Nothing like the juxtaposition of the split rail fences of the Manassas battlefields with the residential and retail sprawl of suburban D.C., to remind one that Americans are willing to kill each other to make a point.
A family wedding took me off the island last weekend with a flight from Key West to Washington, D.C., and then a rental car ride through the Civil War battlefields – or War of Northern Aggression, depending on one’s preferred American history book.
Americans haven’t changed much in the 150 years since General Robert E. Lee ’s Appomattox, VA, surrender in April 1865 to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, ending a four-year kill-a-thon that destroyed at least three generations and scarred our collective psyche in ways we still haven’t understood.
American intransigence in the 1860s kept us from finding a collaborative path to do the right things without picking up guns. Unless we call a halt to American intransigence 2014 model, we will find ourselves once again killing to make a point.
There are fundamental similarities between the heels-dug-in culture of 1860 and today.
- The economic, cultural and educational disparities between the haves and have nots put most Americans far below the power-wielding top 10 percent.
- The visceral fear of losing “mine” pits color, culture, religion and economics against each other to prove we can maintain our status quo in which “we” – by whatever definition one selects – get to stay on top at whatever the cost.
- The libertarian “don’t tread on me” isolation mistakenly revels in believing one can go it alone, the government and good-for-the-group be damned.
- The calls to Christianity and preservation of “traditional family values” become the code words for if you don’t believe as I do, don’t look as I do, don’t do as I do, then you are dead wrong.
- The gathering storm of sheer pig headedness results in scorched earth decisions that shut down government, shatter collaborative ventures that do good for the group and celebrate as heroes those who stand their ground on false principles and unenlightened rhetoric.
Americans are once again at the crisis catalyst. We can follow the split rail fences along Virginia’s Lee Highway straight into a killing field or we can find a path to do what’s right without bloodshed.
I’d like to think we can dispense with the “I’ve got mine,” isolationist, secession fear of change that drove us into the War Between the States. I fear we will not.