could be truly desperate. I would not be surprised at some acts of violence, but I can’t imagine them precipitating an actual war. And if anything, I think that the military would be used to end a conflict, not take part in it.

  7. #7 Guitar Eddie
    February 25, 2005

    Of course, I find it hard to imagine what could be worth the enormous brutality and carnage that American Civil War II entail. Lest we forget, the first one was an increadibly bloody, nightmarish affair.

    What’s so goddamned important, Mr. Butterworth, that you could want one in the first place?

  8. #8 CPT_Doom
    February 25, 2005

    The question is whether the cultural shifts that the “Christians” in this country are trying to stop, but which are moving along nonetheless, can or have progressed past the point of no return before the social conservatives succeed in placing their “theology” into law.

  9. #9 mark butterworth
    February 25, 2005

    This is a great chance for me to clear up some misconceptions or create new ones. My response is too long for this spot so if links work, you can find it here.
    If not, simply go to Sunny days in Heaven. I’ll try to summarize my main points. Please accept them as shorthand.

    *****

    I also note that no long lasting nation or civilization is ever free of periodic convulsions in their populations. Things like decadence, depravity, aggression, desire for power, insecurity, and utopianism frequently combine at certain times and result in savagery.

    …I consider totalitarianism an obverse to civil war or convulsion.

    We’re a red nation with blue cities. So Americans are dividing themselves by moving their feet now rather than their fists.

    This is the beginning of the balkenization I was referring to.

    The question is asked, though, whether I would kill for a cause.

    Of course, I would. It depends on the cause, though, and my physical ability to engage in violence.

    Violent words inevitably lead to violent actions unless somehow defused. Either the cause for violence loses energy through impotence and resignation, or enough fomenters are killed or exiled.

    It seems to me that this debate isn’t about whether violent civil unrest will occur in America, but over what the cause might be and who will champion violence most or first.

    *****

    I don’t see myself as an armchair fantasist enjoying a vicarious thrill at the prospect of civil war, but rather as an analyst of history. If I say it’s going to rain in the future, it will probably happen even if we’re in the desert. I can’t tell you when, though, or how much.

    But that’s enough for now.

  10. #10 Guitar Eddie
    February 25, 2005

    “The question is whether the cultural shifts that the “Christians” in this country are trying to stop, but which are moving along nonetheless, can or have progressed past the point of no return before the social conservatives succeed in placing their “theology” into law.”

    In other words, CPT Doom, you’re saying it would be a “holy war.” In essence of a war of vanity, which is what all wars over religion are.

    That is indeed frightening that Mr. Butterworth desires a war with its massive destruction and carnage because others refuse to play by his rules or eat of his “Cosmic Muffin.”

    I think the man doesn’t understanding what he’s talking about.

  11. #11 mark butterworth
    February 25, 2005

    Ed, to answer your last question more directly, the cause for civil war or violence is never one thing but a constellation of issues culminating in the breaking of the Round Table by a final straw of some sort.

    Same sex marriage by itself, no more than abortion by itself, can be cause for war. (But I don’t believe same sex marriage will succeed here, so its moot.)

    War is about power. Getting it or keeping it, and then using it to settle scores (so to speak). If my religious/conservative side of the serious issues we face were to become violent for reasons I thought justified; and by mine and others efforts I thought we could win, I would indeed support it.

    Wouldn’t you do the same for your own beliefs? That’s how people behave when conflicts become irreconcilable; either fight or flight.

    The power that I primarily want is the same as my forefathers – I want to be left alone by government as much as possible as originally determined by our Constitution.

    I want the power to shape my own local community and its laws and social customs. That means in my little town or State, you don’t publicly swear unless you hit your thumb with a hammer. No private business has to accomodate anyone it doesn’t want to. No one can take my money from me for their charitable causes. And wherever possible, obscenity laws and codes will be rigorously enforced. We will probably have to do away with public schools.

    But if I live in your little city and am outvoted, I will tolerate the way you run things there. Just as I already do where I currently live.

  12. #12 Bill Ware
    February 25, 2005

    Hmm… Wars and rumors of wars. I wonder how this will effect the Rapture Index.

  13. #13 Ed Darrell
    February 25, 2005

    This is deserving of a much longer analysis.

    Let me shorthand it: We keep finding novel, creative ways of solving problems short of violence. Among other things, we use the force of law and a constant, ratcheting up of morality, to defuse problems.

