The Civil War is a good indication of where polarized thinking can take us. From a new book, to be released in July, some indicators come to light. - Our Man in Charleston: Britain’s Secret Agent in the Civil War South
Quoting from an article about the book, Confederate Madness Then and Now
"At the 1860 national Democratic Convention in Charleston, the party split three ways. That led to the election of “black Republican” candidate Abraham Lincoln, and that became the pretext for outright withdrawal from the Union. The policy of the rabid secessionists had been to rule or ruin the federal government. And so they did."
"The South Carolina secession convention’s final and authoritative statement was published on Christmas Eve, 1860. It concerned itself entirely and exclusively with slavery—not tariffs or abstract principles. The issue of “states’ rights” came down to the very specific right of white people in some states to own Negro slaves, to get them back if they ran away to free states, and to import them from Africa as they had been imported in the early years of the Republic."
"Not quite four months later, South Carolina’s artillery batteries opened fire on the small, isolated federal garrison in Fort Sumter and the shooting war began, strangely, with no casualties.”
"By the time the true costs of the conflict became evident, there was no stopping it. The logic of war now ruled, and it spread with a vengeance both North and South, sucking millions of Americans into its madness. The conflict that began as a misguided defense of the slave-owning elite came to be seen by the mass of Southerners who were fighting and dying every day as a struggle for their very survival. They were in mortal combat, they believed, for their hearths, for their families, and, as always in war, for their comrades in arms."
People seem to think that a civil war is a very difficult thing to start. But they start because polarizing ideas explode into a torrent of false beliefs that are themselves polarizing.
The nation is at a very divided time. Some people in Texas are very scared that the US will invade it. They want to secede. Many in the very religious parts of the south, are literally up in arms about homosexual marriage, and want those laws overturned, and for many this is an uncompromising position.
Many believe that these are the end times, and great wars will erupt, and these things are signs of that. Many are politically and religiously very conservative and despise anything that smacks of a liberal agenda.
Many have set their GOP leaders on a collision course with every piece of legislation brought by Obama, simply because Obama wants it, and for no other reason, even if it is helpful - the stated goal is to make Obama look bad. That "rule or ruin the government" quote seems very appropriate.
The actions and words say that many people in the US are as divided as things were prior to the Civil War.
It really is time to stop the divisive rhetoric and polarizing ideas, and see how we can work together for the common good, even if we disagree about some things.
Tabernacle of Hate: Seduction into Right-Wing Extremism
How Facts Backfire
The Influence of Partisan Motivated Reasoning on Public Opinion
Rumors Have it. New study at MIT
10 things you want to know about human nature if you’re fighting climate change.
When Corrections Fail:
The persistence of political misperceptions - Dartmouth College study on The Backfire Effect (PDF)