Mark Butterworth has responded to my post on his own blog with his thoughts on what he sees as an inevitable civil war. He says:
I’m trying to recall the circumstances which first prompted my musings on a future civil war. I believe that it was in watching the Democrats attack the Republicans in the run up to the last election that had something to do with it.
Well I don’t know what led to those thoughts, but the immediate context, as you can see in your original post, was you taking the side of Dennis Prager in a dispute with Jonah Goldberg over whether cultural wars are metaphorical or literal, and it was particularly about same-sex marriage. Prager had written:
America is engaged in two wars for the survival of its civilization. The war over same-sex marriage and the war against Islamic totalitarianism are actually two fronts in the same war — a war for the preservation of the unique American creation known as Judeo-Christian civilization.
And Jonah Goldberg had pointed out in response that there was no literal war over same sex marriage but a political and cultural dispute, and he said, “In short, Prager equates a metaphorical war with a literal one and not once does he distinguish between the two.” You wrote that Goldberg was wrong and that we were headed for an inevitable civil war over such issues. So rather than being a response to Democrats attacking Republicans, it was a response to an argument between two Republicans, with you taking the side of the more radical of the two.
My response to Prager would have differed greatly from Goldberg’s response. First, I would have pointed out that there is no such thing as a “Judeo-Christian civilization”, this being little more than a recently developed catchphrase that is bandied about but essentially meaningless. Jon Rowe wrote an excellent and thorough examination of this term and Prager’s use of it a few weeks ago. As Rowe pointed out, the founding fathers would surely have been made livid by the use of such phrase, especially the more orthodox Christians among them. The hardcore Christians of that day grouped Jews in with infidels and Turks (Muslims) and “Hindoos” as people who needed to be kept out of public office.
Second, I would have pointed out the delicious irony in Prager’s claim that the battle against same sex marriage and the battle against Islamic fundamentalism are “two fronts in the same war” given that Islamic fundamentalists and Christian fundamentalists are in fact allied together in their hatred of same sex marriage. Indeed, many voices on the right in recent months have argued that by allowing same sex marriage, we will invite more terrorism because the Islamic radicals hate it so much. So in fact Prager – and you, presumably – are on the same side of the battle against same sex marriage as the Islamic radicals. If there is a war there, it is between those who seek to impose their fundamentalist religious beliefs on others and those who seek genuine freedom from such impositions.
Thus, with the ascendancy of the Republican Party, I am less inclined to think that an aggrieved Right will convulse itself into action squads of some kind as I am to see the Left (which has advocated and used violence for decades now, Weather Underground, ELF, ALF, PETA, Anarchists against globalization, and so forth) seek to use violence more and more.
This is absurdly one sided. You mention a few fringe groups who have used violence in isolated situations over the course of the last few decades. But you don’t bother to mention the numerous groups on the right wing fringe who have engaged in violence during that same period of time. You don’t mention Eric Robert Rudolph and his bombing spree that apparently included the Olympic park bombing in Atlanta and numerous abortion clinics. You don’t mention Clayton Waagner or James Kopp, both convicted of domestic terrorism. In 2001, those 3 were on the FBI’s ten most wanted list at the same time. For that matter, you don’t mention the Oklahoma City bombing, which was pulled off by right wing militia types. Not only do you not mention those, in the original article I responded to you actually said you didn’t mind the bombing of abortion clinics, writing:
It was often insisted upon that Christians revered life and thus condemned those few lone wolves who were going around trying to murder abortionists. Yet, as much as I deplore violence, I never could quite join the vehement chorus of horror that formed everytime an abortionist was killed.
Would I have booed if someone had shot a Dr. Mengele or sniped at a Nazi executing Jews? How can I hate the death of a doctor who got up everyday and went to a place to murder unborn babies? I can’t, anymore than I can condemn the violence that set this nation free, which killed and drove out Tories to Canada and England.
So I think you’re being quite hypocritical in claiming that the left engages in violence while ignoring the violence, especially the violence you appear to endorse, on the right. For that matter, you also left out violent reactions to peaceful actions on the part of the left – the brutal beatings lynchings on civil rights activists, the use of attack dogs and water hoses on peaceful demonstrations for civil rights in the 1960s, the shooting of anti-war protestors, and so forth. The often violent reactions of the government to civil rights marches is no less an example of right wing violence.
