Destined to Repeat?
Recently, I posted a line from the movie Cool Hand Luke on my Facebook page. The line, spoken by the Captain after knocking Luke down a hill for speaking disrespectfully to him, is, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach.”
This classic movie quotation came to mind after reading a variety of news stories and Facebook posts. It seems that there are a number of people who simply cannot be reached by the lessons of history. They appear to move blindly forward in oddly illogical directions ignoring factual data and historical perspective. My assumption is that they either refuse to consider the lessons to be learned, are following some alternative agenda or that they have been brainwashed into believing in something not supported by facts and history. Regardless of the reason, these individuals seem to be beyond the reach of a logical argument. Hence, the line, “Some men you just can’t reach.”
A friend of mine reminded me that the band Guns N Roses incorporated the same quotation from Cool Hand Luke into one of their songs – a song titled Civil War.
The connection between the Cool Hand Luke quotation and the Guns N Roses song title snuck up on me. When it hit me, though, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Are we headed for another “Civil War”?
That question motivated me to go back and look into the reasons for the War Between the States. The causes for the U.S. Civil War, from 1861 – 1865, are commonly oversimplified. (Not unlike many other history lessons.) My guess is that most adults living in the U.S., when questioned about the cause(s) of the Civil War, would say, “slavery”. Certainly, slavery was one of the issues. However, as with many things, the totality of the situation was much more complex than that.
In reality, the Civil War was not fought to free slaves. As a matter of fact, Lincoln, in his inaugural address, said, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” Slavery was merely a symptom of a larger, economic, issue. The issue closer to the root of the reason for the Civil War was the economic difference between the North and the South. The southern economy, at the time, was still largely based on cotton production while the economy of the north had rapidly become more industrialized. As industrialization encroached upon traditional farming practices, cheap labor (slaves) became more crucial to the continued economic well-being of the South. While the South struggled to compete, the North prospered. This economic disparity was the foundation for a significant difference in social and economic attitudes.
Economics alone, however, were not enough to ignite the flames that burned hot into war. In addition to the economic gap between the North and the South an argument over States’ rights had grown more and more vehement. The federal government had denied the States the ability to nullify any federal acts they felt to be unconstitutional. When the States in support of nullification found themselves stymied they moved toward secession. Lincoln’s administration rejected the legality of secession, but Lincoln, in his inaugural address, insisted that he would not initiate a civil war. This placated the eight remaining “slave states” for a time. Unfortunately, the Peace Conference of 1861 failed to find a compromise. Both sides began to prepare for war.
In addition to the factors of harsh economic conditions and eroding States’ rights, Lincoln’s election was also a catalyst for war. Although Lincoln said many of the “right things” to assuage the concerns of the South, a considerable number of southerners were suspicious of the true intent of Lincoln’s administration – particularly after the ruling on the legality of succession.
A wedge was driven between the States. As blow after blow rang down, iron upon iron, the sparks ignited a war that ultimately led to the death of 750,000 soldiers and an undetermined number of civilians.
Are the conditions right for a second Civil War? Let’s compare what led to the war’s beginning in 1861 to our current economic, political and social situation.
Harsh economic conditions and a growing divide between the Have’s (those working for a living) and the Have Not’s (those living off of those working for a living). Check.
With the Fiscal Cliff behind (above?) us, and legislation passed to supposedly cushion our landing, are we any better off? The Social Security tax rate went up by two percentage points – increasing the tax burden on virtually every middle class worker in the U.S. (those for whom the current administration pretends to be fighting). Virtually nothing was done to eradicate debt or reduce the ever-growing deficit.
Encroachment on States’ (and individuals’) rights? Check.
Any number of politicians are frothing at the mouth to limit Constitutional rights in the name of knee-jerk, feel-good legislation. Never mind that criminals don’t obey laws. Never mind that the so-called “assault weapons” these bureaucrats want to ban are used in less than 1% of gun crimes. Never mind that similar legislation had no appreciable effect on gun crime reduction in the past. Never mind that the Bill of Rights guarantees that this particular right “shall not be infringed”. The absolute lack of logic associated with this ban, when proposed by otherwise intelligent individuals, suggests an ulterior motive. A motive demonstrated time and again throughout history. A disarmed populous is much easier to control. As conditions worsen, control is in the best interest of a far-reaching federal government … and in the worst interest of a free people.
(Re)Election of a deeply divisive president? Check.
Just look at the recent election results. A little over half of the country will follow our current president as blindly as if he was the Pied Piper. A little less than half of the country wouldn’t agree with the man if he said the sky was blue. Love him or hate him, very few people are on the fence.
The blows of the hammer ring in our ears – those of us who are listening – as it strikes the steel wedge being driven deeper and deeper into the fiber of our society. Will a spark soon ignite the tinder? Are we destined to repeat history?