If you listen to mindless assholes, you would think that the United States of America is already gone. The real problem is that these useless imbeciles are getting closer and closer to becoming prophets. I am truly concerned about the future of the land of my birth.
Now we can take a step back–I plead with you, let us step back!–and we can wonder how things have gotten so petty and gone so far wrong. But they have, and no matter the liberal explanation or conservative justifications, looking forward to such a jagged future does no one any good.
We have a president–an actual national leader, or overlord, or whatever we are supposed to call him in this sagging tabloid era, far too busy watching TV to gauge accurately how people are covering his thin-skinned immorality. He seems blind to the fact that our national dissatisfaction is reaching an anger we haven’t felt since 1857, when Dred Scott was wrongfully condemned, and two years later, John Brown lost his mind. Or maybe Donald Trump simply does not care. Does he actually support this terminal divide in national consensus? Who does a civil war benefit? Historically, what sort of leaders led, or supported, their nation going to war with itself? This is something that should be considered before assigning absolute blame to Trump, to one of the political parties–even to ourselves. What has American society become that has opened the door to such outrage?
We begin with the six hundred on and off years of what is known as The Roman Civil Wars. These began as slave revolts, the majority of the weak, sick and hungry population deciding that the handful of centurions, heavily armed, and the barbaric monarchs who kept them in such a state of desperation, had to fall. None of these conflicts lasted particularly long, although they continued to simmer for years in the resentment of the survivors, their children often raised with the inspiration of the idea of revolution.
These civil wars kept going on and on, mostly between rival emperors, or wannabe rulers who had enough followers to try and kill the king. Throughout the entire first century BC conflicts such as this raged: Lucius Cornelius Sulla’s faction versus Gaius Marius’. Both were skillful generals, although Sulla was far more decorated. There was undoubtedly palace conflict between the two, Sulla, militaristic, taking the side of whatever broken Constitution was then ruling the state, versus Marius’ manipulations and intrigues. This conflict flared up after the Social War of 91-88 BC. This was led by numerous generals and was about the further expansion of the Roman Empire throughout the entirety of Italy. It was never a fair fight. The Romans massacred the peasants, enslaving them, going on raping sprees, and stealing whatever they could. In many ways this is the model for modern day African Civil Wars, the faction with the best weapons slaughtering everyone who gets in their way, recruiting children too young to take sides, and plundering the world into a state of terror and absolute chaos.
Rome finished that last century before Christ watching wars break out between different leaders of the Roman Senate, and the numerous battles both during and after the reign of Julius Caesar, all of which were explosions of hatred over differences in political ideology. Caesar’s legions were attacked by the Optimates, which was the more conservative party that had been increasingly getting blocked out of the Senate, likely, at least in part, due to both Caesar’s popularity and his absolute power, able to control the outcome of elections.
Caesar’s chief rival was Pompey, an astute politician with a great talent for leading his movement. He eventually led the Senate to vote against Caesar, demanding that he relinquish control of the army to the Senate. When Caesar refused he performed the unprecedented act of having his army, which was intensely loyal to him since his successful leadership in the Gallic Wars (against primitive British, Scottish and Welsh tribes), march on Rome itself, conquering every quarter of the growing empire. Those rivals who were not killed fled throughout the empire, to Egypt, Greece and Hispania. From there the battles went back and forth, the Republicans (seriously–the defenders of the so-called Republic) sometimes winning until Caesar managed to organize his forces into the final triumph at the Battle of Munda. It was after this that Caesar became the absolute ruler–the emperor for life (“Dictator perpetuo.”)
Caesar’s civil wars of course led to centuries of conflict, Rome no longer a republic, and all power fully vested in the emperor, the entire senate filled with either lackeys or those too frightened to speak an angry word against the king. But, inevitably, Caesar was assassinated, which set off endless, barbaric struggles, culminating, shortly before the birth of Christ, in the Jewish Revolt of Judea.
This was the first true holy war, one that was rapidly suppressed, but which led to the fanaticism that gave birth to the coming Messiah. The Jews saw their struggle with the Romans and their desperate attempt to be free as an apocalyptic battle, reading into it signs from the Torah that would eventually lead to the stories collected in the New Testament.
