The Stupid Civil War

I have taken a few days off from the project to digest what is happening in the U.S. a bit. There’s a sense of terror in the air now that seems partly in jest, but plays out in a deadly serious way. Several years ago, I remarked to friends that I no longer recognized or understood the world I am living in, and the key point to remember about this new world is that cooler heads never prevail. Every conflict gets raised to the boiling point. Every day is the final act of “Do The Right Thing.”

Before we all throw ourselves into armed combat in the streets, I think it would be helpful if everyone took a breath and tried to articulate a simple point: if, in fact, this all dissolves into another American Civil War, what exactly will we be fighting over? The last one was obvious — we put off a solution to slavery for decades. We tried numerous compromises. In the end, we had to fight it out to resolve the issue once and for all.

Is there any honest moral imperative for the bitter divide this time? Conflict is a natural and healthy part of democracy. We are supposed to have a variety of opinions and we fight them out, peacefully, via elections. Election years are supposed to be the steam release for our culture, the years when we let it all out and let the voters decide which side gets to rule.

But this election year is different. There’s a distrust of democracy in the atmosphere and that is poisoning how people act and react to very unusual and difficult circumstances. When pundits keep demanding that Joe Biden do something “dramatic” to speak out against violence — when he does so every day — while making no demands whatsoever of the President, the situation becomes more toxic.

So, again, I return to my initial question: what is this all about? And I’ll tell you what I think it’s mostly about. It’s mostly about a bunch of white men furious that they can no longer express a range of opinions that are now considered controversial and that they will be called out by women if they do so.

I want to be clear about this: the men aren’t actually upset that their opinions are being challenged. They are upset because, by holding certain points of view, they are being shunned by women. It’s basically a political speech Lysistrata, in their minds. If the disputes were only with men, they’d have the conflicts and continue on. But they cannot sit with the fact that women, and especially women of color, are standing up to them and demanding they change their behavior.

I know this sounds reductive, but I honestly think it’s behind all of this, even matters of racism. For decades, abortion was a proxy battle between this old culture and the newly emerging one of empowered women. While abortion is still a major political issue, it has now been joined by the full range of social justice issues.

These men aren’t fearing the loss of their political voice, they’re fearing the loss of their sexual potency. They will take up arms and go into the streets to demonstrate that they have the sexual power in our culture and if the President of the United States, a known abuser and predator, has their backs, these numbers will grow.

It’s sounds absurd on a certain level, but this kind of homoerotic masculine power worship was central to the Nazi party takeover and there has been an element of it in every move towards authoritarianism. There is nothing more primal to a man than his sexual supremacy being challenged, and gun ownership is the most obvious way for him to demonstrate power in his hands, if not his loins.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign brought out this instinct like never before, but the effects have carried over to 2020. I believe that Biden at the top of the ticket peels off just enough of the misogyny to put electoral victory close to out of reach for the Trump Flaccid Penis Coalition. That, however, could be even more dangerous than a coalition with a faint hope of victory. They are now looking at every means possible to hold on to power.

The stakes are higher now and the guns are entering the streets. There are numerous ways this can not end well. There’s only one way this ends with a ray of hope — a clear victory for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

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