Has it occurred to anyone else–or am I entirely off base to suggest–that in so many ways, on so many fundamental societal issues, the venomous, polarized character of our current body politic is reminiscent of the ’60s?
Not the 1960s–the 1860s.
As the country was coming apart during those fractious civil war years, some of the most fundamental precepts of the Confederacy were an economic system based on two classes (aristocracy and servants, with no middle), a philosophy of government premised on a weak central authority (with most powers reserved to the states), and a social order founded on evangelical fundamentalism.
Arising out of the agricultural, patriarchal milieu of the South, those precepts, 150 years ago, were no match for the more progressive Union tenets of an industrial economic system (which fostered the emergence and growth of a thriving middle class), a government premised on the notion that a strong central authority could be a source for good, and a social order founded on the egalitarian advantages of secularism.
That was then.
Lee’s surrender at Appomattox almost a century-and-a-half ago put an end to the sanctioned bloodshed of our civil war, but the philosophical battle has raged on, at varying degrees of intensity, ever since. It rages today, with a level of heat and vitriol that is disheartening at best, alarming at worst, and, of course, bitterly ironic–ironic because the political party that 150 years ago championed the Union’s successful fight for a viable middle class, a strong central government, and a secular public order–the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln–is today the party working tooth and nail to tear those precepts apart.
One can only wonder: What would Lincoln think?