Can we avoid an impending Civil War?

Got your attention? I believe that we are on a path toward civil war in our country. Now, some of you will call me an alarmist. Some will say that it can’t happen in the U.S.  Others will brush me off as some liberal, over-educated elitist who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. You may be right. But what if you’re not?

Here’s what I see.

There are growing schisms in this country and the anger is palpable. Let’s start with the recent election and the reaction to the outcome. The race was between two of the most disliked candidates in the history of the presidency; and, it was a nasty race. The anger between the supporters of each candidate was clear. Regardless of who won, I anticipated civic unrest and violent reactions. We witnessed it the day after the announcement.

But it goes beyond the election. There is growing anger between the races. America is becoming more diverse and that will not stop. While the white population declines, the black and Latino population is on the increase. It is anticipated that the white population will be a minority by 2043.

Between the beliefs that minority populations have been ignored, mistreated, abused and discriminated against and the white population not wanting to surrender its majority status and power, violent conflicts all across this country are on the rise.

The Black Lives Matter campaign is demonstrating (sometimes violently) against police actions that have caused the death of several black members of their communities. This is a serious and complex matter that has caused communities to irrupt on both sides.

There is a growing conflict between Christians and Muslims. How many wars in world history have been fought over religious beliefs? Too many.  In the U.S., because of a very small number of radical Muslims (just like we have radical Christians), there is a growing sense that all Muslims mean us harm and want to destroy our country. While this is clearly not true, it doesn’t stop many from fearing the Muslim people.

There is a growing anger by a mostly white, rural population against the government with the sense that the government is too intrusive in their lives; that they pay too much in taxes (no matter what the actual amount might be); that government is supporting too many people through welfare; that government is going to take their guns; and, that government is just plain corrupt. Some of these folks have taken over government-owned buildings and ended those conflicts with their lives.

There is a growing anger toward the poor. What was formerly known as a “war on poverty” in the 1960s-1970s turned to a “war on poor people” in the 1980s. This anger grows in our society, looking down on those without means. This conflict between those with means and those without will be exacerbated as the gap grows larger.

So, is this inevitable? No. I believe with good leadership we can avoid what could become citizen against citizen violent conflicts. Elected officials working with colleges, like Fulton-Montgomery Community College, must sponsor and facilitate discussions between and among these diverse groups using facts and data, not hyperbole. It has been my experience that such discussions can lead to understanding. While understanding doesn’t always lead to agreement, it can diffuse anger and violence. We must do everything we can to teach our students and our communities productive ways to deal with issues of unrest. The alternative will cost property, and lives.

Dr. Swanger is president of FM.


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