Prospects for America: Sanders vs Civil War
(And that is not a threat, of course, but a prediction)
An analysis of the present state and future prospects of the nation
An open letter in response to Daily Kos,
and to anyone concerned with either justice, or peace
The article I recently wrote and published on Daily Kos, Prognosis for America: Sanders or Civil War, (January 26, 2016) seemed to cause quite a stir, and quite a backlash. I will repeat again, to clarify, that I merely made a prediction, based on sound evidence, and what are, to me, obvious and undeniable facts.
What I said was that the US now has such extreme and growing levels of inequality and internal divisions, that tensions are high and mounting, and that if real positive social change is not soon forthcoming, the country is at serious risk of descending into a nightmare of civil war.
This may be shocking to some, but anyone who is paying attention to what is going on should not be shocked in the least. These things should be obvious. Even members of the corporate elite are warning of it. They too are afraid that the country could explode into civil war.
And they should be afraid. Civil war is a horror which any sane person should wish to avoid. But it is heading for the US, I believe, if real change continues to be blocked, and long-standing and legitimate grievances among the people are not addressed.
I clearly did not, and do not advocate civil war, but urged that it be recognized as a serious risk, and that it be averted. I clearly did not say that either Bernie Sanders or his supporters are going to launch a civil war – something that should not need be said.
What I said was that the popular movement that is now coalescing around Bernie Sanders’ Presidential candidacy represents the only serious hope for real social change on the present horizon, and if that route to change is blocked, or does not bear fruit, then the country could be in real danger, due to its own unaddressed and growing internal tensions.
To repeat, I believe the tensions within the United States have reached such a high degree, that only three options present themselves.
One is revolution – and I am speaking here of the kind of revolution that Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. would launch or advocate: bold, passionate, determined, but strictly non-violent. That is the most intelligent option for the American people at present, I would say, given the circumstances, and given the fact that the corporate elite and the billionaire class of de facto oligarchs have taken over the political process, the government, the economy, most of the media, and the nation in general.
That is the response which I have been passionately urging for a long time now. But, unfortunately, I do not see evidence to believe that the American people are ready for it yet. So that option, at the present moment, appears to be closed. Things could change quickly, but for the time being, I do not think that revolution, at least in the near term, is something we should count on.
The second option is reform. And by reform, I do not mean pretty speeches that lead to no real change. Nor do I mean merely changing the window dressings. I mean real social change that comes about by political, economic and social reforms, such as bringing about serious election financing laws, invoking serious anti-trust legislation to break up the big banks and other corporate cartels and oligopolies, removing big money from politics, and returning power to the people, and thereby, at the same time, restoring some greater degree of equality and justice in the land.
There are many people, many movements, and many organizations working to accomplish such goals, but again, at present, the only serious hope for accomplishing such mild, moderate, but extremely important and urgently needed reforms in the short term, in any way that is at all commensurate with the scale of changes needed, is with the movement surrounding Bernie Sanders.
Hillary Clinton is not going to do these things. That is perfectly clear, or at least it should be. Hillary is owned by Wall Street, to put it frankly and most bluntly. And nor do I see any other person or any other movement that at present has enough popular backing and popular power to have any hope, at least in the near term, of accomplishing these goals, other than the movement surrounding Bernie Sanders.
I do think the Green Party and also the Occupy movement, along with the co-op movement, the re-localization movement, and other popular movements for social change, show great promise; but they still do not have the necessary support of a wide enough or impassioned enough popular backing to create the necessary changes of the necessary magnitude – not yet. Maybe they will soon, and I hope they do, but at present, Bernie Sanders and the movement that is building around his leadership, is our best, and probably only hope, for real, substantial change in the short term.
The third option for the United States is to continue on its present course, without revolution, and without any serious reform, or any real change. That option will, I guarantee you, lead to disaster.
So yes, I stand by my premise and my prediction, which is, that if serious change does not occur very soon in the US, either by revolution or by reform – and Bernie Sanders’ campaign and the popular movement surrounding it, being the only real hope for serious reform at present – then the US faces a very real and growing risk of descending, or even exploding, into civil war.
Sometimes uncomfortable truths must be spoken. Sometimes controversial statements must be made. In 2001, it was controversial to say that invading, bombing or otherwise attacking Afghanistan or Iraq, would be morally unconscionable, a violation of international law, a war crime, and furthermore, a disaster. But these were the facts of the matter, and they had to be said, whether or not the speaking of the truth made a great many people uncomfortable. And of course, it turned out that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were all of these things, and they were a disaster in moral, fiscal and human terms.
