I mean, you know how this is going to play out. We all know, deep down, in our heart of hearts, how this is going to play out. In fact, the only reason I’m bothering to write this down is so I can point to this essay and say “I told you so,” once everything collapses, because smug self-righteousness is a hell of a drug, and I’m gonna need something to take the edge off when everything goes completely Spock’s Beard in a year or two.
Now, keep in mind: I am 100% in favor of impeaching the Orange Bastard. There’s a long, long list of Really Bad Shit he’s either done or enabled. Basically, any dubious and/or exaggerated claim the right-wing made about Obama or Clinton, Trump’s actually done it, done it worse, and there’s actual proof of it, with the possible exception of having people literally murdered. (There is, at time of writing, no definitive proof that Trump had Jeffrey Epstein killed. There is also no proof that Bill Clinton had Jeffrey Epstein killed. However, since our conservative friends have no problem pinning that one on Bill and Hillary without any real evidence… yeah, screw it. Trump hired Roger Stone to kill Jeff Epstein. Also, Grumpy Cat. Trump literally killed Grumpy Cat, but the Fake News Media won’t cover it because they’re in the tank for Bad Joke Husky.)
And, apparently, Mitch McConnell would have “no choice” but to go ahead with an impeachment trial, should the House vote for one. Now, I appreciate that we’re clearly in the Terran Empire timeline and we need to take our victory laps when we get ’em, even if said laps are inspired by something as weak as a Senator essentially saying he’d hypothetically be open to the idea of adhering to the Constitution. A little. Maybe.
It’s no surprise, however, that this Ukraine thing was the straw that broke the camel’s back in terms of public opinion and political will. Y’all know how it went down, but for the sake of clarity, Mueller said he couldn’t definitively prove Trump colluded with a foreign country to throw the 2016 election, which Trump treated like a full exoneration. It’s not what the report actually said, mind you. I’ll save you the time of reading the entire 448-page thing by summarizing it thusly — we can’t prove Trump ate all the cookies, but we can prove that he sure spends a lot of time brushing crumbs off his shirt, distracting you from the chocolate chip stain on his nose, and asking for a glass of milk to wash down the hypothetical cookies he may or may not have eaten.
But then, the very next day, he gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar and his mouth full. Seriously, the day after being supposedly exonerated for colluding with a foreign country to throw the last election, someone catches him literally colluding with a foreign country to throw the next election. It’d be like OJ Simpson stabbing someone at his “Not Guilty” house party. Even with the very slight possibility he’s innocent of the first thing, it is not — as the kids say — a good look.
Now, ok, fine, it’s the Ukraine and not Russia, and Ukraine’s our friend and Russia supposedly isn’t, but considering what he asked them to do, it’s a distinction without a difference. We stopped sending them defensive weapons for no particular reason, which is weird and suspicious because Ukraine needs those weapons to defend themselves against Russia, who we’re supposedly not friends with, but okay. You want your missiles, Ukraine? You can have ’em. But there’s something I’m gonna need from you though…
Yeah. There’s no way that’s not a quid pro quo. Just because Trump stole the gluten-free cookies made from all-natural ingredients this time doesn’t make it okay that he tried to steal cookies again. And, yes, I am using this cookie metaphor because the President of the United States has the emotional maturity of a toddler. Glad you asked.
So, anyway, back to the original premise of this piece. I’m gazing into this crystal ball I picked up for $7.99 at the Halloween Store they set up where the Borders used to be, and — through my ineffable and uncanny powers of divination — I shall paint thee a picture of the horrors to come.