    For example, one of the reasons we didn’t have civil war over race relations and job opportunities between 1877 and 1977 was that railroads made it easy to go north and west from the Deep South in search of opportunities (this worked for black and white), while at the same time we had a dramatic increase in industrialization that demanded a steady flow of workers. Workers at an open-hearth steel mill may be racist, but when the hot steel’s flowing there isn’t much time to think about acting on racism, and so long as the paycheck is there at the end of the week to buy the beer, it’s easier not to do anything.

    Increasingly creative court suits continue to provide release valves for tensions that might have produced civil war in earlier times. Reforms of political systems, such as the breaking of Tammany Hall and the Prendergast machines, the rise of Irish-American politicians in Boston, the increasing power of labor unions from 1910 through 1960 — all of these things defused volatile situations. United to fight the depression, then uniting to fight the totalitarian fascists, then the totalitarian communists, then . . .

    Well, you get the idea. Who has time for a civil war when that would interfere with the Super Bowl, buying the bass boat, and getting ready for the summer outdoor cooking?

    There are always cranks who think the entire nation is a tinderbox waiting to explode. There are indications Tim McVeigh thought his strike at the government would cause militias to rise up against the government. Whoever was doing that predicting failed to account for the emotions Americans felt when most people learned there was a day-care center in the Murrah Building, and toddlers and babies died. Oops.

    Violence shows a failure of creativity. Peace is good for business, and good business makes more boats and leisure time for everybody. Don’t underestimate the willingness of Americans to figth to hold on to a status quo that allows one to vegetate in front of a high-definition television with thunderous surround sound. Or as former Sen. Jake Garn once put it, every citizen has a right to listen to his own choice of radio station in the morning rush hour, and clean air be damned if it means people have to give up their radio stations for a bus ride . . .

  14. #14 Troy Britain
    February 25, 2005

    I want to be left alone by government as much as possible … I want the power to shape my own local community and its laws and social customs. That means in my little town or State, you don’t publicly swear unless you hit your thumb with a hammer. No private business has to accomodate anyone it doesn’t want to. No one can take my money from me for their charitable causes. And wherever possible, obscenity laws and codes will be rigorously enforced.

    Despite the fact that I agree with you somewhat about the forced redistribution of wealth, it sound to me like you want to BE the government and control what other may or may not do, say or not say whenever they might offend your personal sensibilities.

    I’d say that such thinking is far more of an obscenity and any pornography or arbitrarily chosen four letter words.

  15. #15 Dan
    February 25, 2005

    The power that I primarily want is the same as my forefathers – I want to be left alone by government as much as possible as originally determined by our Constitution.

    I want the power to shape my own local community and its laws and social customs.

    Hmmm. Stated a bit differently: “I want the government to leave me alone so I can mess with you.”

    That means in my little town or State, you don’t publicly swear unless you hit your thumb with a hammer.

    So much for that reverence for the Constitution, and in particular, the First Amendment.

    No private business has to accomodate anyone it doesn’t want to.

    Paging Dr. King…

    No one can take my money from me for their charitable causes.

    Huh? Unless you’re speaking of those nasty things called “taxes,” which are, at least in part, the lifeblood of your “local community and its laws and social customs.”

    And wherever possible, obscenity laws and codes will be rigorously enforced.

    As long as you get to decide what’s obscene, I suppose?

    We will probably have to do away with public schools.

    Not sure where this is coming from, but it makes no sense.

    Sorry, Mr. Butterworth, but we fought the Civil War you seem to be romanticizing. It happened in the 1860s. The North won. Deal with it.

  16. #16 Matthew
    February 25, 2005

    There have been many more intense phases in american history, like the federalist/republican split, the civil war (of course), and the 50s and 60s civil rights movement.

    Only 1 of those caused an actual civil war because wars only happen for 1 reason: economics. When our country is in the grip of a depression, come back to me about a civil war.

  17. #17 Enigma
    February 25, 2005

    “He who sacrifices liberty for security deserves neither.” -Jefferson(?) (Sorry, i’m sure that’s a mis-quote, but it’s the gist of it.)

    There’s a corrolary to that, though: He who must destroy the liberty of his fellows to feel secure (morally in this case), does not deserve liberty himself. -Moscowitz

    One of the very american characteristics so far has been our ability to ride the differing waves of social and political turmoil that sweep our society without resorting to the numerous civil wars that have plagued other great civilizations. Yes, we had that one, but maybe we learned from it?

