Civil Discourse Now

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Civil war should not be our worry, but Putin-style crises should be feared

   I must digress from discussion of why litigation that would seek Trump removal is substantively different from “birther” cases that sought removal of President Obama from office.
   A person yesterday on Twitter expressed concerns, based on comments made to her by a person who is armed and serious, that, if Trump is removed from office, there will be a civil war. (If I err as to the specifics of her tweet, someone please correct me, but I was unable to find the tweet this morning; still I am fairly confident about the gist of what she wrote.) 
   A civil war is not a spur-of-the-moment thing. The Civil War, 1861-65,  was the product of tensions that grew from long before the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Delegates, at the Convention, to keep slave states in the Union made concessions that institutionalized and protected the sale of human beings as chattel, although neither the word “slave” nor any variation of it appears in the original text.  The monetary value of people held in bondage, by some estimates, was the largest category of “property” owned in the southern states. People held in bondage rebelled. Those who claimed ownership over other human beings feared slave rebellions. In two states, South Carolina and Mississippi, individuals held in bondage, at various times, outnumbered people who were “free.” Rebellions were a worry to the people who owned others.
   Other nations with which the U.S. traded expressed disgust over the institution (although some of those same countries had been involved in the “slave trade”). 
   Some claim the Civil War was not about slavery, but about “states’ rights.” States do not have “rights.”  As the Declaration of Independence makes clear:  “WE hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the Governed...”
   Four of the states that seceded from the Union also issued statements why—and the reason was to preserve the institution of slavery; each stated the protection of slavery as an institution was its reason for secession.
   In the early- to mid-1960s, some feared civil war would occur. The people whom I heard talk of it were white people. No one spoke of angry white people arming and rebelling. The people whom I heard were white and feared African Americans would riot. Riots occurred in Detroit, Watts, and other places. Those riots occurred because of the decades of discrimination that followed the Civil War.
   Still, a few people would make veiled references to the Ku Klux Klan and how Klan members, so brave they covered their faces with masks, had the arms and means to put down any such fight. The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were pushed through by a white, southern President, LBJ. Bigots were angry. If there had been reason to worry about a “civil war” from white bigots, the early- to mid-1960s would have been the time when such views were more popular.
   Some people today are genuinely angry that an African American was elected to two terms and performed well in the Oval Office. The pressures that brought about the Civil War are absent. 
   My concern about “civil war” is not that paramilitary and white supremacist types will rebel. My concern is that Trump, in imitation of his controller Vladimir Putin, will create crises and use those crises to smother dissent. That worked for Putin when he first took office.
   Fear of possible civil war waged by white supremacists cannot dissuade us from seeking Trump removal. The Klan in the 1960s did not wage civil war—and more people supported discrimination then. The Klan’s courage was exemplified by the ambush murder of Medgar Evers.
   If we back down from removal of a person who obtained the Oval Office through illegal means for fear of white supremacists’ threats of civil war, the white supremacists will have won without firing a shot they will not take.

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