When Henry David Thoreau wrote his landmark essay, On Civil Disobedience, in the 1830’s, it was controversial to say that slavery was an abomination, and one which must be abolished. But these controversial statements, of course, had to be made, whether they were viewed by some as controversial or not.
And and ever since that short, great essay of truly monumental import and significance, and still to this day, it has been and continues to be controversial to say that there are times when the law must be broken and civil disobedience becomes a moral obligation, because both the law as well as the norm, are in not only in the wrong, but further, it is unconscionable to obey them. And yet, it is vitally necessary that we speak such controversial thoughts, and demand that laws and norms which are unethical in the extreme be disobeyed, and civil disobedience be undertaken as a matter of moral principle.
During the Suffragette Movement, it was controversial to say that women deserved the right to vote. But it had to be said, and today most people would agree that it had to be said, and said with passion, until the message was heard and acted upon.
During the Civil Rights Movement, especially at the early stages of it, it was controversial to say that racial segregation was morally repugnant, as well as socially divisive and destabilizing, and therefore had to be overturned and abolished. But these things had to be said in any case – even if they were controversial, and even if there was a violent backlash against such statements of simple truth.
From the birth of the environmental movement, in the 1950’s and ’60’s, until the present, and especially in the early stages of the movement, it was controversial, and to many people it remains controversial, to say that human beings are affecting the earth, and all life on it, in disastrous as well as highly unethical ways. And yet, these truths needed to be spoken, and still need to be spoken today, be they controversial or not.
The movement to end racial discrimination and racially-based police violence – a movement which has long and deep roots, but which is now coming to a greater prominence – has extremely important things to say, but much of what it has to say is viewed as controversial by many people. And yet, these things must simply be said, whether or not they make some people uncomfortable.
And in the present moment, the same is true with regards to my warning that the US is in serious danger of descending into civil war. It makes people uncomfortable to say such things. It is controversial, perhaps, to some minds at least, to say such things. But it is an uncomfortable truth which must be spoken nevertheless.
Believe me, a warning is much less discomforting than a full-scale disaster – and that is what we are facing, hurtling towards us at 100 miles an hour, if we do not make major changes, and now.
“… an open society may also be threatened. … from excessive individualism.
Too much competition and too little cooperation can cause intolerable inequities and instability. …
The present situation is comparable to that at the turn of the past century. …Yet the free-market regime that prevailed a hundred years ago was destroyed by the First World War. …
How much more likely the present regime is to break down unless we learn from experience!”
– Toward a Global Open Society, by George Soros
Atlantic Monthly, January 1998
As the Dalai Lama said, “If the poor become too envious and too frustrated, the frustration turns into anger, and that anger turns into violence.” Again, this should be obvious to all. We are headed for disaster if we do not address the rising levels of poverty and inequality in our society, and in the world more broadly, and very, very soon. These are the simple facts of the matter, whether we like it or not.
I like what my favourite monk had to say about writing, and it is relevant here.
“If you’re afraid of writing something that might offend someone,
why write anything at all?”
– Thomas Merton
And by the way, simply because someone says something that is controversial, does not mean they are “trolling” for a fight. They may be simply saying something that is controversial, but which needs to be said.
I despise bickering, quarrelling, rancour, and especially, thoughtless divisiveness – which the popular internet expression, “troll” represents: a term that is often justly used, but at other times, frequently thrown about in a thoughtless or reactionary manner, in which case it has the effect, either intended or unintended, of deterring and thwarting any serious discussion, or expression controversial statements or views diverge from the standard media-driven narrative.
It was not “trolling” for a fight to simply speak my mind, but merely a moral obligation, to me, in the face of such extreme injustice, human suffering, and great dangers facing the people. Smarmy and smug, sardonic comments are not helpful to our discussion, nor to the people of the United States or the world. Hurling accusations of “troll”, at least in this case, simply shows that the attacker has no intelligent argument to bring to bear, but must instead resort to hurling insults. Let us try to rise above that.
If we want to look at controversial statements that could be labelled as “trolling” – and mislabelled as trolling, since they were simply sincere statements, representing an attempt to spark thoughtful reflection and discussion, here are a few by some truly great Americans which we would do well to consider. Compared to these statements, the statements I made in the above essay were very mild indeed.
“The First Law of Journalism: to confirm existing prejudice, rather than contradict it.”
– Alexander Cockburn
“I sometimes despair of getting anything accomplished by the help of my fellow men. Their minds would first have to be placed in a kind of powerful vice, to squeeze their old ideas out of them.”
– Henry David Thoreau
“If the Nuremberg laws were applied today, every US president since WWII would be hanged.”
– Noam Chomsky
“Today capitalism has outlived its usefulness. It has brought about a system that
takes necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.
“Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government
owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people.”
– Teddy Roosevelt
“I hope we shall crush the new moneyed aristocracy in its infancy, for it already bids defiance to our laws, and bids a contest of strength with our democratic government.”
– Thomas Jefferson, 1812 (Note that he said this in 1812!)
Let us try to keep things in perspective. Not everything can be sugar coated, dumbed down, skirted or perennially avoided. Sometimes we have to speak the frank and honest truth, even if it is painful to hear, or to say.
Nor do I find my predictions for, or analysis of, the United States, to be hyperbole of any sort. I think it is quite shocking – or it would be shocking, if I did not know that many people are deeply steeped in denial – that the statements I made would shock anyone. Have a great number of people been living under a rock for the past three decades? Apparently so. The United States is not what it used to be, and it is in great danger – from its own internal divisions, above all, as well as from the corporate elite who are rapidly devouring it, along with the world, the middle class and the poor.
If stating obvious truths, or simply making controversial statements, makes some people uncomfortable, and perhaps very upset, I am willing to live with that. That goes with the territory.
But if stating obvious truths, or even simply making controversial statements, gets me banned from Daily Kos, then this journal, this forum, has some serious problems with freedom of speech and openness to diverse and thoughtful discussion – and that is quite dismal.
I suspect that the problem here, with regard to Daily Kos banning me on my first day as a member – maybe a new record – was simple partisan politics: Daily Kos is by an large a dyed in the wool and staunch supporter of the Democratic Party establishment, from what I can see, although there is some dissent within the broader forum. Hillary is the anointed candidate of the Democratic Party establishment. Any serious challenge to the Democratic Party’s chosen candidate by more genuinely democratic political movements or voices, are frowned upon, at the least, and possibly even banished from Daily Kos, as has apparently happened before. But that is beside the point. The editorial actions of Daily Kos remain a gross violation of the principles of free speech and free and open debate, and as such, are repugnant, no matter what the motivation or rationalization may have been.
In fact, if the editors at Daily Kos are going to ban me from this forum, which they did, and they have yet to rescind or reverse their decision, then not only do they have serious failings with regards to free and open discussion, and basic freedom of speech, but they do not qualify for the term “progressive”, much less the high and vaulted self-annointment of presenting themselves as the leading voice of progressive America.
But we are facing much bigger and far more important issues than the editorial policies or current state of Daily Kos, of course.
During the Great Depression, FDR, who I believe was a man of conscience, came to realize that there was not only a moral crisis facing the United States, but also a social and political crisis. It was realized then by the ruling elite, that tensions were high, and if serious changes were not made to address the people’s legitimate concerns, then there was a serious risk of revolution.
The political elite, and at least a portion of the business elite, knew that concessions had to be made. Smedley Butler had blown the lid off of The Business Plot, so the corporate-led fascist coup which was planned, and which Congress documented after General Butler’s testimony, seemed to no longer be an option, at least for the moment; and so, concessions were viewed as necessary and unavoidable.
(See my essay, Smedley Butler and the Business Plot, on WordPress.)
That was the beginning of The New Deal, and the beginning of major programs and initiatives to address poverty and inequality in America. And today, once again – after four decades of rising corporate powers, not only effectively having taken over the political process, government, finance and the economy, but also, rolling back many of the gains that had been made by the people over the past several decades and more – poverty is high and growing, inequality is higher than at any time in history, tensions are high, and if serious political, economic and social change is not made soon, the results are very likely to be a conflagration of one kind or another.
Again, I think these things should, by now, to obvious to just about everyone. The Occupy Wall Street movement was just the beginning. Real change is coming, and as John F. Kennedy said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
And that is not a threat. It is a prediction, and it is a virtual certainty – if we fail to make the needed changes in time. Neither JFK nor myself were making a threat: it was simply an observation of the obvious facts, and a very sound and reasonable prediction based on the facts.
I have written about these things before, and extensively, and my writing and analysis is based upon thirty years of intensive research, study and reflection. (And I will freely mention my other writing here, and quite legitimately, because it is relevant to the subject at hand, above all; and because it has merit, because it should be widely read, and because I do not have a PR or marketing firm working on my behalf, or even an agent, and so, must, by necessity, promote my work myself, if it is to have the kind of positive impact I hope for it, or any impact at all.) My recent essay, Pre-Revolutionary France and America:1785 and Now; and my recent book, Enlightened Democracy: Visions For A New Millennium, cover the subject in greater depth.
Remember also, that I predicted the economic crash of 2008, at a time when virtually everyone was saying that things are just rosy, and would remain so for the foreseeable future. There is good reason, therefore, to take these present predictions as to the current dangers facing the United States, quite seriously, and with all due thoughtfulness.
