Manifesto Apocalypzia: USA, One Nation Indivisible?
Monday/March/22 2010 Filed in: Philosophy / World View
"The Civil War Made Us an Is"
The late master-historian, Shelby Foote, had this to say about the true legacy of the American Civil War:
Before the war, it was said "the United States are." Grammatically, it was spoken that way and thought of as a collection of independent states.
And after the war, it was always "the United States is," as we say to day without being self-conscious at all. And that's sums up what the war accomplished. It made us an "is."
By Mr. Foote's observation, something fundamental and profound came out of the War Between the States.
The US became a single thing rather than a collection of individual things.
The American Experiment was essentially revisited, revised and reborn in 1865, less than 90 years after its founding.
What entered the American Civil War was a loose federation of states. What emerged from its bloody ashes was a single entity, the USA.
The life span of this new American Experiment was not much longer than the original one.
In the broadest sense, America's postbellum cohesion lasted about one hundred years.
The perception of the USA as an "is" stretched from Reconstruction ... through the Great War of 1914-1919 ... the Great Depression ... World War II ... the construction of the interstate highway system ... and the successful Apollo missions that landed Americans on the surface of the Moon.
From Civil War to Civil Rights
But the American monolith started to crumble just as the legislative struggles in the mid-20th century Civil Rights movement were being won.
Just as the last great wounds of Civil War and Reconstruction were beginning to heal, a new and terrifying division threatened to tear the nation apart.
And at the dawn of the 1960's, outgoing President Eisenhower sounded the alarm.
Them vs Us
Somewhere between Dylan and Disco, whatever had held the union united for nearly a century after the Civil War began to lose its grip.
The emergence of the post-conscription Military-Industrial Complex created a new tectonic shift that wrought havoc and destruction on the American social landscape.
The professional/ mercenary military and quarterly-profit-driven industry working separately or in tandem redefined the nature of them vs us.
Soon government itself joined the military and industry to forge an unholy trinity that viewed its citizens as useful idiots, exploitable opponents, troublesome others.
And over the course of a few, short decades, political debate transformed from idea-based dialogue to that of base-ideologues of the far left and far right screaming invectives at each other.
A history of triumph over despair
American history and heritage suggest that somehow we can find a way to overcome the tyrannical politics of divide and conquer. We've done it before and we can do it again.
... there's something different this time...
... in the social fabric...
... and our inflated sense of self-entitlement...
... has distorted the collective reality...
... that we were all in the same boat.