The 'cold civil war' in the U.S. | Macleans.ca - Culture - Media
That's quite a concept: "A cold civil war."
Yet, notwithstanding the author's formidable powers of imagination, its politics are more or less conventional for a novelist in the twilight of the Bush era: someone says, "Are you really so scared of terrorists that you'd dismantle the structures that made America what it is?" Someone else says, "America has developed Stockholm Syndrome towards its own government." Etc. But it's that one phrase that makes you pause: "A cold civil war."
Or so you'd think. In fact, it seems to have passed entirely without notice. Unlike "cyberspace" a quarter-century ago, the "cold civil war" is not some groovy paradigm for the day after tomorrow but a cheerless assessment of the here and now, too bleak for buzz. As far as I can tell, April Gavaza, at the Hyacinth Girl website, is pretty much the first American to ponder whether a "cold civil war" has any significance beyond the novel:
What would that entail, exactly? A cold war is a war without conflict, defined in one of several online dictionaries as "[a] state of rivalry and tension between two factions, groups, or individuals that stops short of open, violent confrontation." In that respect, is the current political climate one of "cold civil war"? I think arguments could be made to that effect. My mother, not much of a political enthusiast, has made similar assessments since the 2000 election ...
Indeed. A year before this next election in the U.S., the common space required for civil debate and civilized disagreement has shrivelled to a very thin sliver of ground. Politics requires a minimum of shared assumptions. To compete you have to be playing the same game: you can't thwack the ball back and forth if one of you thinks he's playing baseball and the other fellow thinks he's playing badminton. Likewise, if you want to discuss the best way forward in the war on terror, you can't do that if the guy you're talking to doesn't believe there is a war on terror, only a racket cooked up by the Bushitler and the rest of the Halliburton stooges as a pretext to tear up the constitution.
Americans do not agree on the basic meaning of the last seven years.
Suppose it's another 50/50 election with a narrow GOP victory dependent on the electoral college votes of one closely divided state. It's not hard to foresee those stickered Dems concluding that the system has now been entirely delegitimized.
Life is good, food is plentiful, there are a million and one distractions. In advanced democracies, politics is not everything, and we get on with our lives. In a sense, we outsource politics to those who want it most and participate albeit fitfully in whatever parameters of discourse emerge. For half a decade, the "regime change" and "inside job" types have set the pace.
Well, it takes two to have a cold civil war. The right must be doing some of this stuff, too, surely? Up to a point. But for the most part they either go along, or secede from the system -- they home-school, turn to talk radio and the Internet, read Christian publishers' books that shift millions of copies without ever showing up on a New York Times bestsellers list. The established institutions of the state remain under the monolithic control of forces that ceaselessly applaud themselves for being terrifically iconoclastic:
Perhaps the next president will be, as George W. Bush promised, "a uniter, not a divider." Perhaps some "centrist Democrat" or "maverick Republican" will win big, but right now it doesn't feel that way.Powered by ScribeFire.
Asked what would determine the course of his premiership, Britain's Harold Macmillan famously replied, "Events, dear boy, events." Yet in the end even "events" require broad acknowledgement. For Republicans, 9/11 is the decisive event; for Democrats, late November 2000 in the chadlands of Florida still looms larger.