  18. #18 Matthew
    February 25, 2005

    Geez, I just read this guys blog; his writing is indistinguishable from what you might find on WND. An assortment of diatribe, red herrings, double standards, and crazy exaggerations.

    I can tell this debate will not get far.

  19. #19 mark butterworth
    February 25, 2005

    I don’t know how many actually read the entire post at my blog opposed to the brief extracts, but I’ll try to deal with a few things at a time.

    Ed Darrell,

    You’re right about a number of things as I wrote about defusing violence, and about people moving their feet and not fists. I dispute the notion that black migration North defused counter-violence, though. The South was more than willing to violently suppress their black population, and did so effectively without compunction. That’s was a police state there.

    Violence may reflect some kind of failure, but I’m not sure it can be called creativity. Peace can create prosperity, but then the USSR was a peaceful place and not very good for business. Rome was always at war and it was very good for business.

    Troy Britain.

    The whole point of democracy is that I get to BE the government. So long as I am a part of a majority. If I am part of a super majority, I can even change what rights you have or don’t have under law by altering the Constitution. Do you find the actual fact of democracy obscene and pornographic? There are still towns in this nation where you can’t buy a beer. The world has not come to an end. And you don’t have to live there, do you?

    Dan,
    The first amendment only guarantees political and religious speech (and that within limits, too) free from Federal abridgement. Your State has every right to regulate speech however it pleases since the US Bill of Rights do not apply to it. (But all the states enacted their own bill of rights in their constitutions.)

    I took part in the Civil Rights Movement. Nothing in the Constitution gives government the power to tell me who I can hire, fire, or serve as I please in my private business or property if it remains interstate. Its called freedom of association. MLK did not work to destroy that.

    Government’s right to tax is limited. And yes, the people do get to decide what is obscene. It’s called democracy. You have a problem with that? I don’t. In your state of like minded folks, do as you please according to your customs and laws. We are a nation of separate States united federally. To each its own.

    Enigma,

    The quote you’re looking for is from Ben Franklin and is, of course, disputable as to its relative truth or value. There are many trade-offs as Ben well knew in balancing freedom, responsibility, license, and security. There’s a lot of room in the middle which is acceptable to humans. Just ask the British who don’t have a written constitution. Are they free, secure or what?

  20. #20 Matthew
    February 25, 2005

    The whole point of democracy is that I get to BE the government. So long as I am a part of a majority. If I am part of a super majority, I can even change what rights you have or don’t have under law by altering the Constitution. Do you find the actual fact of democracy obscene and pornographic? There are still towns in this nation where you can’t buy a beer. The world has not come to an end. And you don’t have to live there, do you?

    Those excesses of democracy were precisely the reason the founding fathers created the balance of powers, to combat them (including the section you dislike most, the courts). At the time, after the revolution, people were primarily concerned with the establishment of an american monarchy, but many of the founders, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton among them, were quick to point out that the power of a temporary majority was equally likely to encroach on liberty.
    America is not a democracy in the meaning you describe. It is a mixture of different forms of government, including democracy, monarchy, and aristocracy, meant to be that way to prevent anyone of the forms from degenerating into their ugly cousins (anarchy, autocracy, oligarchy, respectively).

  21. #21 Matthew
    February 25, 2005

    The first amendment only guarantees political and religious speech (and that within limits, too) free from Federal abridgement. Your State has every right to regulate speech however it pleases since the US Bill of Rights do not apply to it. (But all the states enacted their own bill of rights in their constitutions.)

    Have you not read the 10th or 14 amendments? States certainly can not violate the first amendment.

  22. #22 Ed Brayton
    February 25, 2005

    The first amendment only guarantees political and religious speech (and that within limits, too) free from Federal abridgement. Your State has every right to regulate speech however it pleases since the US Bill of Rights do not apply to it. (But all the states enacted their own bill of rights in their constitutions.)

    This is wrong on both counts. First, there is no limitation in the first amendment saying that only political or religious speech is protected. Scientific, literary, satirical, and other forms of speech are equally protected. And no, the states do not have the authority to violate the bill of rights after the 14th amendment. It’s one thing to argue that the establishment clause isn’t incorporated by the 14th amendment, but to argue that none of the bill of rights is incorporated is patently absurd. When the 14th amendment declares that no state shall deprive any citizen of the privileges and immunities of a citizen of the United States, what could that possibly mean if it doesn’t, at the very least, mean the protections guaranteed in the bill of rights? If it doesn’t mean at least that, what could it possibly mean?