The Jews needed this motivation, and it helped to radicalize them–a new religion born out of the struggle. Jesus Christ entered the scene as the leader of the slave rebellion, someone so charming and eloquent, a man with ideas about how to create a new and better world (someone we might call a cult leader today, as the Romans did in theirs). Jesus was an easy figure to elevate to the crown (King of the Jews, a political designation as opposed to religious). This is the nature of a civil war, finding a new leader to promote your different way of thinking, and then fighting in their name in order to achieve your desired way of life. Of course this ended in a crushing defeat, in the horror of watching Christ starve to death in agony, hammered into a post, being spit upon and laughed at by those who fought against him. Eventually the resentful Jewish people formed their new faith around Christ, elevating this hero to the singular son of their God (despite the fact that Jesus preached that all people were the children of God.)
By 66 AD the Jews had organized an army in Jerusalem. These generations later had developed a pure fanaticism that we rarely see today, the new faith growing increasingly mythologized, with thousands of stories being told throughout the communities about the legends of the past–Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Judas, Mary Magdalene–all of the great characters of the new testament, and many others, later suppressed, after Christianity conquered Rome in 313 AD.
Anyway, this first Jewish Civil War was an especially brutal conflict, the true believers in Jerusalem watching their most holy temple (The Temple of David) burn to the ground. The outrage over this was unfathomable, creating an everlasting hatred of the Jews and early Christians (really one and the same, other than a singular belief) for the Roman Empire. The empire, of course, either killed or re-enslaved everyone they came into contact with, sacking the city, conquering it, and holding up Roman Jerusalem as a warning of what would happen if any other cult dared to challenge their supremacy.
There was essentially non-stop warfare between the opposing sides within the empire after this, ending, finally, in 476 AD when the recently formed Catholic Church managed to conquer and suppress everything that came within their grasp. Not only did they consume the empire, but expanded upon it. They were far better educated and ultimately far more brutal, demanding submission to their way of thinking. Civil wars became less about living the way one desired, free from oppression, and were now focused almost entirely on accepting beliefs that most of the world found objectionable.
We can cut through the numerous civil wars that occurred everywhere else in the world, throughout Asia and Africa and elsewhere in Europe, out of the reach of Rome, because they all came down to the same thing: My God is better than your God. This is perhaps best exemplified by the numerous Fitnas from 656 to 1031 AD. These were the first Islamic holy wars, ultimately no different than the early Jewish/Christian holy wars.
Islam became the most rapidly expanding religion in the history of the world in its first twenty-five years (as it remains to this day). Desperate people everywhere around the middle eastern region outside of Israel began seeing no future in Christ. After all, weren’t their oppressors leaders of the church that insisted they the only way to salvation? No, another new faith was required to organize the slaves and help them to overthrow the burdens they suffered.
Islam was a far more warlike faith, ultimately fed up with the offers of peace and hope of the old ways. They never seemed to work, looking at history. Every holy battle ended in some sort of genocide. Islam developed with the times, the people constantly under siege, parents and children killed by roving Christian fanatics demanding submission in a language they did not understand. Islam was born in rage, born from the fires of war, and was influenced, without question, by the mystical fairy tales of the region, The Arabian Nights ( https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?isbn=&an=bennett%20cerf&tn=arabian%20nights%20entertainments%20book%20thousand&n=100121503&cm_sp=mbc-_-ats-_-used). Those tales of vengeful spirits and demonic powers being triumphed by the loyalty and morality of ordinary men and women served as an eloquent background for Muhammad and his followers. By the time the wars broke out, it was less about fighting the Christians, whom they had always managed to deflect with increasing ferocity, and more internalized, slightly different views on the magic of faith leading to battles of supremacy. These wars are still being staged to this day, Sunni versus Shia.
We cannot escape the nature of “holy war” as we close in on the future of human conflict. By 1562 Catholics and Protestants had finally had enough of one another’s mild disagreements in France. This led to thirty-six years of conflict, killing more than three million people. This mostly grew out of disgust over the standard corruption of both of these churches, as well as the rise of puritan Calvinism, which saw the whole world as damned. This was a conflict with no resolution, and it spread across Europe with no end in sight.
In 1639 England, Ireland and Scotland went to war with each other, and among themselves, England ultimately suppressing these nations under a United Kingdom. There was a territorial civil war in French Canada in the 1640s, the protectorates of different regions deciding that each wanted all. The so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688 was the direct attempt by one member of the royal family trying to overthrow another, dividing the nation once more into warring sides. Eventually we come to the American Revolutionary War, the first significant attempt of a far off land attempting to achieve its liberty from a foreign crown.