Outlook fuzzy, but… basically, I’ll bet you that on the day they’re scheduled to start the impeachment trial, Trump declares war on someone. Doesn’t matter who. Iran, China, freaking Denmark. Doesn’t matter. Wherever it is, it’ll be an exceptionally bad idea and the country won’t have actually done anything to provoke us, but that doesn’t matter. We can just say they were behind the Bowling Green Massacre. Just send Kelly-Anne out to every single news outlet so she can complain about how every single news outlet refuses to cover the administration, which she is part of, and she’s on every single news outlet talking about how every single news outlet doesn’t… PLEASE TELL ME YOU SEE THE IRONY OMGWTFBBQ
The irony will not be lost on 70% of us, but the other 30% have all the guns and all the stubbornness, so it’ll be a moot point. Whatever the Very Bad Thing that Iran, China, or Denmark did, the “lying corrupt failing media” didn’t cover it, and that’s their fault, and they shouldn’t let a little thing like how “it didn’t actually happen, though…” get in the way of supporting our troops and stuff.
And they shall ask: in a time of Big National Crisis like this, why are we “wasting time” on impeachment? We must all pull together, support our Commander-In-Chief, and something something flag. Now, some congressional Republicans will see through the ruse and be secretly horrified — apparently there’s quite a few of them now who would gleefully support impeachment if it were a secret ballot. The Democrats will be flabbergasted because there’s no way they’ll see the precise details of this surprise war coming, of course. They probably suspect Trump has something up his sleeve, but literally going to war with some random-ass country to avoid impeachment? That’s crazy talk. That’s so crazy, it’s the kind of thing the Republicans accused Clinton of doing back in 1998 when there were air strikes against Iraq on the same day Slick Willy was on trial for the intern thing. Keep in mind those air strikes actually destroyed the very weapons of mass destruction Bush used to justify the Iraq war in 2003. But never mind that. The point is, it’s exactly the kind of whackadoodle thing they accuse us of doing, so accusing a sitting GOP President of doing the same thing would be equally whackadoodle, even if they’re clearly holding big neon signs that say “Whackadoodle” with a big red arrow pointing at their heads.
Trump’s war will not actually happen. It’ll be like the Muslim ban or the “no trans people in the military all of a sudden” thing. It’ll scare the crap out of a lot of people — for good reason- but cooler heads will prevail. The lawyers and judges stepped in to stop the Muslim ban, and the Pentagon — the mutha flippin’ Pentagon, son; not an organization one usually considers to be on the forefront of wokeness — stepped in to stop the trans ban. “Dagnabbit, what is that damn fool doin’?” I imagine them saying. “Lieutenant Bone Spurs up there in the dang White House can’t just wave his little hands and change they way we’re doin’ things without so much as a hootenanny. Don’t he know that if you’re in the fox hole takin’ fire, the only privates we care about are the ones returnin’ fire? I don’t care if you got a hoo-hah, a ding-dong, or a goddamn artichoke down there. Can you shoot straight?” Again, this is a rough transcript based entirely on my own military experience, which is “none, but I’ve seen television.” The Pentagon representative here is played by John Goodman or Stephen Root. He’s wearing some kind of fancy General uniform and he’s standing next to a map in front of a radar thingy that goes “bing.” And I can imagine the same guy, on the same set, having a very similar reaction. (“Flabdaggit, what is that orange bastard doin? Why the hell we goin’ to war against a close ally and tradin’ partner just to get our hands on some cold-ass island so barren the Eskimos don’t even take their Huskies to piss on it YES I KNOW THEY’RE CALLED GREENLANDIC INUITS goddamnit it’s a FIGURE of SPEECH heck I could BE part Greenlandic Inuit, you don’t know!” etc.)
Now, granted, we did go into Iraq for no other reason than “we kinda wanted to and 9/11 gave us an excuse,” It was always a bad idea. Going to war against Iraq was like “I hate the Yankees, so I’m going to go to war against the Mets, because they are nearby and also a baseball team.” At best it’s a drain on your resources, a war on two fronts you’re justifying by putting them under the same vague umbrella. At worst, it’s… what we got, actually. The existence of the Mets means the Yankees don’t have total dominance of the baseball market in the New York area. You might not like the Mets, but if you’re going to take down the Yankees, you really need the Mets to stay put for now. Taking them out just makes more Yankees fans. Yes, my metaphor is sound. Yes, I am from Boston.
