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The Civil War of 2016

The Presidential election of 2016 is no ordinary election. Indeed, you might say that it has deteriorated into a civil war; a war between two organized groups of Americans whose discourse has become anything but civil.

A civil war is a nasty affair. It gives rise to two separate divisions of civilians who used to, at least ostensibly, function as one. Over time, and encouraged by their leaders, these civilians develop uncompromising differences. The establishment group wants to work within the basic structure of government, as it is, and the other wants to overthrow it or, at least, drastically change the government structure.

As a civil war progresses, the differences between people’s convictions, credos and certainties harden. What starts out as honest differences of opinion quickly deteriorates into shattered taboos, hurled insults and sustained assaults. No way to work together. No way to communicate. No way to inspire. No way to cultivate empathy.

No guns have been fired yet. Hopefully, none ever will be. And yet, there have been casual calls to violence, which may very well occur when the opposition is viewed as the archenemy.

Yes, we are in a civil war. And in war, as many of us know, truth is the first casualty. As truth fades, it is replaced with truthiness (a modicum of truth), name-calling, downright lies and veiled threats, all designed to rev-up the troops to action.

Let’s talk sides now.

Trump is waging guerrilla warfare. Without the financial resources or establishment backing to wage a traditional campaign, he has, instead, lobbed threatening intimidations, shattered long-standing taboos and hurled crass accusations. By so doing, his media coverage has skyrocketed while his truth-o-meter rating has hit a new low.

Clinton’s strategy to these hurled accusations is, “When they go low, you go high.” But what does it mean to “go high” in the midst of a down and dirty civil war? For Clinton, “going high” means focusing on issues and ideas to help Americans who desperately need it. She is establishment. She is running for President. She doesn’t want to be immersed in a civil war. And yet she is.

Hence, it’s a good thing Hillary has Michelle Obama who can step in to tell the troops that “going high” does not mean ignoring the insults. It means, instead, gathering up all the courage you can muster to speak out with strength, with vigor and with outrage. For you do not want to let the bullying continue without consequence.

It’s only a few weeks until the Presidential election will be decided.

But will the civil war of 2016 then end? In one way, yes. The election will be decided. We will have a new President and Vice-President.

In another way, no. Civil wars don’t end easily. Surrender fosters hard feelings. Anger doesn’t dissolve quickly. Resentment runs deep. Mistrust flourishes. Hatred escalates. It takes a long time. If ever, to get back to “normal.”

We do not know if this civil war will promote post-election violence. We do not know if our democracy will become more dysfunctional than it already is. We have no assurance whether more and more people will lose faith in the system. We have no assurance that the guerrilla warfare of the election will die. And so, we must work diligently to prevent the after-effects of our present civil war.

The American Civil War ended 151 years ago. Reconstruction followed: 12 years of anguished pain, misery and grief that did not end, even after we said it was “officially over.” Hopefully our efforts to heal, this time, will be shorter and far superior. We will only know how successful we are when antagonists in this country can come together, in good faith, to face the problems we have with the goal of creating solutions – for the people –not for their own aggrandizement

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