Religion & Politics

Is America on the brink of civil war?

Letter from America, Part IV

A North American Anglican Archbishop wondered aloud, in a recent daily devotional, if our country’s leaders are leading the country off the cliff, or have already led them (its people) over the cliff. This uncertainty in our current situation, especially the economy, has brought fear, anger, and hostility to millions of Americans, he said.

It’s doubtful that a leader, religious or otherwise, would have talked like that ten years ago or even a year ago. “It’s mornin’ in America,” said one president. “Yes, we can,” said another president. “Let’s make America great again,” says the current occupant in the White House.

The truth is the country is politically deadlocked, and the more deeply divided it is, the more tensions rise and with it anger and violence. Washington politicians have an approval rating of nine per cent and the so-called swamp does not seem to be getting drained.

White men, who gave favorable reviews of Trump’s performance by a 53-41 percent split in April, now show less support for Trump, with 48 percent approving of his job performance and 46 percent disapproving, a Quinnipiac poll said. The President’s approval rating is 37 per cent overall with the American public, but his base of support among Evangelicals remains high. White evangelicals overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election and were a key part of his constituency. Still, three-quarters of white evangelical Protestants approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president, according to a new analysis of Pew Research Center surveys. This is nearly twice as high as the president’s approval rating with the general public (37 per cent).

The polarization is obvious and it is not going away. Attitudes (and anger) are more entrenched now than ever. America is at a crossroads.

The recent attack by a 66-year old white man with a rifle in a ball park inhabited by Republicans is more ominous than Americans think.

The terrifying thing about him was that he did not come off as a radical. He was not a terrorist or Muslim. He did not appear as an unstable individual. He wasn’t belligerent. He was just kind of a normal guy, said newspaper reports. That’s the awful part. He was terrifyingly normal. His wife and neighbors were bewildered by his actions – actions that he was prepared to die for.

It would have been no different had an alleged Patriot from a southern state loaded his pickup truck with weapons and headed north to where Democratic leaders were practicing baseball and shot several of them! He, too, would have been found to be your normal, red-blooded average white guy, who loved his wife and country but determined to show people he called radicals, Marxists, progressives, leftists and democrats like Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, that they were leading America down the moral drain hole from which the country might not recover. He, too, would choose death.

There are more guns than people in America. According to the Congressional Research Service, there are roughly twice as many guns per capita in the United States as there were in 1968: more than 300 million guns in all. And Americans will use them on themselves and their fellow Americans. Over 40,000 Americans will die needlessly this year. The guns (including semi-automatic weapons now outlawed in Australia) will never be used on non-existent Communists or by or on a handful of Muslim immigrants; it will be white and black Americans shooting themselves out of anger and rage against “the system” which they themselves created. The NRA [National Rifle Association] cannot be held blameless for the insane pushing of guns on fearful Americans in the name of freedom, that has now become part of American folklore. The public slaughter of innocent people, including children, in schools, churches, parks and shopping malls gives the lie that Americans know how to handle guns. They don’t. In fits of depression they use them on themselves.

I had a public run-in with a brilliant evangelical (he had a Ph.D. so he must have been bright) about his ownership of a 9-millimeter Glock. I said the mere possession of it would bring trouble. He said he kept it for a robber who might come to his home. The robber never came, but his son found the gun and when his engagement failed, he blew his brains out. The father has since left the ministry. The CDC reports that in 1999, there were 16,599 suicides committed with a firearm. In 2014, gun suicides totaled 21,334. It is probably closer to 25,000 in 2017.

Americans are on the brink of a new civil war. Black on black rage in cities like Chicago is just part of it. White anger such as we saw in Washington, DC, this week is the tip of the iceberg. Economics play a huge part of this as the Archbishop earlier noted. Sanders has raised the specter of the one percent owning 90 percent of the country’s wealth, certainly a recipe for violence against inequality.

Abraham Lincoln observed that “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

Cultural observer Os Guinness argues that “the ultimate threat to the American republic will be Americans. The problem is not wolves at the door but termites in the floor.” The future of the republic depends on whether Americans will rise to the challenge of living up to America’s unfulfilled potential for freedom, both for itself and for the world.