I think it’s my age that makes me feel the way I do. I’m not talking hormonally changed, but a deep and disturbing realization of what we are becoming and the helplessness that sits deep within my gut, telling me to be prepared. It’s a feeling like the hand of death, as it brushes by leaving a scar of remembrance so profound and ugly that you are disfigured for life; still alive, but burdened with a never ending memory of what is to come.
For just a few minutes this morning, I watched the opening scenes of the 1993 movie, Class of 61. It is not the best movie on the civil war but it did have an impact on me as it outlined the terrible division that separated this country for what seemed like a purely selfish endeavor. But after deeper consideration and an attempt at empathy, on my part, I realized that the struggles of the South were just as real, just as important and just as emotional as those of the North.
This is not a judgment of what was right or what was wrong. At the time and for those involved there was only right and each side, both the North and the South knew without a doubt that they were right. You can argue, you can disagree but the Southerners who seceded did so because they believed in their cause. Belief is perhaps the most powerful emotion, it drives men and women to live beyond their senses, it motivates armies to fight and die, it drives humanity toward lives of purity and selflessness and the opposite as well, it drove the Southern states to war.
There is no fact, no supposed truth, nor argument to sway those who truly believe in a particular cause, even if that cause is to disrupt the beliefs of others, there is, however, a belief in action and that belief is their conscious choice. It motivates, it drives, it inspires and it controls the very soul and persona into action and into the Hell or Heaven of each individual mindset, leaving logic and truth eating the dust of its advances or retreat.
No one really knows if we’re heading into a new civil war or what the impetus will be for that conflict, nor the severity if any such conflict materializes but we can be assured that if we do nothing to stem the tide of this growing discontent than we will be subject to the consequences of our inaction. The North of Lincoln’s day tried and failed, but they tried and finagled, legislated, negotiated and finally determined that war was inevitable. When the shots at Fort Sumter rang out the options for diplomacy was in the past. The first major Battle of Bull Run was the beginning and on July 21, 1861, our nation was at war with itself.
The forces of today are different but their beliefs, although different than the past, still constitutes a serious threat to our national union. This may be a war simply over rhetoric and semantics, resolving without the serious loss of life but the consequences to one side over the other will still demand a sacrifice of those beliefs.
I am not trying to marginalize my beliefs, my standards, nor the constitutional framework that has served us so well. I am trying to help us all to understand that these differences are similar to the differences fought during our Civil War, with the associated risks, damage and loss of life. When we view our beliefs, our standards and our presumptions we must also accept the reality of the other side doing the same.
I may believe I am right, with the desire to fight for those beliefs but it has also been shown that the other side, whoever that is and whatever their beliefs are, they have shown a willingness to do the same. Like all war, the perception of evil against the enemy is absolute with very little common ground. They view us the same as we view them.
This does not mean we forsake our beliefs, nor acquiesce to their demands but like Sun Tzu preached we need to understand that “Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.”
Our enemies understand this principle and attack our resolve every day, knowing that breaking that resolve is nothing more than inundating us with their words, their ideas and their threats, with a constant, never ending barrage of violence, protests, and accusations. They understand that most of us will fall and will succumb to those negative actions, also knowing that when we fall we need not join them. All they need from us is our unwillingness to fight, to stand our strong and simply go home.
Sun Tzu also said, “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”. Have we decided what we believe? Do we know what we believe? What are we fighting for and for whom are we fighting? Another great leader, Captain Moroni, did the following: “...he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole...And he called it the Title of Liberty.”
“This above all: to thine own self-be true
And it must follow, as the night the dayThou canst not then be false to any man/Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!”