A reader who wishes to remain anonymous writes . . .
Are Americans preparing for a civil war? I hear this question raised by people who have heard of the unprecedented number of private purchases of weapons and ammunition currently underway in the United States. This is compounded by a belief that some individuals are accumulating so much of this stuff that the weapons/ammunition supply chain can’t keep up with the demand. To me, this hoarding (especially of ammunition) is partially confirmed by comments I read here on TTAG.
My short answer to the question is: Some may be preparing for a civil war, but I cannot and will not. Indeed, the very thought of civil war gives me a cold chill and impels me to plead for peace. Here’s why . . .
When Americans think of civil war, they think of what has been otherwise known as The War Between the States, which was an unqualified disaster. But the American Civil War was an organized conflict between two well-defined of groups of states (even though some guerrilla activity did exist). I don’t believe that sufficient economic motivation exists for a thing like that now, at least not yet.
What could happen now is class warfare wherein large groups of people create civil disturbances in various localities because they are agitated or aggrieved by real or imagined wrongs, and opposing groups arise to stage defensive counter-offensives (all incited by nefarious leadership).
At least some of the motivation for this is racial, some is so-called toxic political polarization, and there is enough blame to go around on all sides. Others are innocently drawn into the conflict while only trying to defend themselves, and the aggregate of local skirmishing leads to a total breakdown of social order nationwide.
I remember how it happened on a fairly large scale during the riots in Detroit in the summer of 1967. It was a year of widespread unrest, and the night before, I happened to be returning home on Interstate 94 after dark from an urgent errand in Indiana. While en route, I observed large groups of people headed apparently from Chicago toward Detroit in a convoy of speeding cars and pickup trucks.
I knew then that trouble was brewing and, sure enough, the fracas started the very next day. Fortunately, this doesn’t seem to have happened again around Detroit in 2020, though there were demonstrations. But my memory of that long-ago incident has given me some insight into how these things can be perpetrated…deliberately.
In the event of civil war, this is what could happen:
- Massive numbers of people are inhibited from going about their normal business because of danger in the streets. Businesses large and small are interrupted and/or destroyed, thereby disrupting many essential goods and services just like in 2020, but on a much larger scale.
- Arson becomes a weapon of choice. Houses and other buildings are torched on a grand scale leaving large numbers of people without shelter, if they are fortunate enough to escape the burning buildings. Over many years in the Detroit area, we have been sickened by the phenomenon of arson as an offensive weapon.
- Infrastructure is destroyed to the extent that the lifestyle of city dwellers (and the majority of us in America are city dwellers) is totally disrupted. Utilities such as electricity, gas, water, telephones, and cable are interrupted, causing the loss of air conditioning in the summer, heat in the winter, and communication any time. Without electricity there is no refrigeration for the preservation of foodstuffs and no clean water to drink. Diseases like typhoid and cholera spread due to the lack of sanitation, since sewage disposal and trash removal are also interrupted.
- Disruption of transportation causes failure of the food supply chain and thousands, perhaps millions, of people begin to starve. Of course, there are some who have hoarded, or begin to hoard, large supplies of preserved food. This hoarding exacerbates shortages, and others who have become desperate, try to take that food away from the hoarders, which causes additional conflict.
- With depletion of food supplies in the cities, strife spills into the countryside as starving people go there to forage. Eventually no one is exempt, and massive starvation ensues.
- Hospitals become overwhelmed by the carnage and disease. They begin to fail, both because of the loss of utilities and because staff members are: a) overworked to the point of exhaustion, b) unable to get to work, or c) killed in the conflict.
- The aged and the infirm begin to die in large numbers because of all of the above, and there is no one around to even dispose of their bodies.
- Finally, the United States government manages to enforce marshal law leading to the complete suppression of violence accompanied by a total suppression of civil rights including the loss of all of the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. But disaster relief is not forthcoming, because the destruction is so massive that any possible government response is totally inadequate.
- Alternatively, the United States government is so weakened by the ensuing disorder and destruction that it fails to bring the situation under control. The United States loses its status as a world superpower and becomes vulnerable to attack by its enemies, both foreign and domestic.
Not a pretty picture. Of course, this is only conjecture on my part, but some of the above has happened numerous times before.
At any rate, I believe that the end result, at the very least, will be arbitrary oppression unlike anything Americans have ever experienced. That’s you’d have to be out of your mind to even hope for such a thing.
There are selfish people in any society who think that such a conflict would lead to a cleansing and a better tomorrow. They are wrong; a modern civil war would fix nothing, and ruin virtually everything.
Many of us are spoiled from having had it too good for too long, and everybody seems to be peeved by something or other these days, myself included. Nevertheless, I believe that people from all walks of life have legitimate gripes about the way things are going and that there are things in our society that are dreadfully wrong.
But this country is too important to give up on. As an alternative to the unthinkable, I would like to suggest the following . . .
- You and I, as ordinary citizens, get more interested in the governance of our country. We become better informed and make better decisions when we vote. If we can do that, we will improve the quality of our political leadership to the point where better decisions are being made by better, more responsible elected officials. We the People would then be less disenchanted with our own lots in life.
- We engage in polite civil discourse with our fellow citizens over the mutual problems we face. We occasionally take the time to politely address our elected representatives to let them know what we really want and need.
- As responsible parents, we take renewed interest in what our children are learning in school and hold their teachers and administrators accountable for any misconduct.
- We stop amassing huge private arsenals of ammunition greater than what can possibly be needed for ordinary self-defense or recreational purposes, since amassing arsenals is not the answer to any of our problems.
- We rely on our duly constituted civil authorities to deal with civil disturbances and insist that they actually do the job. This includes not de-funding police departments.
- We give our country every chance to straighten itself out, instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater in civil war.