Civil wars are anything but civil.
Cold wars are wars fought with alternatives to weapons.
Sure, there is racism, sexism, cronyism and haters of all stripes. America is being polarized, yes, but not in a way that will likely lead to civil war of the bloody variety. We are still much too comfortable to stoop that low. Our civil war, if I can call it that, will be a cold civil war, with silent factions judging each other and tweeting snark from afar or erasing the other’s chalk drawings on college campus common areas. When things start to heat up, there will be a collective gut check, as there is in every cold war, and Maslow’s Hierarchy will be invoked, even if only subconsciously, to achieve periodic détente. That is one of the checks and balances of a thick middle class. Sustaining the American Dream is hence insurance against a real civil war.
On the international stage our cold wars are getting incrementally colder, but remaining glossily civil. How long will civility hold when national interests demand a realpolitik response to economic pressures or neoimperialism? It seems that with this election civility is no longer en vogue. The next president may have carte blanche to be a strongwoman, or man. Perhaps civility, to a disenchanted generation, suggests weakness, or untruthfulness.
To end the cold civil war at home and the civil cold war abroad, we must:
- raise up and acknowledge local and national leaders who have principles and strength, but also the gravitas of a moral compass
- support and invest in the building blocks of the American Dream: freedom, education, innovation, civic institutions…
- become transparent and pragmatic, but remain principled in our responses to globalization and imperialism
- wake up from the cultural opiates and stimulants that would keep us from fully living up to our highest purpose as individuals, communities and as a nation
If I champion civility, let it not be perceived as advocating for a weak America. On the contrary, the right kind of civility is precisely the Rebar we need to reinforce our noblest principles.