The final letter in this series, thankfully, but also a pretty dismal one. There's been steady progression since I first wrote about the possibility of a Cold Civil War, and there have been some spikes, as well. The police are acting fasch-ier than usual, rhetoric against Trans people is elevating, and even the Washington Post is considering the possibility of state secession (though the media likes to get the Civil War clicks once an election). Part of the problem with most of these moves is that they all act as the windup in a vicious cycle–one move rightward in the Christo-fascist field nudges another sector, nudges another, and it does not take long until everyone is swept up and marching.
Today we're going to talk a little more broadly about the the far right and its moves toward erecting a Christo-fascist state, and thereby pushing the country toward a cold civil war, at best. While the conservative movement has, for so long as halves of this country were distinct enough that not everyone thought owning other people was good, been steeped in the dehumanization of the other, the culture has generally shifted toward progress. That is, obviously, no longer so. Since the United States has never appropriately reckoned with its history of slavery, there is still room in some of its citizens to find others inherently inferior. That, at the end of the day, is the whole ballgame. It's what started the first Civil War, and it's what will start the second. And it's what, today, allows for all the rest of the far-right to slip through.
Civil Religion and Christo-Fascism
Civil religion is a nation's shared religious (or maybe quasi-religious) beliefs, often directed toward that nation. It's not unique to America, but we are perhaps among the most ardent of civil-religion-havers–the apotheosis, if you will. It's summed up best for us as what you think of when you think of a post-9/11 country song: God, beer, the flag, soldiers, green grass, big trucks. It's standing for the Pledge of Allegiance, only occasionally going to an actual church but nevertheless saying you believe in Jesus, and being vaguely mad at people who don't. It's this nebulous thought-belief that we all (not necessarily you, or me) have about America, that we're the greatest country in the world, the city on a hill. And it's this overstuffed American flag shirt in which we are carrying around the beginnings of Christo-Fascism. With our religion, we must exclude other religions. With the blessing of God, America is the chosen country–scripture be damned.
It's the "bootstraps American Jesus" idea that allows people to say "love it or leave it," and phrases less couth than that. Nick Fuentes, a blivet if I ever saw one, recently suggested that Jewish people leave America in language that I will not repeat here–and I don't mind swearing. Fuentes is a self-professed Christian white supremacist, so outspoken that his hate speech is right up top on his Wikipedia entry. His goals for the nation are to revert us a century or more, denying women the right to vote among other things. Fuentes is, along with so many more of his conservative ilk like Matt Walsh and Ben Shapiro, trying to shape a generation of white boys into thinking that they are the ones being discriminated against in this country. And they're succeeding.
No More Mr. Nice Conservative
While it's not well known as a bastion of journalism, The Federalist is a widely-read rag, ostensibly meant to be serious but occasionally falling into trollhood. Weeks ago, they came out with what is, again, ostensibly a serious piece about the future of conservatism in the United States. You might assume from its title how it proceeds: We Need to Stop Calling Ourselves Conservatives. The piece posits that the nature of conservatism was to conserve–rights, mostly, religious freedom, and moral values, and the things conservatives wish to conserve have since disappeared. Undone by technology (and maybe a little help from scary leftists), the conservative movement is dead, and its pallbearers should rebrand themselves as radicals and revolutionaries. The author invokes the Pilgrims, "iron-willed and audacious Christians who refused to accept the terms of the mainstream and set out to build something...to hew it out of the wilderness, even at great personal cost." Which is, of course, hilariously wrong, but nevertheless part of the American religious mythos.
The article embraces a new brand of conservatism: one that does not fear authority, that jettisons the libertarian's beloved small government. Big tech firms will be smashed by this newly-swole government, which, fine, but by the same token they will "require state legislatures to starve [universities] of funds," in order to get them to teach what they want. Abortion will be outlawed entirely, with both practitioners and recipients surely to be tried for murder. Queer people will be subject to either an array of hoops or a brick wall of law that states the public expression of their identity is a crime. "Drag Queen Story Hour should be outlawed...doctors who perform so-called 'gender-affirming' interventions should be thrown in prison..." Which does not call for the criminalization of people exactly, but is likely not far away–in order to preserve family values, of course. And, as if begging the reader to ask the question, the author closes by saying:
To those who worry that power corrupts...they certainly have a point. If conservatives manage to save the country and rebuild our institutions, will they ever relinquish power...? It is a fair question, and we should attend to it with care after we have won the war.
This is an open call for the conservative party to abandon any pretense of small government–they only ever held a pretense–and to instead seize and wield power. Any afterthought to corruption from power is moot, as once these people have won their war, we will not exist.
When you remember the basic ideas underpinning the movement: religion, nationalism, and fear of the other, then add the embrace of unbound, concentrated, "blunt" power, you get fascism. More and more conservatives, who we might have not so long ago considered mainstream, are among those who now call for this restructuring of the party–or at least shout the fears that will restructure it*. This is not a fringe idea. And you don't have to know you're getting fascism to abet its creation: being MAGA just because you love primary colors and loud men will get you there. There will be flags on display and troops out in the open and because none of them sport swastikas (I don't think they'll be sporting swastikas) some won't understand what's changed, even as they cheer it on.
*Tucker Carlson is a prime example of this. On primetime cable every night he prattles on about replacement theory–the white supremacist boogeyman that says decent white people are being supplanted by voters of color–and I promise you this is more than enough to make your grandpa vote for Trump again.
The Ugly Season
We're not there yet. Civil war, cold or otherwise, is not right around the corner. What we do have to deal with is another long election cycle in which Trump, whether he runs or not, wins or not, gets indicted or not, stokes fear, and hatred, and calls for violence. It's already happening. Meanwhile, states are plotting out their futures–remember that Texas republicans have already made it their platform that the 2020 election was stolen, and that gender-affirming care is medical malpractice. There is legislation, written and vision-boarded, that will disproportionately harm LGBTQIA people, and People of Color, taking away freedom of expression, medical treatment, and potentially criminalizing simple facts of their lives. Abortion rights are actively being curtailed across the nation, and far-right candidates are using that new real estate to cut further into reproductive and privacy rights. In New Hampshire, a candidate for Senate has stated that he opposes part of the in-vitro fertilization process (the disposal of unselected fetuses), and therefore could pitch a ban on the procedure. In California, a man broke into Nancy Pelosi's home, hoping to find her, and settled for beating her husband with a hammer. He stated that he was on a suicide mission, and had other targets. There is no value judgment attached to this–I don't like Pelosi any more than you (maybe less), but attacks on public and political figures are indicative of the direction this country is headed. And it's not just big names, either, as a man running for office in Pennsylvania has been the target of repeated harassment and assault.
I don't think there is any stopping this train. It may not hit us in 2024, or 2025, and it is entirely possible I'm wrong about a cold civil war. But there are certain intractable facts that we have to deal with, assuming everything keeps coming up Brandon in the States:
1. Climate change is going to continue to devastate communities, destroy resources, winnow at our ecosystems, and, yeah, expose us to new diseases*.
2. Collapse is coming, as sure as the sun rises. You can put away the idea of peak oil/fertilizer and conspiratorial organizations and think of it simply enough–there are finite resources on a finite planet. We are running toward that wall and only ever running faster.
*It would be better said that we were doing these things to ourselves.
The point is, if we can agree that things feel unstable now, and that the conservative movement thrives on instability, we're going to feel even less stable tomorrow. There is no greater moment of stability in our future than where we are today. We have got to be thinking about these possibilities now, preparing for them now. We are worse off for every further moment of delay. As the meme goes: this is the coolest summer of the rest of your life.