However, the thing about the Iraq war in 2003 was, well, a person could juuuuust about justify voting for it if they squinted really hard and ignored half the “evidence.” (It also helped if you were tied to Big Oil, mind you.) Deciding you’re going to war with Denmark because you really, really want Greenland is petty and dumb and everyone knows it. Going to war with the Ukraine because your dumbass supporters know Ukraine is on the news a lot now but don’t know why so you might as well bomb ’em is potentially more likely, because as we’ve already established, this is the Bad Place. However, I still think someone would probably step in before things got too weird.
Because, see, that’s not the war he really wants. The threat of a Danish-Ukranian-American War (aka War On Denmark And/Or Ukraine For Freedom Reasons XXL Presented By Axe Body Spray) would be merely a weird distraction for a month or two to delay the impeachment vote. I mean, maybe your local bakery would start calling them “Freedom Pastries,” but that’s kind of the extent of how a Danish-American conflict might affect your life. The biggest real consequence would be our temporary alienation from just about every other country ever, because seriously, though, Denmark? Denmark is the Scott Bakula of Europe. They’re incredibly likable in a very average kind of way. No one has a problem with the Danish. Once climate change hits us hard enough to melt all that ice up in Greenland, I’m actually sort of fine with the Danish suddenly being in charge of one of the biggest swaths of unoccupied, unharvested land in the world, because they seem like responsible folks who’d probably build entire sustainable modular cities out of Legos and that would be fucking awesome.
What Trump wants is a wave of feral, MAGA-hatted anger among the 30% with all the guns and stubbornness. That’s all he cares about. The threat of war will be just enough of a distraction to give the Open-Carry crowd just enough time to lock, load, and organize. He does not want to prevent impeachment so much as he wants to delay it. Once it happens… pop.
Trump tweeted that thing about how, if he’s impeached, there will be a Civil War. Which is, you know, practically an impeachable offense in and of itself; threatening bloodshed if a constitutionally-valid expression of democracy doesn’t go your way is kind of the opposite of, you know, faithfully preserving and protecting said Constitution, and that’s kind of his one job.
But I don’t think there’s going to be an actual civil war. Close, but not quite. There are plenty of heavily armed, angry, steely-eyed folks out there who won’t take too kindly to such a thing. Since 2016, there has always been a chance that if Trump got kicked out, put on trial, punished, arrested, or even lost the 2020 election fair and square, certain folks would “take up arms” to “water the tree of liberty” with the “blood of tyrants.”
And their definition of “tyrants” isn’t the dictionary definition of the term. It’s not “cruel authoritarian ruler.” Their definition of “tyrants” is… well, us. Progressives, liberals, leftists, immigrants, LGBTQ+ folks, minorities, feminists, socialists, people who think “gosh, wouldn’t it be nice to get paid a living wage”, Unitarians, farmers market attendees, you name it. People who liked The Last Jedi. People who wish video games were more diverse. People with Masters’ degrees. Anyone who ever made them feel bad about anything, really, and plenty of other people who never did anything to ’em personally but who sure come off as smug and comfortable, with their big cities and their stable jobs and their general lack of opioid deaths among their friends. Which sounds glib, but… look, there are many reasons why there was such a massive, rapid cultural turnaround on LGBTQ acceptance over the last 4 decades, but one of the big reasons was “wow, we sure have been to a lot of funerals lately.” AIDS happened to be more prevalent in places that produce American Culture(tm) and rural white America doesn’t necessarily need a visibility moment like that. However, don’t forget that the very real threat to people’s lives and the lives of their friends, multiplied by the total inertia of the powers that be, kicked the gay rights movement into high gear. Like the t-shirt said, silence equaled death. “We’re dying and you don’t care” is always a powerful motivator, whether it’s directed towards the conservative Reagan administration in the 80s, or the so-called “liberal establishment” today. Truth, actual power dynamics, corporate corruption in the medical industry, people voting for their own destruction time and again because someone told them if they didn’t, Hillary would use Benghazi ACORNs to force their e-mails to get gay married… yes, I agree, those things are all important. Or, rather, should be. Right now, truth is for cucks.
