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Thursday, June 15, 2017

If You Didn't See This Coming...

... you weren't looking very hard!

Heck, if anyone is honestly surprised by yesterday's shooting in Alexandria, VA., they had their head in the sand.

Let's forget that the shooter happened to be a far left wing 'moonbat'.  He could just as easily  have been a 'wingnut' from the fringes of the political right.  The extremists are always the vanguard of any conflict... but when push comes to shove, they inevitably have the mainstream firmly at their back.

My point is that political discourse in the US has become so toxic and disconnected from reality that it has, for all intents and purposes, ceased to be discourse.  Instead of an earnest discussion or debate of the issues of the day, it has become an aggressive, belligerent game of dogma-tennis played with political mortars and grenades lobbed over the partisan battlements. 

In warfare, one of the challenges facing the military establishment, and society as a whole, is to justify setting aside the tenet of 'Thou Shalt Not Kill'.  This is accomplished by an organized campaign of vilification of the enemy... to such an extreme extent that they can be viewed as something less than human.  After all, the prohibition is only against killing one's fellow man; so those monsters over there must be fair game!

If you look at some of the propaganda films put out during WWII, you can clearly see the Nazis (always Nazis... never just Germans, because that would allow one to think in terms of civilians), as cruel, unfeeling monsters.  And the Japanese were portrayed as reptilian automatons!  Then, and only then, could the allied countries get behind sending our wholesome boys out to mow them down like weeds and burn entire cities like garbage heaps.

Such is the nature of warfare.  To set aside the rules of civilization, the enemy must be seen to be well outside civilized norms.  Think about that the next time you hear someone called a 'Nazi' or ''Fascist'  over their political beliefs.  

Unfortunately, such is now the nature of political discourse in the US.  

Nobody is actually talking anymore.  They are broadcasting a one-way stream of invective and venom.  Ideas and philosophies are no longer debated on campus or in the halls of government.  Instead, each side has drawn its battle lines, and everyone on the other side of those lines is held up as the most extreme, crazy, dangerous transgressor of dearly held political orthodoxy.  

The language and venom used by both sides is indistinguishable from heresy accusations between competing religious sects.  For the reactions they garnered, each party's platforms during the presidential election might as well have been the 95 Theses nailed to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church!

If you ask historians what the 100 Years War was about, they will tell you it was "a series of conflicts waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Plantagenet, rulers of the Kingdom of England, against the House of Valois, rulers of the Kingdom of France, over the succession of the French throne".[source]

But if pressed, as to why the warfare in that conflict was particularly savage, most will be forced to admit that the English and French setting aside the religious rules of warfare had a great deal to do with it.  After all, both sides had invoked religious justification for their cause (read up on the 'Great Schism of 1378').  So even though the rules of chivalry and warfare among Christians demanded humane treatment of captives and allowed for negotiation and compromise where possible, the moment the other side was deemed to be heretics... all rules went out the window.

One of the more famous battles of the 100 Years War took place at Agincourt in 1415.  The French King flew the Oriflamme (from Latin aurea flamma, "golden flame"); the battle standard which indicated that no quarter would be granted to captured or surrendering enemy forces. The battle is also notable for the use of the English Long Bow which allowed large scale killing from a remote position... another departure from the accepted rules of chivalry.

All this was made possible - inevitable, actually - by the battle lines being drawn along 'all or nothing' zero sum terms.  A respected adversary had to be treated chivalrously.  A heretical enemy could be slaughtered without remorse.

Rory William St Clere Cox, a lecturer at The University of St. Andrews put it quite succinctly when discussing the increasingly religious nature of the rift between the English and the French:  "The interaction between war and religion helped to create increasingly xenophobic and jingoistic societies, so that a conflict which began as a dynastic or feudal struggle increasingly came to be understood in terms of a national crusade". [source]

Sound familiar?  It ought to.

On his way to the the baseball field yesterday, the shooter - James T. Hodgkinson - is reported to have stopped a departing player (Rep. DeSantis), to ask who was on the field, Democrats or Republicans?  Even from the dugout it wasn't immediately apparent who was who.   They all looked like a bunch of middle aged men in baseball uniforms engaged in the national pastime.  

But once they were identified as Republicans, their attire became enemy uniforms, and in his mind they became legitimate targets.

I have no idea how we got to this present state of partisan warfare in the US, or how we might extricate ourselves from the trenches long enough to be able to see the 'soldiers' on the other side as people just like us.

But so long as we continue to hold up our political views as sacrosanct doctrine instead of simple political constructs, we will increasingly be drawn into religious wars from which there can be no chance of compromise or quarter.  And the bodies will continue to pile up on the battlefield... even if it looks just like a ball-field.

Posted by David Bogner on June 15, 2017 | Permalink

Comments

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It is 1854 in America again, and Kansas is bleeding.

Posted by: antares | Jun 15, 2017 10:23:01 AM

antares ... your reference suggests that you feel that there is no possibility for reconciliation, and that war is inevitable between the factions. I hope you are wrong.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jun 15, 2017 10:48:54 AM

David:
While your writing has slackened, your ability to string words together most powerfully hasn't changed a bit!
VERY well said.

Posted by: Michael Harbater | Jun 15, 2017 12:35:12 PM

"I have no idea how we got to this present state of partisan warfare in the US, or how we might extricate ourselves from the trenches long enough to be able to see the 'soldiers' on the other side as people just like us."

Kinda reminded me of this: http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/christmas-truce-of-1914

At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer.

I doubt any holiday will unite the country at this point. Me, I'd pich Chanukah but that's just wishful thinking. Nice to see you post BTW!

Posted by: Matt Gorin | Jun 15, 2017 7:10:46 PM

David, I hope I am wrong, too, but history says I am not. Not just American history; cf. the English Civil War, the Swiss Civil War (betcha didn't know there was one), the French Revolution, the Meiji Restoration, Germany after WW1.

The let's-come-together mood lasted one day. The differences in America can no longer be resolved by words.

I may be wrong. It may be 1855. Or 1860.

Posted by: antares | Jun 16, 2017 3:46:58 AM

I think the biggest problem in our discourse stems from the general populace not remembering why civility is necessary to a civilization. We are many many generations removed from warfare fought on our soil, and people have forgotten how truly horrible war in a civilian setting can be. Add that to the echo chambers we have created on each side of the aisle, and nobody sees the problem with calling for the death of the 'other' guys. With any luck, the politicians and media personalities will realize they would not be a protected class in a civil war. Then we might start to see some of the rhetoric being toned down a bit.

Posted by: Greg in NC | Jun 19, 2017 6:53:56 PM

This conflict is asymmetrical. The wave of violence on campuses, in liberal cities, and elsewhere is from the left only. Get a grip.

Posted by: RAM | Jun 22, 2017 7:45:54 PM

Actually, I'm not sure there is any reconciliation. The left wants everyone to be able to do anything they want no matter the consequences or how abhorrent, let in everyone without concern for their connections, and to spread the wealth around even to those who really have no intentions of working. And oh, the left doesn't see the patent shadiness of Hillary and company. The right has other ideas about all of those topics. It's the widest chasm ever in politics and between those of us who live in the U.S. In fact, I don't really feel safe anymore in the U.S. But maybe that's just me.

Posted by: Jerri | Jun 26, 2017 6:30:04 PM

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