Talk to historians on all sides of the American Civil War and you’ll get several different answers as to why it began. Some say it was a war against the inhumanity that was slavery; others say it was a war of States’ rights vs. Federal compulsion. Even the barest reading of contemporary sources show that something was boiling in the years before the war began; had Lincoln not been elected, it’s entirely likely that something else would have set off the war further down the road. Once it began, however, there was no turning back. 4 years and over 500,000 dead later, not much was solved. The South was shattered, the North felt righteous, the Slaves were free…though not really…and the country kept its borders right where they were before the war began.
The question I have now is, are we on that road once again? If so, what might the catalyst be this time? If you’re looking at policies, look no further then gay marriage, energy, scope of Government, and abortion. If you’re looking at ‘class’, listen to how people on the extreme East and West coasts refer to middle America as “fly over” country. Don’t get me started on race possibilities…we as a country have been there, done that, and flat out don’t seem to have learned our lesson. With all the vitriol and hate being spewed on a minute by minute basis by people who are either anonymous through the internet or are essentially untouchable through the media, it’s only a matter of time before something gives. For my money (what little there is), I’m betting on immigration.
As a quick primer, Arizona recently passed a law that says if you’re reasonably suspected of being illegally in the country (and hence the state) and you are confronted by a police officer, that officer has the responsibility to stop looking the other way and ask you to prove your right to be in the country…same as any other country can do to people within their own borders. If you’re caught being in our country illegally, the police have the right to arrest you and turn you over to ICE…same as they do in any other country if you’re caught being there illegally. So far, no war, right?
Here’s where it gets interesting. The federal government has sued Arizona for creating this law stating that it is the purview of the government to enforce entry in and out of the country’s borders and that by creating a law in which their police officers may or may not have to judge a person’s immigration status on the basis of their own criteria, Arizona has crossed a line from State power into Federal power. Arizona says it is being torn apart by crime brought into its borders by illegal aliens. Using logic, it’s easy to see that illegal aliens (i.e. persons who do not pay federal or state taxes) unfairly saddle the state with higher unpaid hospital claims, insurance premiums, school attendance, and so forth. To the citizens of Arizona, the benefit of cheap labor no longer seems worth the cost in time and treasure.
When I start to line up the historical context is when I really start to get scared. Arizona wants the illegal aliens gone; the Federal Government says they can’t do it. Check it out – State Rights vs. Federal Compulsion; sounds familiar doesn’t it? Civil Rights groups from all over the country are standing up decrying Arizona’s law stating that it unduly targets persons of ‘different’ skin color – sound like Abolitionists at all? Federal powers are being used to force a population change upon a state that the state doesn’t wish to have happen – Path to Citizenship or Free Soil movement? Do I really believe these things could cause a civil war in this country? Alone, no, but in combination with other things that have our country set at ‘boil’…yeah, I can see it happening.
Recent happenings worldwide have shown how America is not isolated from the events of the rest of the world. Plenty of civil wars have been and are being fought in our generation. In more than a few cases, the US has intervened to keep things from spreading; if we go down that same path, who’ll step in to keep us ‘civil’?