But, yeah, I don’t think there’s going to be a civil war, per say. There’s two big differences from last time we were this divided. One, mass media/the internet. Two, the America’s Civil War went down the way it did because the states themselves had been neatly divided into a near-contiguous “north” where slavery was illegal and a near-contiguous “south” where it wasn’t. You had plenty of hardcore racists up north and plenty of decent folks down south, but their worlds were already divided by a very specific law and very specific versions of morality that just happened to line up geographically based on what crops grew where and what resources could be mined in what states and so on. Yes, I do play a lot of Civilization.
We’re just as divided now as we were in the 1860s, and possibly even more so. Sure, there were plenty of great, brave segregationists up here in my home state of Massachusetts, where we never had much need for slave labor. There were also plenty of racist jerks up here. There were also factory owners who created a system that — in real terms — had quite a lot in common with slavery; sure, you can quit any time you want, we pay you money, and we probably won’t whip you, but — guess what — you live here now, the money we pay you can only be spent at the factory store and we can garnish wages at will, the overall physical damage you’ll suffer is roughly the same, it’s just spread out over years and years of breathing in cotton particles and toxic fumes in unventilated rooms, and — over time — you’ll find yourself doing more and more work for less and less money because where else are you going to go and while we don’t technically separate you from your family, it’s going to be a long time before you ever see them again. But, no, we don’t officially own you. Not on paper, at least.
But, no, we didn’t really have that many slaves. We banned it in 1783. At its peak, round about the 1750s and ’60s, about 2.2% of the population was enslaved, there were five times as many free black people, and anti-slavery sentiment was already growing. From a purely economic standpoint that erases the pain and oppression of human bondage and our complicity therein, that was, like, fine. Our economy was originally built around things that required skilled labor: trade, fishing, textiles, molasses, and so on.
Funny story about molasses, though. (Well, okay, we’re Boston, so there’s two funny stories about molasses…) Thing about molasses, is you get it from Barbados, and you turn it into rum, then you sell the rum to Africa, and… then something something complicit something something benefit from exploitation something my family certainly didn’t own slaves but something something boats something distantly related to old Boston Brahmin families who made their money from building the kind of boats that probably would have something something it’s cool though ‘cuz we’re poor now something said I was sorry jeez. That’s right — the Triangle Trade went right through woke-ass, abolitionist Massa-frickin-chusetts because history is like the Murder on the Orient Express, folks — everyone’s guilty.
Then the 1820s rolled around, and we were able to build great factories in glorious new industrial cities, which meant we didn’t have to depend so much on the rum and fish thing. And what did those factories make? Well, all kinds of things, but a lot of them made fabrics (you need a lot of power to run a building full of looms, and we’ve got these pretty intense rivers up here and this is before electricity and that’s a whole other thing.) And from what did we make the fabrics? Well, from all kinds of things — wool, flax, hemp before they went and banned it, and… oh dear. Cotton. And where did we get the cotton? Well… uh… you know what else is really cool? Turbines! Let’s talk about water power…
Nowadays, things are a lot trickier. We’ve essentially got a “Cold Civil War” going on right now already, and I’m not the first person to point this out. The internet sure helps that along nicely because it essentially erases geographic borders in some very key ways. Honestly, I think this Cold Civil War is going to rage on for quite a long time. It’s awful, Twitter is a garbage fire, YouTube is arguably both worse and better, Facebook allows us to see precisely how racist our formerly beloved relatives actually are, death threats and SWATing are things that happen way too often and sometimes lead to actual, real life, physical harm especially, though not exclusively, when women and marginalized folk are the targets, etc. However, the fact that we can mostly hash out our differences online probably means no actual war.
