January 10, 2013
Similarly, Shelby Foote quotes James M. Mason of Virginia on the war:
I look upon it then, Sir, as a war of sentiment and opinion by one form of society against another form of society.
It’s hard not to hear echoes here. Of course, our sectionalism differs from the antebellum version. For one thing, it is nowhere near as clearly geographical. There were Northern sympathizers in the South and Southern sympathizers in the North (enough of the latter to earn a nickname from their political enemies) but not very many in either case.
Nowadays every town, every street, has its reds and blues. We are interwoven. Those you’ve heard recently talking about secession seem oblivious to this. Less oblivious is Michael Hart, who has worked out a scheme for secession by county, leading to two noncontiguous nations. The general opinion, at the two meetings where I have seen Prof. Hart describe his plan, is that it’s a stretch. Think of the border-control issues! Sure, pre-modern Germany got along OK; but that was many independent aristocratic states, not two democratic nations in many pieces.
What it’s about, what most of our politics is about, is the seething hatred between our two white tribes, with such issues as gun control, gay rights, and posture towards blacks as tribal markers. (Posture is all it is; as the late Joe Sobran observed, liberals in their mating and migratory habits are indistinguishable from members of the Klan.) Michael Bloomberg has an armed security detail; Barack Obama’s daughters attend a school with armed guards in addition to the girls’ Secret Service detail. These inconsistencies don’t matter. The Bloombergs and Obamas know what tribe they are, and the tribal identifiers are mainly just verbal and content-free, like war chants”like their expressions of concern for the urban poor, whom they strive mightily to keep at a distance. It’s really paleolithic stuff: shouting insults and banging spears on shields across a jungle clearing.
It’s not likely that our current sectionalism will come to open war. There isn’t the geographical solidarity, and absent unthinkably massive population transfers, there couldn’t be. I and my conservative friends locally are not going to war against our neighbors, nor shall we emigrate en masse to Mississippi.
America’s two sections are stuck with each other, like partners in an unhappy marriage…which is where I started. My friend and his marital problems? The last time I was in touch, seven or eight years after the tears-in-beer event, they were still together.
Image of flags courtesy of Shutterstock