The writer has frequently heard individuals remark about what they would have done if they had lived through or been present at such and such historical event. Invariably, they declare that they would have acted courageously or at least differently than those who were present. Not that he has ever given much credence to such comments, but the writer relishes the idea of posing a question to many of those persons. Now that we are in another civil war, whose intention is very similar to the one in the 1860s, which side are you joining and what part will you play?
The current civil war does not geographically divide the country, but it does so ideologically. This civil war divides the country between those who believe in racially inclusive democracy and those who are devoted to white nationalism. It is between those who support measures of political democracy and those who support increased authoritarian rule. There will be isolated shootings and killings but not necessarily formal battlelines drawn.
One can see these war efforts in Jackson, Mississippi, and other areas where there are Black and Brown ethnic majorities and non-white officials in charge. Even though one may not be a close observer, he/she can witness the city of Jackson’s isolation and neglect by white state officials. This includes assistance with streets, water, and infrastructure; the transference of services to other municipalities, such as vital statistics, the tax commission, and the crime lab; skewed, bad publicity about crime and the public schools; distrust and skepticism of the competence of Black officials; white and upper-income Black flight; and more. All of this leads to the further decline of Jackson. The same can be witnessed in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Memphis, New Orleans, Washington, and other “Black” cities. It is all based on race, pitting white supremacists and nationalists against Black people and others who strongly support democracy and inclusion.
If and when one moves to the state level, he/she can witness the war between these different citizens particularly in the so called “red states.” For the last several years, white officials have been busy restricting not only the human rights of marginalized citizens, but also decreasing their access to the ballot box and diluting their voting strength through gerrymandering. These are aspects of the political phase of the civil war, but it is war just the same. It is further significant because these “white nationalistic” victories in the red states strengthen these rebels in Congress and in the electoral college.
These state actors have already coordinated their strategy and program of action as carefully as had the actors in the old Confederate states in the 1860s. They are as ruthless and determined as were those who advised their colleagues and descendants to “save yo’ Confederate money boys, the South’s gonna rise again.” In state after state, they are taking up arms to buttress their bullying and intimidation, attempting to seize power by any means necessary.
At the national level, the Supreme Court seems poised to help solidify the victory of the white nationalists. The Supreme Court is now led by Conservative, i.e. Republican-appointed, justices. Whenever the time comes, the court can create an unresolvable constitutional crisis that could lead to widespread military action.
Therefore, one can see that at each level, the country is in the process of a new civil war. Generally speaking, the current majority of the Republican Party has bowed to the alt-right, white nationalism and fascism. This means that the average citizen is placed in the position of having to choose between fighting or rolling over. That means they either support a strong Democratic Party, which they have pressured into becoming more sensitive and dedicated to the need of prosecuting a successful war for democracy, or they roll over, remaining docile while the Donald Trumps, the Tate Reeves, and others of like stripes rise to eternally perpetual power.
Before any more shooting starts or before the flags are exchanged, those who do not want America to become what it avoided in 1865 must turn out in droves to de-fang the white nationalist, fascist, alt-right Republicans while there is still a chance to do so at the ballot box. In 2023, for each individual African American, for each Native American, for each other targeted and marginalized group, and for each white believer in democracy, it is time to decide and to act on the side of human rights because the civil war has already begun.