I do think there’s going to be a lot more political violence. That’s what genuinely scares me. There are Civil War forts that never saw a battle. They were used as hospitals, or prisons, but they were never fired upon; why would they be? They were in places like Maine and Massachusetts. The war never made it that far north. The US military fighting the Confederacy. Two armies, two ideologies, two smart generals playing by the damn rules. The generals might want to play by the damn rules, no matter what kind of artichoke you got in your pants, but do generals even matter when your battles don’t take place along a geographical continuity? When every engagement is a surprise attack? When the opposing army is spread out over a vast international network, and — for that matter — yours is too?
I don’t think there’s going to be a second Civil War, at least not in the way we understand that phrase today. The structure couldn’t hold. OK, the Conservative Separatist Freedom Brigade of Texas seizes liberal Austin. Good for them. Congratulations on saving God Fearin’ Americans from the evil scourge of… vintage record shops and tequila bars? Live music and tattoo parlors? Whatever happened to personal freedom? Seriously, they could probably do it if they wanted to. They have all the damn guns. They could start “liberating” all the liberal cities. But, like, why? Seriously. Why? You’re not gaining territory, you’re not eradicating an ideology, and you don’t need the resources. They’d be doing it simply to hurt people. Which, come to think of it, is kind of their basic philosophy these days, but traditional seize tactics would just make the lack of ideology at play here kind of obvious. We’re conquerin’ Austin because… uh… liberals are dumb! Yeah! It’s a sure fire way to whittle down your support from the Fox News crowd. Margaret, see that barista they’re harassing? Doesn’t she look a little like our Jessica?
I mean, which side would the military even be on? Lots of Republicans, but also lots of Latinx and black people who wouldn’t side with the Freedom Whitey McFlaggy Flag Batallion in a million years. Lots of people sworn to follow the Commander In Chief’s orders… except, what happens if the Commander In Chief has been constitutionally removed from office and refuses to leave? What happens if he’s effectively started his own nation? Are you on his side, or are you on the side of whoever’s legally President?
If he decides he wants to deploy them to stop the impeachment while in progress, or prevent it from happeninng, I can almost guarantee you they wouldn’t follow his orders. I can almost guarantee you that a few — maybe not all, but a few — Republicans would drop their defense and join the “this guy needs to go” side, because that would be such a massive, massive violation of everything that it’d be impossible to handwave it away later. You’d maybe lose a few Trump supporters, too, because while it’s entirely possible to disregard the Ukraine call as “not that big a deal,” it’s a lot harder to dismiss “demanding a military coup in order to prevent Nancy Pelosi from saying mean things about him” in the same way.
But I can also almost guarantee you that this would be the moment the “People’s Army” of white supremacists, militia folks, alt-righters, and other Trump loyalists would rise up. How successful they’d be… outlook cloudy. Ask again later. How much of a coherent force they’d manage to form… not sure about that either. I think some of them would resort to terrorism, and it would be an annoyingly long time before the mainstream news started calling it that. I think they’d make American life very scary for a while. I think it’d actually become like we thought it was going to be after 9/11, with random attacks every few weeks and a constant state of threat. And I think that a lot of the things people worried about happening when Trump became President that didn’t actually pan out because Trump’s a dumbass and very, very bad at things… I think a lot of those things would — in effect — happen. More attacks on mosques, LGBTQ people, etc. Forget about “your policies are contributing to the environment in which bad things might happen to me.” It’ll be “Trump’s supporters are actually threatening my life every day because they’re butthurt about some bullshit.”
I hate dismissing a whole group of people like this, but… I mean, come on. They’re dumb, angry, and violent. Maybe not dumb, but certainly myopic. Maybe not angry, but certainly resentful. Maybe not violent, but they seem to think that the only definition of strength is “can I hurt someone?” They like hurting other people. They don’t want their money going to help people. They want their money to go to hurting people. That’s why I could never be a modern day Republican — I’m not a clinical psychopath.
So, anyway: this is the first entry of my long-winded, rambly, historically-saturated, drenched-in-snark and completely unedited account of the Second American Civil War. Let’s see where this goes. Who’s got a fiddle? I feel a round of “Ashokan Farewell” coming on…