The American Civil War — also known as the War Between the States and (among folks who fly Confederate flags from their pickup trucks) the War of Northern Aggression — is said to have ended in 1865. But is it really over?
Today the USA is mired in political crisis. One of the key dividing lines, the one that dominates presidential elections, is the Red state vs. Blue state schism. Today’s “Confederate” states are still Red. Today’s “Union” states are still Blue. Both sides are still wearing their civil war uniforms!
The key issues are still race and economic exploitation. The original Civil War was fought over economic interests including slavery. The northern oligarchs favored massive immigration of de facto slaves for their factories, and tariffs to force southerners to buy the products thus produced. The southern oligarchs, for their part, sought to maintain the plantation system built on the backs of enslaved black people — and also wanted to buy goods from Europe tariff-free.
Today Americans are still fighting over race, immigration, and economics. The Red side — the Trump supporters — are economically-stressed whites who are panicking over their impending minority status (America is slated to have a nonwhite majority by around 2050). The Red forces are suspicious of African-Americans. They agree with Trump that pro-Confederate-statue marchers in Charlottesville were not bad people. And the Reds don’t like Hispanics much either. They want to slow the immigration that is changing America’s demographics. They lap up Trump’s slanderous descriptions of Hispanics as rapists and criminals. “Build that wall!” they chant at Trump rallies.
Their opponents, the Blues, crusade against racism (and “sexism” and “anti-Semitism” and “LGBTQ-phobia”) the way their blue state ancestors crusaded against slavery, though perhaps with less reason. Like the Unionists of the original Civil War, today’s Blue side favors centralized federal power. They don’t want to let states and individuals go their own way. They evince an odd combination of militarism and idealism. “We must free the world!” the Yankees chant as they march off with their guns to force others to accept their ideals and way of life.
Like the Red and Blue sides of the original Civil War, today’s Reds and Blues are manipulated by oligarchs. The Red oligarchs — people like the Koch brothers, the Scaife Family Foundation, and Robert Mercer — tend to espouse “libertarianism,” meaning freedom to exploit (for billionaires), and freedom to starve (for working people). The Red oligarchs, especially the Koch Brothers, are heavily invested in fossil fuel. They protect their investments by funding scientists and activists who doubt carbon-driven climate change. Many of them, including the notorious Las Vegas godfather Sheldon Adelson, are rabid Likudnik Zionists.
Today’s Blue oligarchs tend to be Hollywood moguls, Silicon Valley billionaires, or hedge fund managers. The majority appear to be Jewish — see Forbes Magazine’s article “Hillary Clinton’s Top Donors” for the names. Hillary’s biggest donor, Haim Saban, calls himself “a one-issue guy” with the issue being Israel.
As was the case during the original Civil War, the Red oligarchs are fighting to save an outmoded economic system. This time it is fossil-fuel-driven “libertarian” capitalism rather than slavery. They want to keep using the “virtual slavery” represented by fossil fuel energy (today the average American uses the daily fossil fuel energy equivalent of about 100 slaves). And they also want to preserve the “virtual slavery” of the so-called free market, which forces ordinary people to scratch and claw to join the wage-slave workforce and accept less and less pay for ever-longer hours amidst deteriorating infrastructure and disappearing amenities.
The Blue oligarchs, or at least some of them, are more open to the two biggest disruptive economic realities of the future: the end of both fossil fuels and wage labor as the basis of post-industrial society. Fossil fuels will probably disappear for environmental reasons even before they are depleted, which will happen sooner than the industry admits. And wage labor will no longer exist in its current form within a few decades as automation destroys jobs faster than they can be replaced.
But will we ever arrive at this post-fossil-fuel, post-wage-labor future? Or will civilization in general, or the US in particular, collapse — or perhaps even degenerate into out-and-out civil war?
Egyptian-American writer Omar el-Akkad’s notable 2017 novel American War envisions the worst. In el-Akkad’s dystopian future, the current 9/11-instigated War on Muslims mutates into the War on Southerners — but has nothing to do with race. Instead, the Yankee Terror State turns its savagery against the New Rebels of the Free Southern States because those good ole boys and girls refuse to give up fossil fuels, choosing instead to secede from the Union.
El-Akkad’s vision of Blue vs. Red global-warming-driven war run amok in a near-future America that has completely forgotten about the whole concept of race is surprisingly plausible, at least while you are reading it (some say Civil War I, after all, was really about economics not race, so why shouldn’t Civil War II also be over an economic issue?). The plot turns on the adventures of Sarat, a young Red State woman of mixed and meaningless (near-black Chicano and po’ white trash) ancestry who awakens politically and goes after the Blue State occupiers in pretty much the same way the Iraqi Resistance went after George W. Bush’s storm troopers.
Unlike most dystopian science fiction, American War is not just showing us a terrible future that is really an exaggerated (we hope) depiction of the present-day world we live in. El-Akkad’s fictional 2074 America is not so much a pessimistic caricature of actual 2017 America as a wish-fulfillment dream envisioning Americans karmically reaping what they’ve sown in their War on Muslims, euphemistically known as the “war on terror.” The horrors that Sarat and other Southerners experience under Yankee occupation — drone killings, rape, massacres, torture, internment camps, orange jumpsuits — are precisely those that Muslims have been experiencing since the false-flag event of September 11, 2001. Sarat’s fictional resistance, which culminates in a fantastically horrific act of revenge against the Yankees, represents gratifying fantasy payback for the real-life Terror War’s murder of 32 million Muslims, and a prescient and timely warning about what GWOT is likely to lead to. The whole thing is premised on helping the American/Western reader empathetically imagine what the post-9/11 world looks like to Muslims in general and resistance fighters in particular: el-Akkad fosters empathy and identification with America’s victims by casting the archetypal victim-turned-resistance-fighter as ordinary American rather than exotic foreigner.
Omar el-Akkad’s bleak vision of American War circa 2074 may turn out to have been overly optimistic. It seems entirely possible that an American economic-and-environmental-collapse-driven civil war could break out much earlier. The current American president, Donald Trump, is enthusiastically backed by a well-armed segment of the population — a segment that is disproportionately represented in the military and police forces. Yet not only Trump’s opponents, but also some members of his cabinet, believe he is so incompetent that he should be removed in accordance with the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution. The ferocity and extremism of both pro-Trump and anti-Trump forces, especially if the US succumbs to economic collapse or some other genuine emergency (as opposed to Trump’s phony border emergency) could conceivably lead to massive civil unrest or even civil war.
The Qur’an tells us to gaze on the ruins of collapsed civilizations and meditate on the moral implications, “Have they, then, never journeyed about the earth and beheld what happened in the end to those [deniers of the truth] who lived before their time? Greater were they in power than they are, and in the impact they left on earth: but Allah took them to task for their sins, and they had none to defend them against Allah” (40:21). If the US continues on its current path of truth denial and moral degeneracy, its collapse into ruins — accompanied by some form of extreme civil strife — may be inevitable.