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The Cold Civil War Pt. 2

The Cold Civil War Pt. 2

Because who wants to read a 4,000 word email? Nobody.

We're diving in where we left off, living in the inchoate Christo-Fascist States of America or the Used-to-be States of America and the burgeoning conflict between the two.

Civil Wars and the Metaphorical Temperatures Thereof

While secession seems possible to me, an outright hot civil war feels less likely–in part because the kind of conflict an American civil war calls to mind is simply impossible in this configuration. We're not aligned along a relatively neat border anymore, and insofar as we would fight on borders, they're scattered, bicoastal, and in nodes at the economic heart of the Christo-Fascist states. So not only would the conflict look very different, but it would pay far fewer dividends to simply march an army in and do a Sherman to the city of Austin, Texas. Which isn't to say that General Abbott wouldn't send the Texas Guard in and attempt to massacre everyone on 6th Street.

Speaking of the Guard; it's difficult to say how the military washes out. Despite its obvious conservative bent and nature, the military has been known to stand by a sort of rigid code of conduct–even if that conduct is a joke. And while roughly 10% of January 6th insurrectionists have a service record, I choose to look at that as coup-half-full. Assuming that there is no single entity that gives good claim to being The United States, the military and all federal assets may get split by territory, population, or become its own nebulous thing (and by nebulous thing I mean military dictatorship, which we won't get into here). California, for the record, has the highest population of active duty service members in the country. An even match, militarily, may be a good deterrent to an actual war. We're going to work off that rather large assumption.

Regardless of the heat level between the divided states, there are going to be skirmishes, and tension will be high. Red citizens (if minorities and women are granted citizenship) will flee to blue states, the conduct of which will likely be an extremely dangerous enterprise. Bastions of red in blue states, like Northern California, will almost certainly try to gain some kind of autonomy, while pockets of blue in the red sea, like the aforementioned Austin, will try like mad to maintain some sovereignty. If any level of secession occurs, it becomes more likely that the nation fractures entirely, and whether these territories succeed or not in that endeavor, it's likely enough to feel like another country on the ground.

Life Inside Christo-Fascist America

I don't need to spell out life in Gilead for you. Atwood did a good job, the TV show The Handmaid's Tale did a fair job–you're familiar with what happens. What you might be less familiar with is how real that life is for some people today, and just how disgusting the roots of the ideas portrayed in the book are. For white cishet men, life on the inside is probably largely unchanged. The mask is off on capitalism–if it's an oligarchy in America now, it's an outright plutocracy after the split–but white cishet men now have no one to blame but themselves, which means they'll say everything is just fine. Cis women in the CFA, however, even white cis women, will find their status has dropped considerably. Unlike in Gilead, where some managed to eke out a kind of autonomy, the movement in reality makes no equivocation: cis men are the only actual people on the planet.  If the persistent gunning for Roe v. Wade didn't make things clear enough, there is the Quiverfull movement: this sect, of particular notoriety, aims to increase God's army by churning out babies with the purpose of using them as "soldiers" to create a theocratic nation. They believe that cis women are not people–they are merely an appendage of their husband, meant to produce as many children as God wills. This idea, particularly in the new Christo-Fascist States, is wrapped in white supremacy. The movement is not just for the production of babies–they should be white babies, an idea that ought to be very familiar to you today.

What The Handmaid's Tale gets wrong, I think, is the amount of nostalgia and patriotism most of these people have, their need for "victory," and the continuation of the United States. Gilead will still fly the red, white, and blue (I mean, think of the cost in replacing all those Thin Blue Line flags and Punisher Skulls, right? That alone blows the budget). In addition to keeping the flag-wavers happy, by appealing to a semblance of the former USA, the new Christo-Fascists can pacify the fearful moderates, which will be much easier to do than bring them all to heel or lose them to blue states. There would likely still be a sham democracy, the shuffling of figureheads, and, importantly, a great deal of pageantry. Without these trappings of democracy and affluence, without the myth of the American dream, the people will become listless, discontent. And that malaise, coupled with inevitable economic struggles, will lead to unrest without a key ingredient: a persecuted minority. Despite the entire point of this theocracy being a pure, white, Christian nation, the CFA will need the blue states, cities, and its own People of Color and LGBTIA+ populace in order to blame the failures of the state on something other than the state. Life will imitate art in the CFA, in that "gender traitors" will likely presage the criminalization of existence for virtually everyone that does not fit within a rigid, Bible-shaped box. People of Color, if not outright shunned by the state, will not be de facto, but de jure second class citizens.

