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30 Sep, 2019 22:30

Dear America, civil war is not a joke – or a picnic

Dear America, civil war is not a joke – or a picnic

Critics have reacted to President Donald Trump’s Twitter warning about his impeachment causing a civil war with both shrieks of outrage and jokes. Notably absent: any self-awareness of such a war would be like or how to avoid it.

“If the Democrats are successful in removing the president from office, I’m afraid it will cause a Civil War-like fracture in this nation from which this country will never heal,” Texas televangelist Robert Jeffress said Sunday night on Fox News. Trump quoted him in a tweet the next morning, and Twitter lost its collective mind.

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The typical response was to accuse Trump of calling for a new civil war, mind-reading what he must have really meant by the quote. He was “priming his base” to think of war, according to unnamed “experts of fascism,”a liberal comedian argued in just one example.

Others dismissed the very notion of a civil war as crazy, joking about bringing the potato salad and biodegradable forks  – or hamberders and covfefe – to the fight, as soon as they get out of yoga class, using the hashtag #CivilWarSignup.

There were also scornful takes about Americans being too fat to fight, or rural Americans being too scared to “take the subway in New York or drive in Los Angeles,” much less take a rifle and “take their country back from elite urbanites.”

It’s unclear whether the people joking about bringing food to the fight were deliberately channeling the spirit of Washingtonians who turned out to the first Battle of Manassas/Bull Run, in June 1861, as if it were a picnic, bringing baskets and blankets to enjoy the show.

As anyone who’s studied that era of US history knows, their glee quickly turned to horror and panic, when the Union army lost – and they found themselves shoved aside on crowded roads leading back to Washington by the routed troops in blue. 

Wars never go as planned. No plan survives first contact with the enemy, who also gets a vote. If there is one ironclad rule of war through the ages, no matter the level of technology, that is it. Yet the corollary is that civilians always forget about it, and it comes back to bite them.

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To someone who (barely) lived through a country’s descent into civil war, what is currently happening in the US is deeply disturbing. I see the rules of politics getting thrown out the window on a daily basis, the trampling of precedent and principle for the sake of power, the manipulation of language itself to declare lies the truth and truth to be lies. Though I was a teenager when the same thing happened in my home country, all of it is still fresh in my mind. It’s one of those things that never leaves you – even if you think you’ve left it all behind long ago.

Think how natural disasters bring out people’s true nature, the best and the worst of it. Being a man-made disaster, war is predisposed towards those with the worst. How else could a two-bit musician playing in dive bars of Sarajevo become an internationally feared warlord, to bring up but one example? 

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The war of 1861-65 was the last fought on continental US soil. Since then, Americans have conceptualized war as something that happens “over there.” When you think modern war, though, don’t imagine Manassas or Gettysburg with assault rifles and tanks. Think Bosnia, or Rwanda, or Yemen, only on a much larger scale. No food, no water, no shelter, no sparing civilians, only death, destruction and deprivation. I watched people with personal and institutional memories of WWII crumble under the sheer intensity of the Bosnian War in the 1990s.

Do not be deluded that it’s all worth it when “you” win and remake the country in your image. That never works. It didn’t even work after WWII, despite the propaganda. Whoever wins, the country loses. The smoke and rubble may clear, but the hate remains. You think it’s bad now – and it is – it will be a thousand times worse after people die.

All Americans are privileged to have a country in which political differences can still be worked out by peaceful means – a republic, if they can keep it. So if you believe survivors, believe this one: you want to keep it that way.

Nebojsa Malic, senior writer at RT

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.