How did we arrive at the summer of 2020?

  • Start with 9/11, with its false promises of revenge on shadowy enemies that no one in power could quite define, for themselves or for anyone else.
  • Decades now of over-confident, self-assured leadership where modest humility would have served far better.
  • A torture regime that inured many, including our leaders, to violence and cruelty within our own borders.
  • Corruption of law enforcement, from top down, where we no longer have laws to enforce, and officers make war on people they have sworn to protect.
  • Concentration camps and so-called detention centers at our border and throughout the country, where we imprison families who come to us for help, casually remove children from their parents, and force them to live in gigantic cages.
  • A “see something, say something” ethos that induces us constantly to snitch on each other, which gives far more power to authorities than they ever ought to have.
  • So-called school resource officers who place four-year-olds in handcuffs, strip search eight-year-old girls, and body slam thirteen-year olds on the floor because their own teachers turn school discipline over to police.
  • A social and political movement where advocates for diverse voices act to purge viewpoints they oppose from workplaces, books, classrooms, and artistic expression.
  • A pandemic that, in six months, claims three times the number of people as the entire Vietnam war, partly due to public health officials’ ineptitude.
  • Militias routinely fight with each other, and with police.
  • Arson and looting become primary methods of protest in dozens of cities.
  • Governors use their emergency powers to forbid people to work.
  • A warrior mentality among police that leads to thoughtless, routine use of lethal force against men, women, and children – especially black men – to extract obedience, to intimidate and control, and for self-protection.
  • A bank panic that destroyed faith in public and private financial systems, and that forced many families out of their homes.
  • An opioid epidemic that functions as a touch-and-go type of suicide for people who have lost hope, and a sense of purpose.
  • Depopulated, burned out, or ruined neighborhoods, or whole sectors of cities.
  • Warfare in countries we no longer count, and no longer care to count.
  • Freedom of speech and other First Amendment rights under attack, everywhere.
  • Surveillance and searches that violate principles of privacy protected in the Fourth Amendment.
  • Such a high degree of anger, hatred, and fear that opposition political groups no longer want to live together in the same country.

If someone had predicted on September 10, 2001, that even a few of these phenomena would come to pass a brief nineteen years later, who would have credited these warnings? When Bill Clinton said in 1996 that he wanted to lead Americans to build “a bridge to the twenty-first century,” who would have described his vision thus? Even the most pessimistic among us could not have done so.

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Kenosha doesn’t have to be a vision of America’s future. Neither does Portland. But the fact that the violence is continuous and seems to be escalating is cause for concern

We call continuous civil conflict low-level civil war. Civil war is a high level of civil conflict. Whatever language we use, we have a civil war developing in front of us. We can pull back, but not with current leadership. Tuccille draws good examples for comparison. We will not find revealing comparisons in our own history, whether 1860, 1933, or 1968.

Originally tweeted by Steven Greffenius (@sgreffenius) on August 26, 2020.

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