There is a new topic floating around the media today. Here’s the headline (and here’s a link to the story):
Congressman warns US heading towards civil war – 31% of Americans agree
So. there are a few dialogue points here. (Remember, dialogue means suspending previous assumptions in order to learn from each other.)
- Is this true? Can it be validated? The article says that the headline comes from a “troubling new poll which shows that 31% of Americans believe a second civil war is likely in the next five years.” Where’s that poll? It’s not until you get deep into the article that you see the source:
A new Rasmussen national telephone and online survey found that 31 percent of likely US voters say it’s “likely” that the United States will descend into a second civil war in the next five years. Eleven percent of respondents said that civil war in the near future was “very likely,” while only 29 percent said it was “not at all likely.”
Democrats (37 percent) were more fearful than Republicans (32 percent) and voters not affiliated with either major party (26 percent) that a second civil war is at hand. The survey also found that 59 percent of all voters are concerned that those opposed to Trump’s policies will resort to violence.
2. How is this data being used? To incite fear? To wake people up? To actually accelerate unrest?
3. Can war ever truly be civil? What is the purpose of war? Here’s one idea:
Carl von Clausewitz, in his book On War, developed the following points about the purpose of war:
War must never be seen as having any purpose in itself, but should be seen as an instrument of Politik–a German word that conflates the meanings of the English words policy and politics: “War is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means.”
The military objectives in war that support one’s political objectives fall into two broad types: “war to achieve limited aims” and war to “disarm” the enemy: “to render [him] politically helpless or militarily impotent.”
All else being equal, the course of war will tend to favour the party with the stronger emotional and political motivations, but especially the defender (a notion that surprises and confuses many readers, who typically expect a soldier—especially a German soldier—to be a proponent of aggressive warfare). Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_War#Synopsis
So to go one step further, civil is defined as:
So those two definitions of “civil” are almost contradictory when it comes to relating them to “war.” The first is distinct from military matters, which is exactly what war is. And the second, to be courteous and polite: when have you ever considered war to be courteous and polite?
How was it determined that the war of the 1860s would come to be known as the Civil War? There is a lot of history to take in in order to understand the whole picture, but here’s a paragraph that might be interesting to some:
“A disgruntled minority had captured the reins of power in the South and rode it out of the Union because it did not like the way a presidential election turned out. This act defied the core principle of democratic self-government, for elections have validity only when all parties agree to abide by results, even when they don’t like them.” Source: https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/17/the-name-of-war/
Instead of working things out and engaging in civil discourse, those who didn’t agree with the core principle of democratic self-government back then resorted to violence. Are we headed in that direction in our country right now? Why does it seem to be so difficult to have open, honest, rational dialogue today?
What have we learned from the first Civil War? Is there an opportunity to actually be civil while still disagreeing with fundamental belief structures? Can we be civil – courteous and polite – when creating dialogue about those dissenting beliefs?
I will go to my grave believing wholeheartedly in that possibility and will do everything in my power to avoid what 31% of Americans apparently believe about the emergence of the next civil war. It can start in your homes and your workplaces. Talk WITH people instead of AT them. Commit to becoming a powerful listener and an understander of people before you force your ideas on them. Ask questions instead of giving commands.
If we truly engage in dialogue where we suspend – not necessarily completely disregard – our previous beliefs, assumptions, and judgments when we are listening to someone else, might there be a way to find common ground, however narrow it might be?
I’m betting my life on it.