If we come into more modern times, those before the American Civil War , we can study prison rebellions with inmates overthrowing their captors and attempting to claim the land as their own, the War of 1812, a reigniting of the American Revolution which ended in the true establishment of the United States as a world power, the Haitian Revolution, Zulu wars, Greek, Portuguese, Chilean, Brazilian, Spanish, New Zealand, Chinese, Australian, Mexican, and on and on and on civil wars, each inspired, at least in part, by both the American and French Revolutions, smaller groups of ideologically based warriors demanding their way of life be taken as an absolute.
The American Civil War, of course, is among the most studied wars in history. As a brief summary this was about the idea of slavery, southern states demanding, more as a matter of business and pride than any disregard for the reality of its evil, to keep their way of life intact. Abraham Lincoln, upon reconsideration, probably wanted this war–engineered this war with his own absolutism, which we can take as right and moral (as I certainly believe it to be), but still, given the context, this was simply another war between fanatical sides. Bitter, stubborn people, convinced of the supremacy of their own lives, went to war and killed their families because they all refused to compromise, refused to seek a better way towards freedom, and sank themselves into a mire of hatred that has only gotten deeper as time has gone by.
After the American Civil War more conflicts shattered the world, those in Japan, Argentina, all throughout Central America, new uprisings in Brazil, China, Venezuela, Mexico, Columbia, Iran, Iraq (between the leadership and the Kurdish freedom fighters), finally in Russia, the Communist ideology overthrowing the ways of the old world.
In fact, World War I was a series of massive civil wars, the people everywhere across the globe finally having had enough of monarchy and fighting to overthrow their kings and queens by any means necessary. This drastically changed everything, struggling new governments attempting to control themselves. Russia serves as a fine example of what most of these efforts sank into, into a new sort of monarchy, an absolute leader demanding everything from their people.
These wars continued, again ideologically tinged, Communism spreading like Islam twelve hundred years before. The radicals of this faith overthrew their nations with such brutality that the cowed people who remained accepted what was thrust upon them with very little complaint. They were happy to still be alive. They were pleased that at least one of their children remained.
Should we get into truly modern times, World War II led to the division of Europe and Asia between Communist and Democratic empires, the Nazis more of a frightful distraction. Some divided people battled so fiercely that nations were ripped in half–East and West Berlin, North and South Korea, the obliteration of Vietnam, all throughout Africa and Central America, petty strongmen of either left or right wing fanaticism suppressing all opposition which followed their own triumphant civil wars. This is the era of rising insanity, of resentments so profound that absolutism becomes less based upon religion and more about uncontrolled rage lashing out at anything and everything people find objectionable in others (perhaps the Nazis were less a distraction, and more the model for a new way of thinking).
Take the Iranian Revolution, also known as the Islamic Revolution, which overthrew one of the final vestiges of monarchy, replacing it with fanatical faith, with a moral reckoning that demanded complete submission to the ancient scriptures that defined their only reason for being. This has spread among deeply oppressed and unfortunate people who, as has always been the case, can only find hope in someone else’s beliefs. To me this was the start of World War III, a dark holy war that will use all of the foul technology we have developed in the time since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, rendering our world into a potentially steaming ash heap, devoid of mankind.
With all of the other civil wars still ongoing–in Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, Libya, Sudan, throughout the Congo, Mali, Afghanistan, Iraq–among all of the recently conquered nations, gangs like the Taliban and Isis insisting on their permanence, and the increasingly fanatical response to fanaticism–we can see the brewing trouble in most other places in the world.
In the United States, as well as most other Western Democracies, political factionalism–tribalism this has fairly been labeled–has turned ideological parties into new age religions, the same sort of absolutist demands about imposing variations of morality on every other person soon to be under their command. There are movements to outlaw nearly everything, to suppress choice, to censor speech, to impose educational limitations, and to force all citizens to believe the same things. This would be Orwellian if the slow creeping towards this terror weren’t so goddamn natural, our short-attention spans and easy dismissal of those we disagree with creating a state of humanity that does not mind being told what to do.
There is a coming social collapse. I do not pretend to know what the outcome of this event might be, but I must remain hopeful. I must revert back to these historical lessons. I must see . . . must see . . . oh . . . shit . . . nothing ever works out the way we wanted it to, does it? If we refuse to learn anything else from the history of humanity, this should be the lesson that lingers.
©2019, 2020 Lance Polin