We should note also, that people as diverse as billionaire financier George Soros, who single-handedly brought the British Pound to its knees, before finishing his breakfast one fine morning; along with South African tycoon Johann Rupert, the fifth richest man in Africa; and multi-billionaire Nick Hanauer, who recently penned an open letter addressed, “To My Fellow Zillionaires”, warning, The Pitchforks ARE Coming…For Us Plutocrats; to David Sirota, the progressive democrat, veteran journalist and activist, and author of the book, The Uprising: An Unauthorized Tour of the Populist Revolt Scaring Wall Street and Washington; to Jacques Attali, leading intellectual in residence to the French elite, and author of the book, Millennium: Winners and Losers in the Coming World Order, among many others, have all warned essentially of the same thing: a great confrontation and great turmoil is brewing in America, if not also the world, and it is plain to see for anyone who cares to look. To me it has been so plainly obvious for so long, that, again, it is almost shocking that some still cannot see it. The writing is clearly on the wall.
Peaceful change through political, economic and social reforms is urgently needed, and world-wide, or we will face a crisis of truly terrible proportions – and the US is in the lead in terms of rushing headlong into disaster, if these changes are not made quickly, and now. This should be so plain as to go without saying. It is a testimony to the fact that large segments of the population remain asleep, or stubbornly and foolishly in denial, that such things need to be stated at all.
Let’s hope serious positive change comes to the United States, or rather, is actively brought about in the United States, and soon, is all I can say. People can take these warnings, and heed them, or brush them aside. But if they choose to ignore them, I assure you, it will be at their peril.
As Martin Luther King Jr. said, at another time of rising crisis, “We must face the fierce urgency of now…..There is such a thing as being too late.”
Two hundred years ago, the business elite backed the democratic revolutions of France and America, because they rightly saw it as a means to break the back of the ruling monarchy and aristocracy. But ever since, they have been, at best, ambivalent about democracy, and have sought an undeclared oligarchy, with themselves as the new ruling god-kings, pharaohs or tsars. (Chomsky documents this very well, in what is perhaps his most important book, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control In Democratic Societies – a book should be considered essential reading for every informed person.)
And today, after two hundred years of exponentially rising powers, the business elite is not only the principle obstacle to real and authentic democracy, and rule of the people, by the people, for the people; but they are, in fact, engaged in an aggressive and determined war against democracy, as with the people and the earth.
The business elite, who are now firmly in control, both in the United States and in most nations around the world, foolishly believe that they can have a grand global showdown against the people, and win. I would remind them that any such foolish notions and foolish responses to a very real and growing social crisis, will not end in peace, and nor will they end quickly. Such an attitude will result only in a long and protracted state of civil war, in which the toll on all sides is truly horrific, and devastating.
The stubborn, and quite foolishly smug refusal among the business and political elite to embrace change, must be overcome. And even more importantly, the excessive docility and obedience of the majority of the people, and their continued insistence on voting for the candidates of the business elite, such as Hillary Clinton, must be overcome.
I realize that there are some very thoughtful critics of Bernie Sanders’ policy platform, and I also realize that his proposed policy changes are not thorough enough or radical enough for some people. But I will say again, that Bernie Sanders’ presidential candidacy, and more essentially, the popular movement for social change that is coalescing around it, is the best hope we have for real, substantive change at this time. And at least at this time, I think it is probably true: we have a choice between a Sanders’ presidency, or civil war for America.
Let the voters decide. But let us realize, the hour is very late, and change is needed urgently, and now.
In hope and in peace,
J. Todd Ring
February 10, 2016
By MinistryOfTruth – Daily Kos, Friday Jun 27, 2014
“The pitchforks are coming . . . for us Plutocrats” – Nick Hanauer, Politico Magazine, 6/26/2014
Luxury Goods CEO Billionaire Warns Of Imminent Violent Uprising Of The Poor
By Joe Clark, July 15, 2015, Liberal America
by David Sirota, 2008
Six Responses To Bernie Sanders Sceptics – An excellent, short, three minute video by Robert Reich
Economic Inequality: It’s Far Worse Than You Think,
By Nicholas Fitz, March 31, 2015
Davos’ Blind Eye: How the Rich Eat the Poor and the World
CBS South Carolina Poll: 100% of 18-29 year-olds think Bernie is honest and trustworthy,
Daily Kos, February 14, 2016
Enlightened Democracy: Visions For A New Millennium: Volume One: Introductory Essays in Political-Economy, Social Analysis & The State of the World
By J. Todd Ring