Commentary: Our armchair civil warriors

Commentary: Our armchair civil warriors


There’s been plenty of chatter on the internet nowadays regarding the potential for another civil war in the United States. And to be clear right out of the gate, barring a true constitutional meltdown, civil war is a very bad idea. Despite their horrible destructiveness, I’ve seen the chatter from both liberal and conservative, and likely you have, too.

Many of the people advocating or threatening civil war today either have no experience with it, haven’t watched international news closely enough, have read very little about warfare in general — especially civil warfare — or have talked very little with U.S. combat veterans. Somehow our armchair civil warriors (often sexagenarians and above) never seem to imagine their own neighborhoods looking like the ones they see on TV, let alone no water, food or power.

However, there’s no shortage of material on the subject in good academic libraries, but also on the internet. Start with Caesar’s “Civil War” and progress steadily toward our own era through the American and French revolutions, American Civil War of 1859-1865, and through the Russian and Chinese revolutions. Somewhat like Caesar, Mao Zedong also wrote about his, if you’re curious.

But here is a bit of old American Civil War romance:

After dividing a small box of sardines, “we crawled down to the marshy ground below us to get some water. By feeling about in the dark I found a horse track sunk in the mud, which was full, and I drank about half of it, then went back to my horse and lay down close to what I thought was a sleeping man and was dead asleep as was [Col. A.S.] Pendleton in an instant. When I awoke I found my neighbor was a dead Yankee soldier, the sun was up and Pendleton was gone. I went down to find my horse track and found the water left in the track was much discolored by the blood which had flowed from the dead Yankee who was lying some two or three feet above it. The thought that I had slaked my thirst on such water made me very sick….”

Capt. Charles Minor Blackford, CSA, did become ghastly ill for several weeks.

That was then, you say, but a U.S Iraq-Kuwait war veteran told me a similar tale, sans the horse.

Today’s armchair civil warriors, whether in Hollywood or Washington, driven by highly charged TV news, run out to buy a gun (if they don’t already have one), head to a rifle range (some of them) to squeeze off a few practice rounds in serene, sterile conditions, then drive home to warm dinners, and more cable TV news in their arm chairs where they’ll fire off some rifle-charging tweets before retiring to a soft, cozy bed and pumpkin-pie dreams.

They’ll wake up, stretch, scratch their bellies and sooner than later, head for the coffee pot.

As a child, standing in the wrecked houses of post-WW II Germany, I sometimes wondered eerily about the fates of the people who once lived in them. I was acutely aware that no German child ever set foot in them. Of course, I have a better understanding of that today.

Don’t push it.

David Alan Coia is a journalist, editor and educator living in Arlington, Virginia.

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