Walking Gingerly Along the Front Lines of the Coming Civil War

Walking Gingerly Along the Front Lines of the Coming Civil War August 1, 2018

At some level, I think everyone can feel it. Likely, many are too afraid to come out and say it, but they feel it just the same. Not long ago, I wrote about it. Yes, the once unthinkable scenario of another civil war in the U.S. is suddenly thinkable. In fact, despite my natural propensity for optimism, I am beginning to be incapable of imagining the coming election cycles ending without some sort of bloodshed. I hate that I just typed that sentence but, sadly, this seems to be what we have become. As one who writes about our tumultuous times, I am always cognizant that I am putting my neck on the line. The words I write, no doubt, could potentially anger some of the less stable across the divide from me to the point of violence. I feel it deep in my bones. Though I don’t claim any level of celebrity that would get me noticed on the street by someone who might decide to take a pot shot at me, there are plenty of folks out there who do have that level of recognition. If I feel the need to watch my back, I can only imagine what some of the much more well-known and outspoken resisters feel.

Since starting my second career as a writer of admittedly very minor renown, my biggest blessing has been getting to befriend one of the finest writers of our time, James Alexander Thom. I met Jim at an author fair we were both part of at the Indiana Historical Society a few years ago. We’ve since struck up a friendship and stay in frequent contact with one another. Jim, a Marine, Korean War veteran, journalist, and best-selling historical novelist, has graciously taken me under his wing and become a mentor of mine, not just as a writer, but also as a student of life and the American body politic. I have been blessed to spend some time with him at his lovely cabin home in the bucolic hills of rural Owen County outside of Bloomington, Indiana.

Now an octogenarian, Jim Thom is a wise sage–an endangered species–a national treasure. This morning, Jim sent me an email that moved me greatly and gets right to the heart of what I am trying to say here. With his permission, I am sharing his words with you.

     You know the stories of family members
set against each other by their sentiments
in the Civil War.
     Today my closest nephew phoned to say
he needed to talk to me. He was very keyed
up, loaded with a message:
     Here in red Owen County, people he sees
regularly are shunning him or complaining to
him about the columns and letters his “crazed
uncle” writes in the “liberal” Bloomington paper 
against their beloved president, who is saving 
America from the Globalist Elites. 
     The county line between Owen and Monroe
Counties might as well be the Mason-Dixon
Line, of course, with Indiana University being
in Monroe.
     I can hardly walk a block in Bloomington
without being thanked by someone for what I
write about this administration.  I don’t
expect that here in Owen, but I was stunned
today to realize that I’m embarrassing the
Right-leaning members of my own family.
     They see me as a hater, when the hatred
came from Trump’s mouth and Tweets.
     I don’t do hate. I do express my contempt for 
his character and his inhumane policies.
    It’s my duty as an American to resist racism and fascism. 
I wouldn’t trade you one honest Mexican farm laborer for
twenty Trumps. I cringe when I have to watch my young
Marines stand and salute him at the door of his helicopter.
All this resentment grew from observing and hearing him.
     His “vitriol reality” is giving us a taste of what 
civil war is.  I well might be shot down along my road 
by some old Owen County Fox News watcher with his assault
rifle, and he might well be somebody who was delivered
into the world by one of my parents when they were the
country doctors here in the county during the  Depression.  
     Wouldn’t that be a fitting end for some crazy old raving
liberal who somehow doesn’t want America to be Great Again!
    Thanks for listening to a saddened elder.
If that’s not a gut punch, I don’t know what is. Jim Thom obviously feels it too, this coming civil war. With his standing in the world of journalism and literature, he feels it perhaps more keenly than most. When he talks of watching his back as he strolls along the back roads of his beloved home, he isn’t being hyperbolic. He feels it.
But we all feel it at some level.

I know there are many a family gathering where unseen icy walls of tension divide sibling from sibling and parent from offspring, everyone walking on eggshells hoping politics don’t come up.

I know that many social media friends lists are in a constant state of flux as this person blocks that–old friends once reunited through technology now forever estranged.

I know there are many who now sit uncomfortably in worship services because they are afraid that their pew-mates might get a whiff of “libtard” from them. Many a “snowflake” feels like melting from the heat of judgment coming down from the pulpit. Attempts are made to make many feel ashamed of their efforts to reflect the love of Christ as they have come to understand it.

And so, we walk gingerly along the front lines of the coming civil war.

When it comes, this civil war won’t be like the first one. The first one was easy to see from afar with a clear delineation on the map between groups of largely like minded regions–North and South–bound together by ideology and politics. The coming civil war will have no such delineation. It won’t be easy to see from a far, it will happen in fits and starts, a little at a time, here and there. The coming civil war will be fought in urban back alleys, suburban back yards, and rural backwaters. It will be fought guerrilla style–no formal teams–former friend against former friend–household against household–neighbor against neighbor–father against son–extended family against extended family. This won’t be one civil war, it will be a multitude of them. It will be sloppy, untenable, in short, a nightmare.

The first volleys are beginning even now, can you hear them?

The only thing powerful enough to stop it is love. Is there enough left? Time will tell.

In the meantime, walk gingerly and watch your back.

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