September 26, 2012
My father-in-law is prone to watch a popular right-wing commentator and author who recently predicted that, should Barack Obama be reelected, the USA would see civil war within six months.
I don't personally guarantee many things, but I will personally guarantee there won't be a civil war, in six months or six years. We tried that between 1861 and 1865, and it didn't work out. We're not going to try it again.
I don't doubt that sort of apocalyptic talk is good for radio and TV ratings and sells books, but ultimately, I find it unhistorical, unpatriotic, and unworthy of Americans as a people.
It's unhistorical because it implies that today's problems are somehow unprecedented, as if we hadn't previously endured Shays' Rebellion, the Whiskey Rebellion, the Bank of the United States crisis, the Panic of 1873, the Battle of Homestead, the Panic of 1907, the Red Scare of 1919, the Great Depression, World War II, the hydrogen bomb, Vietnam, platform shoes and hip-hop. Our country has survived those and many more, and will survive the outcome of this election and many more in the future.
It's unpatriotic because it implies there is some sort of end point to the American experiment. If things don't go your way, assume everything goes up in flames. That spares you the hard work of planning and executing a program to make things go your way when the next election comes around in two years. Politics has zigged and zagged throughout our history, and at every stage, demagogues have predicted doom should their enemies win. Hasn't happened yet; not going to happen.
Finally, it implies that Americans are the moral equivalent of Sunnis and Shiites or Serbs and Kosovars or Hutus and Tutsis. We are not. Not yet, at least. Are you really going to slaughter your neighbor and his wife and children because an election doesn't go your way? You are not, and no one else is going to, either.
I have spent almost 40 years in a business where anything that sells papers or gets TV ratings is good, and I don't begrudge anyone making a good living peddling any alarmist claptrap he can sell to an unwitting public. That's capitalism, and capitalism is what I prefer.
But America has been around for 236 years, and my money's on it being around another 236. Betting the other way is a wager for suckers.