Column  No. 39 By Steven Jonas, MD, MPH - December 15, 2004

This column is the first of a series on this subject that will appear intermittently over time in this space.  The columns in the series will be interspersed with columns on other matters that strike me of worthy of attention.

In my view, a Second Civil War will come to plague our country regardless of whether Bush or Kerry had won the 2004 election, Unless.  While something totally unexpected still could happen, Bush has almost certainly retained his grip on the White House.  Apparently, he did this with the use of massive cheating of all kinds across the country at the polls and within the guts of many voting machines.  Given Republican control of most of the courts through which any challenges in the key states must flow, it is highly unlikely that the outcome will be changed.  Of course, if the matter does somehow get to the Supreme Court again, just as in 2000 the final decision would come down to just one vote, that of  Sandra Day O’Connor, who, being an avowed Republican, would most likely vote just as she did in 2000.

In any event, regardless of the results of this election, as I said in my view our country faces the very real threat of a Second Civil War sometime in the foreseeable future.  With the Georgites remaining in power, this war is likely to occur sooner.  If Sen. Kerry were somehow to ultimately win, unless he were to make certain critical policy and political decisions early in his Presidency (which, based on his performance both before and after November 2 he would be highly unlikely to do), this war would still come, although somewhat later.

The reason, and the only reason, that we face this cataclysm is the ever-growing political power of the Republican Religious Right.  At its core is Karl Rove’s “base,” the Fundamentalist Christian movement, that is becoming stronger by the day.  The primary agenda of these people, and they tell us what it is every day in their speeches, sermons, and writings, is to gain complete control over the personal behavior and religious beliefs of every single American, through the use of the criminal law.  If they are not stopped, eventually the implementation of their agenda will lead either to civil war or to open, national, fascism and complete oppression of the all elements of the population that does not find favor with them.

My position can be characterized as bold, alarmist, totally premature.  I fully intend it to be.  We have got to start focusing on what these people are really about, and it has nothing to do with “values,” whatever that vaguest of vague terms means.  In this series, I am going to deal with what I see as the issues rending the civil fabric of our nation that may well eventually lead to violent conflict, if they are not confronted forthrightly and directly and soon.  In my view, together they form the present “Firebell in the Night,” warning of future civil war, the term that Thomas Jefferson used in describing the Missouri Compromise of 1820 as a warning of just such a forthcoming event.  That Compromise dealt with the issue of the expansion of slavery into the territories and the new states that would over time be formed in them.  Among the issues today that are similarly threatening our national social fabric are those of: race, sexual identity and its civil expression, the status of women, freedom of religious belief, the role of government in our nation, and Constitutionalism and the Rule of Law versus the Rule of Man.

In examining the parallels between the present situation in our country and those that existed on the rocky and convoluted pathway that lead to the First Civil War, in my view it is especially important to note the following.  The Civil War of 1861-65 did not begin as a contest over slavery, per se.  Abraham Lincoln came to see it as such by the time he wrote his Second Inaugural Address in 1864.  But the principal slavery-referenced issue that he campaigned on in the election of 1860 was the matter of its further expansion into the territories.  He wanted to stop it; the South wanted to promote it.

They wanted to force the slavery concept into all of the remaining lands of the original Louisiana Purchase and those conquered from Mexico in 1846-8 that had not already been incorporated in the Union as States.  In a similar way, the Republican Religious Right wants to force its concepts of what it calls “morality,” such issues of belief as to when life begins and of personal identity and behavior as to sexual orientation, onto our society and into the minds of every member of it by the use of the criminal law.  If they get their way, there will eventually be the death penalty for anyone providing an abortion, prison for women who have them, prison or worse for homosexuals who “refuse to recant,” some contemporary version of the Inquisition for “finding the heretics” who don’t happen to believe in their particular version of Christianity and then punishing them.  Don’t believe me?  Go to “Christian Reconstructionism” (which is the fundamental theology of the majority of Christian Fundamentalists) on the web.  Falwell would start with the “secular humanists,” Coulter with the “liberal traitors.”

Forcing the concept of white supremacy and thus black slavery onto all the territory of the United States other than that protected from it up until 1850, and forcing a particular view of “morality” upon everyone in the country by the use of the criminal law, are to my mind very similar, both in their effects and in their potential for leading to civil war.  In this series, I will be dealing with this primary issue and the others listed above.  But first, in the next two weeks, I will present a brief introduction to the “Unless” in the title of the series.