And while we’re on that subject, I think it is issues like this that shows why your position on allowing local control of such issues is a farcical one. The very same argument has always been made in defense of unjust policies, going back as far as slavery. Indeed, Prager’s argument about a battle to “preserve a Christian civilization” was also used, quite literally word for word, to defend every instance of injustice in American history. That is precisely the rhetoric used by the defenders of slavery; indeed, it is the same language that neo-confederates (your compatriots in calling for local control and the possible need for peaceful secession or, failing that, civil war) use today to defend the institution of slavery in the south. You can see examples of such arguments here. We could simply have allowed the south to continue to own slaves, but that would have been wrong, and it is wrong in all places at all times. We could have allowed them to continue to use Jim Crow laws to dehumanize blacks, but that would have been wrong. It took the imposition of legal equality from Federal courts to change that situation, but those who opposed those changes said the exact same thing about those court rulings 50 years ago, that they were “the ruination of representative democracy by the Courts”, to use your words. Indeed, contrary to your claims, this was precisely a way to avoid balkanization, not a cause of it. By enforcing the legal equality so central to our founding principles (though obviously incompletely applied), we avoided the balkanization of “separate but equal”.
But the rhetoric of the Democrat Party has become so heated and violent, the mainstreaming of the Michael Moores and the Howard Deans has ratcheted up the conflict in a visibly unhealthy way.
Wow. Your ability to pretend that only one side engages in heated and violent rhetoric is astonishing. If you’re going to criticize the “rhetoric of the Democratic party” by pointing to Michael Moore, why do you ignore the rhetoric of folks like Ann Coulter, Michael Savage and others? Has any popular voice on the left written a book accusing virtually everyone on the left of being traitors, as Coulter has? None that I know of. Michael Moore is, in my view, a pure demagogue, but there is nothing that I’ve ever seen from him that is anywhere near as heated and violent as what Ann Coulter says on a daily basis about the left. Do you ever hear voices on the left saying that conservatives are all traitors who should be rounded up and deported? I hear that kind of rhetoric constantly from people on the right from the likes of Coulter and Savage and a dozen other right wing hatemongers. Indeed, you engage in precisely this sort of rhetoric yourself while hypocritically decrying the heated rhetoric of the left:
I can imagine that if we suffer another 9/11 as great or worse, I wouldn’t bet a plug nickel as to the future health of the Left and the Dems who made it difficult, nay, nearly impossible, to prevent such things through PC laws and undermining military and diplomatic efforts to destroy the terror movements in the world by cowardly attempts at appeasement. Too often now dissent is no longer disagreement, but in fact treason.
For example, if it were in my power to succeed, I would be happy to arrive at Michael Moore’s home with my “gang” and politely “suggest” that he relocate himself to another country just as the Sons of Liberty “suggested” that various Tories consider a different climate for their health between 1776 and 1786 or so.
If someone on the left wrote that we should have vigilante gangs go to people’s homes and “suggest” that they leave the country, you would go ballistic in response to it. Yet you blithely engage in the same rhetoric yourself without any hesitation or consideration. This is a textbook example of pointing to the splinter in someone else’s eye while ignoring the log in your own.
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.
In other words, you want to go back to the pre-civil war days when states and localities were allowed to ignore the Constitution and violate the rights of individuals. But again, this is the very same argument used to defend slavery and a wealth of other nasty laws at the state level. I think it’s a good thing that, after the civil war, we no longer allow states to violate the inalienable rights that the Declaration refers to. If those rights are truly inalienable, and I believe they are, then they should not be violated by any government no matter what level. Under your notion, the states would be allowed to have established churches and throw in jail anyone of a different religion. And this is hardly farfetched, by the way, the first amendment was motivated primarily by reaction to such jailings. Under your notion, the states would be allowed to violate freedom of speech, free exercise of religion, freedom of the press and the other rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution. So what you really want is not freedom, you want the authority to violate the freedom of others through your local or state government. But that’s not freedom, it’s just oppression moved down one level. It is no less oppressive when done by state governments than when done by the federal government. You do not really believe that we have inalienable rights, you only believe we have rights that can’t be violated by one level of government. And that is a fake relic of genuine freedom.