Earlier this week, CNN news anchor Don Lemon stated that the president “is clearly trying to ignite a civil war in this country.” In response to Lemon’s words, historian and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said in an interview on “Tucker Carlson Tonight”: “I think we should take the threat of civil war very seriously.”
Referencing Dennis Prager’s piece, “America’s Second Civil War,” Gingrich added, “What you’re seeing with Antifa, what you’re seeing on college campuses, what you’re seeing, to some extent, in the bureaucracy, is a real division of the country. …I wish we could all sing Kumbaya and come together but I don’t think that’s what’s gonna happen. …As a historian, my view is pretty straightforward: one side or the other wins.”
America is already so rife with extremists on both sides of the political aisle that many people see war not only as imminent, but as virtually inevitable. If that’s the case, we’d better get busy digging ourselves bunkers… and graves.
And not just in the U.S. A civil war in America will not end in America. If the country plunges into battle, many will be vying for the loot. China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and others will destroy whatever the war doesn’t, the American empire will become history, and a third world war, with multiple nuclear powers, will follow. There will be no winners because, to quote Machiavelli, “Wars begin when you will, but they do not end when you please.”
Is there really no alternative?
I think there is, or I wouldn’t be writing here. In my previous column, I noted that President Trump needs to take a more appeasing tone in order to start building national cohesion. It’s great to state, “No matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are ALL AMERICANS FIRST,” but doing so right after the Charlottesville murderous car ramming is the epitome of poor timing. Such statements should be part of the president’s routine, not rare occasions.
Trump excels in using social media. If he uses it to broadcast a constant stream of unifying messages, notwithstanding the cynicism of the press, he will win over the American people’s hearts regardless of their political affiliation.
I wholly agree that America requires massive infrastructure projects. But the real infrastructure of the country is its people, not its asphalt roads or railroads. The administration needs to implement ASAP solidarity programs that will create a uniform American identity. People need to learn that an ideology that undermines freedom of speech, freedom of religious practice, and freedom of the press, cannot use the First Amendment to legitimize itself.
Even more importantly, people need to learn that plurality of views is not a recipe for war; it is precisely what has made America great in the first place. When people of different approaches and views strive for the same goal, they are far more likely to achieve it. If the goal is the well-being of all Americans, the entire country will benefit from it, and this goal should top the priority list of every American.
It might not seem possible to patch up the divided United States, but 1) no one has ever sincerely tried, and 2) the other option is war.
With my students, I have developed simple and easily applicable techniques that create a sense of unity and connection even among the most unlikely populations, such as Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs, ultra-Orthodox and devout agnostics, and affluent and needy. These techniques work wonders wherever we have tried them: North America, Western and Eastern Europe, and in Israel.
Today’s world is pushing toward connection. The interconnectedness of reality requires that we learn how to work in a world where everyone is dependent on everyone else. When we think in terms of “one side or the other wins,” we cannot succeed because we are perpetuating a mindset of separation. This will inevitably create unions of extremists that will feed on hatred of the other side, which in turn will lead to war. The only way to avoid this route is to make unity mainstream.
If this seems unrealistic, think of your own body. Without the unity of radically different organs all working in unison for the common cause of sustaining you and keeping you healthy, you would not exist. Therefore, unity is not unrealistic; it is the only realistic option for society.
The sooner we make American solidarity the prime value of America, the better it is for the entire country. Any decision that Trump’s administration and Congress make from here on should first and foremost promote unity and solidarity because this is truly the only realistic option.
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