Equipped with the American mythos of temporarily embarrassed, boot-strapping millionaires, and with an enemy to blame any problems on, the CFA will have its patina of theocratic authority well-established, but only true believers will buy it. For everyone else, this nation will eventually appear as what it is: a hollow victory for the oligarchy. You know already that it takes a lot of money to police a people as heavily as America does, and the Christo-Fascist police will be working overtime. A nation that positions itself as the snow-white city on a hill will necessarily have to make sure that it remains so–and when it has a cast of enemies so numerous, it will have to work to ensure that those inside it are swiftly rooted out. Think the Red Scare, but for not only communists, but atheists, agnostics, Catholics, miscegenators, LGBTQIA–on and on–which is, now that I think about it, basically the Red Scare. This witch hunting will be costly, not just monetarily but in trust between communities–citizens must be ever-vigilant to ensure that no one gets so chummy with their neighbor that they accidentally do a mutual aid. And because their more experienced troops and police are going to be so busy, the CFA is going to have to rely on everyday citizens to toe the line–I would expect a kind of paramilitary force made up of militia members and racist self-starters to be patrolling the streets, wreaking havoc everywhere but the nicest, whitest neighborhoods. This tense atmosphere, and the chaos following secession, will test all but the true believers.

Reality will hit hard and fast for your non-zealots. Post-secession, supply chains are going to be non-existent. And while the CFA would likely take most of the Breadbasket, much of life happens and is created in cities. Luxuries will disappear for both sides, and hunger will be far-reaching–beyond America, even. This is where I see the most potential for an outright civil war; hungry, and desirous of their old economic centers, the CFA could attempt to capture all those islands of blue.

Feral Cities and the Blue States of America

A feral city is one detached from the governance of its state, but still active, still able to participate in a wider economy and politic. Most examples of feral cities today come from war and disaster–New Orleans, post-Katrina, was briefly a feral city, in which the federal, state, and local governments were reluctant or unable to influence events. We've talked about this New Orleans before, but a feral city is not necessarily a negative condition, particularly when we're talking about being ungoverned by an utterly corrupt government. It's possible that blue feral cities could hold their own against a CFA siege, and by denying the CFA their economic power, perform a kind of counter-siege themselves.

I think there is the most potential for hope in the cities. Without so much political infrastructure as a state, a city, by its lonesome but well-stocked, has the capability of surrendering power to the people. A city that divests itself of capital as might naturally occur in the early days of secession, even if meant to be temporary, could do so permanently–and a city without capitalism has no need for police. This city, this sparkly little bug in the night, could instead focus on the well-being of its citizens, which will naturally lend itself to reaching sustainability. Finding that balance, and keeping it, is going to be of paramount importance going forward. If that city can defend itself against the Christo-Fascists around it (or, even, the broader governments of the blue states), I think this is where we might see the best example of a society capable of surviving collapse. That said, blue states will be by no means weak, and their influence could be far more complicated than the Christo-Fascists.

One would like to think that without the drag of Republican politicians, we could see a flourishing of progressive and even leftist policies in blue zones. However, the apparatus that is likely to exist immediately after secession is stock Democrat, so in existing liberal fortresses like California, you're probably not going to see an overnight bequeathing of the means of production. What you will see is a huge number of refugees, both from the Christo-Fascist states and, potentially, from outside the old borders of the US, as the CFA will surely erect walls and violently enforce their own immigration rules. This is going to cause a lot of stress, despite the posturing of some Dems, because resources are going to be tight to start. With the evaporation of supply chains, simply feeding people across the blue states is going to be a serious challenge. While California is an agricultural powerhouse, it's susceptible to climate change and the destruction of its water resources by sabotage, and it's hard to say whether food and aid will be able to pass through to more isolated areas. This is not going to be a rosy life–as most Californians would probably already tell you.

No matter who "wins" a civil war, or how the borders shake out, US climate policy and the policy of all its shattered parts ceases to be a priority. 300 million former Americans are now struggling to stay fed and sheltered, and mostly that's going to mean use of fossil fuels–especially in the red zones, where all regulation will be peeled back. The absence of the consolidated power of the United States on a global stage means other nations could destabilize (not for lack of our reassuring hand, but for our resources), and all this together means that we simply miss the mark on climate change. We lose. 2C by 2040, higher after that.

Even in these days, which seem preeminently foreboding, climate change and big C Collapse remain the things that completely and permanently alter life on this planet. America's Second Civil War is a chapter or a paragraph in the textbooks of the young in other nations, but with unchecked climate change, and with Collapse, there may simply not be textbooks. We'll be gathered around fires, the world over, telling stories our grandparents got told by their grandparents about something called "ice cream" and "the internet." The Second American Civil War is just the sputtering of the last new empire, which collapsed under the weight of its own betrothal to white supremacy, patriarchy, and capital.