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What will Trump’s Fort Sumter be?



Yesterday was a weird day for me. I had been summoned for jury duty—for the first time, actually, in my life. I never knew how tedious it was. You sit in a jury room—and sit—and sit—as the hours while by. In the end, I was dismissed. Walked home (the morning rain by then had given way to sunshine, although it was chilly). Stopped by the old noodle house, in Chinatown, for some shumei. Funny how boredom makes you so hungry. Got home, exhausted; Gus was waiting patiently to go out for a walk. I told him to make it quick. I was so tired, I felt like I’d collapse right there and go to sleep on the rain-wet grass. Got back home; fell into a two-hour, dreamless sleep. Tuned into the news, which I’d been away from all day, and learned about the latest craziness: McMaster out, that idiot Bolton in, Dowd out as Trump’s lawyer. With the appointment the other day of DeGenova, Trump is lining the White House with Fox News fanatics. Hannity for Secretary of Defense! Lou Dobbs for Treasury! As bad as things have been with this administration, they’re about to get worse, much worse. Trump is now mostly unrestrained. We know what that means.

Even I have my limits: there’s just so much bad news I can take. I was still drowsy: an afternoon nap, meant to refresh, sometimes can sap the life out of you. I decided to watch some diversionary T.V. Went through Netflix and found Ken Burns’ “Civil War” documentary, which I’d never seen. Right at the beginning, the moderator, David McCullough, says that the Civil War at least settled one thing: Americans, who never thought it could happen, concluded afterwards that it could never happen again. And that’s when I switched off the T.V. and began typing these words.

Six hundred thousand Americans died in the Civil War, more than any other war in our history. More men died at Cold Harbor than in all previous American wars together. The States fought about slavery, ostensibly, but the war was about more than that. It was about state’s rights versus national governance, about the clashing cultures of northern city and southern plantation, about differing interpretations of freedom. Its roots extended back to well before America’s founding. The fights among the Founding Fathers at our Constitutional Convention were the Civil War’s contributing DNA. These nerve-fibers of tension and mistrust existed then; they exist now. Another Civil War is not impossible, as David McCullough suggested. It may even be imminent.

Perhaps mine are the musings of a tired, somewhat irritated old man, wearied after this jury-duty rigamarole caused by the bureaucratic stupidity of a system that forces scores of adults to sit idly in a drab room for hours on end, with no guidance or explanation, in the name of Obligation. Surely, with the Internet and smart phones, there’s got to be a better, more efficient way to organize potential jurists than this colossal waste of time.

In my fatigue, my mind and body are least resistant to dire dreads. But I am not the only one living in continuing disgust of what this current president has wrought. The Right wanted a disrupter, a rude man who would insult the system they despise and disrespect. They got what they wanted. So did he: an ironclad base. The worse he gets (from my point of view) the better he gets (from theirs). This only serves to heighten his worst instincts. Today’s personnel developments are manifestations of worse to come.

In the current issue of Harper’s—a fine magazine—is an article about the possibility of Trump being re-elected in 2020. Entitled “Four More Years,” it outlines, in chilling fact, how Trump’s base might return him to office despite everything—or because of everything—disgusting, rude, dishonest, low and nefarious he’s done and is. As I read the article, my blood curdled. The author, Thomas Frank, warns the anti-Trump Resistance that we may easily miss the boat: in our fear and loathing and self-righteousness, we may fail to understand that Trump is doing exactly what he said he would—and the Right is eating it up. This doesn’t guarantee Trump’s re-election (after all, Mueller is still out there). But it means Democrats have only a “fair to middling” chance (in Frank’s words) of toppling this regime.

And this is why my blood runs cold. I know about our American Civil War. I’ve studied it all my life. The 153 years since it ended are a mere blink of History’s eye. It might have been yesterday. Remembering the lessons of History may not be enough to avoid repeating it. David McCullough, I fear, is wrong. The Civil War, Part 2, could happen again.

Give me one reason why not.

Have a lovely weekend

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