    The whole point of democracy is that I get to BE the government. So long as I am a part of a majority. If I am part of a super majority, I can even change what rights you have or don’t have under law by altering the Constitution. Do you find the actual fact of democracy obscene and pornographic?

    But this isn’t a pure democracy, and that is quite by design. The entire point of the bill of rights was to protect freedom from democracy. You clearly must reject the ideas found in the Declaration of Independence, which describes the founding philosophy of this country. According to the Declaration, rights are inalienable, not subject to the whim of a majority no matter how large. The founders wrote at great length of the need to keep majorities from trampling the rights of others, and they designed a system to prevent it. That system included a super-super-majority to amend the constitution and courts to prevent majorities from violating the provisions found in it. If you want a pure democracy, you’re going to have to get rid of the constitution itself, which is a staunchly anti-majoritarian document.

  23. #23 Troy Britain
    February 25, 2005

    The whole point of democracy is that I get to BE the government. So long as I am a part of a majority. If I am part of a super majority, I can even change what rights you have or don’t have under law by altering the Constitution. Do you find the actual fact of democracy obscene and pornographic? There are still towns in this nation where you can’t buy a beer. The world has not come to an end. And you don’t have to live there, do you?

    Ed already said it better that I probably would have. Our government is a Constitutional, democratic, republic, not mob rule where the strongest groups get to dictate to the weaker ones.

    So, yes I do find mob rule obscene, but fortunately we haven’t devolved into that yet.

  24. #24 mark butterworth
    February 26, 2005

    People acting through their constitution in deliberative bodies can hardly be called mob rule. It doesn’t change the fact that the people have the power to alter anything of the constitution if they have the votes.

    Not easy, though.

    Who argued for a different form of rule?

    The fact is that the Bill of Rights can do nothing to prevent their being altered if the People manage to do it. Although judges have altered them substantially without authority given by the Constitution.

    I don’t know why you ascribe opinions to me that I don’t hold simply for stating facts about our what the powers of the people are.

    As to the 14th amendment, show me where it clearly states that it protects the Fed. Bill of Rights in every state. It doesn’t do it. You insist it means that. That is an interpretation. It currently prevails. But it need not prevail since it is an interpretation. If you can show me, or prove to me that the people who ratified that amendment overwhelmingly believed it means what you say it means, I will retract my assertions.

    As to speech, I believe according to the historical facts as I know them that the primary concern of the 1st amendment is political and religious speech. That is the only speech which needs or needed then protection from government. You disagree.

  25. #25 mark butterworth
    February 26, 2005

    I stand corrected from a limited bit of research on the 14th Amendment. A number of sources so far clearly indicate that part of its intent was to establish a National citizenship and rights which no state could interfere with.

    Of course, it didn’t actually work as intended since the states pretty much did as they pleased afterwards, and now works nothing like it was intended.

    Just goes to show you, the original Constitution was better designed.

    I will now argue that the 14th amendment is grievously misinterpreted by the courts and damages the rights it was intended to protect.

  26. #26 Ed Brayton
    February 26, 2005

    I stand corrected from a limited bit of research on the 14th Amendment. A number of sources so far clearly indicate that part of its intent was to establish a National citizenship and rights which no state could interfere with.

    Good so far.

    Of course, it didn’t actually work as intended since the states pretty much did as they pleased afterwards, and now works nothing like it was intended.

    I maintain that it has worked as intended, in the sense that it has been used innumerable times to prevent states from violating the equal rights of its citizens through incorporation. Unfortunately, the Slaughterhouse cases distorted the specific basis for it, so now most of those cases are decided based on the wrong clause of the 14th amendment. But the end result is the same. In case after case, the courts have used the 14th amendment to prevent states from violating the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Which of those cases do you think were wrongly decided?

    I will now argue that the 14th amendment is grievously misinterpreted by the courts and damages the rights it was intended to protect.

    LOL. Okay, so give us some examples. Other than locating the basis in the wrong clause of the 14th amendment, which 14th amendment cases have damaged the rights it was intended to protect?

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