HOWEY COLUMN: A second civil war? Or American Pie? | Opinion


“Oh, and as I watched him on stage

My hands were clenched into fists of rage

No angel born in hell

Could break Satan’s spell

And as the flames rose high into the night

To light the sacrificial rite

I saw Satan laughing with joy…”

-Don McLean, “American Pie”

FREMONT — For those of you who think a “Second American Civil War” is a good idea, I’m here to tell you that it’s not just stupid; that’s ridiculously stupid… imbecile. Any official who suggests such a thing should be removed from office in the next election.

There have been frantic and persistent talks of a second American Civil War over the past year. It had been confined to the far right and people like U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who predicted “bloodshed” a year ago, saying, “There is nothing I would dread doing more than having to take up arms against a fellow American.” He was ousted from office in the North Carolina primary last spring.

But this notion of political violence is now metastasizing in both the Republican and Democratic fringes. A University of California, Davis poll found that 50.1% agreed that “in the next few years there will be a civil war in the United States.”

“We expected the results to be concerning, but they exceeded our worst expectations,” said Garen Wintemute, lead author of the study.

More than half of Donald Trump voters (52%) and 41% of Joe Biden voters expressed support for dividing the country along political lines, according to a poll by the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “The divide between Trump and Biden voters is deep, wide and dangerous,” said UVA Center for Politics director Larry J. Sabato. “The reach is unprecedented, and it won’t be easily fixed.”

For those of you who think marrying a second Civil War is an idea of ​​political merit, I invite you to watch all nine episodes of Ken Burns’ “The Civil War.” You will learn that it triggered a wide range of unintended and deadly consequences. Between the time the battle lines were drawn in the front yard of Wilmer McLean’s Manassas home and the time the war ended four years later in McLean’s living room in Appomattox (he moved because of epic bloodshed), there was a torrent of tragedy and atrocity.

About 1.55 million soldiers served in the federal armies, and about 800,000 men with the Confederate forces according to Combat deaths included 360,000 for the Union and 260,000 for the Confederates. An estimated 388,580 men perished from the disease. The war killed about 2% of the population.

Financial costs include $3.36 billion spent by the Union and $3.28 billion by the Confederates for a total of $6.64 billion (equivalent to about $90 billion today).

That, for a war that most people thought at the time would only last a few weeks. It turned out in a way that no one – not Abraham Lincoln, not Robert E. Lee, not my great-great-grandfather Harvey Platt – could have foreseen. Harvey Platt mustered with the 9th Indiana at Aurora, took a shell to the head at the Battle of Laurel Hill, and ended up at his farm in Napoleon, Indiana, wearing a cork hat to prevent his frying brain under a surgically placed metal plate. .

I have a second viewing assignment for those of you who might think a second Civil War is on its way. It’s Mark Moorman’s documentary, “The Day The Music Died: The Story of Don McLean’s American Pie.”

Don McLean’s “American Pie” is an epic song released in 1971 as the Vietnam War threatened to tear our nation apart. It chronicles the tragic plane crash on February 3, 1959 that claimed the lives of rock ‘n’ roll legends Buddy Holly, 17-year-old Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper about three miles from Clear Lake Airport, in Iowa.

The song ends ominously, with McLean singing, “And the three men I most admire; The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; They took the last train to the coast; The day the music is dead.” This suggests a military or environmental crisis.

But the music is not dead. We learn in this documentary how McLean had fought with his father for career choices the night he died of a heart attack. Its producer, Ed Freeman, was originally unimpressed with the song. Freeman reflects wistfully on the civil rights movement, the Kennedy and King assassinations, and the peace initiatives of the time that helped create the song. “To me, ‘American Pie’ is a eulogy for a dream that didn’t happen,” observes Freeman.

The First American Civil War created the societal petri dish that brought “American Pie” to life just over a century after its end.

Wilmer McLean’s salon enabled Generals Grant and Lee to end the American Civil War in a way that created what we have today.

“American Pie” by Don McLean shows us that America remains the country of the possible. It is a deeply flawed nation, with many problems, inequalities and injustices. But surviving the Civil War, Jim Crow and the movements of blacks, women, workers and those on behalf of the unborn child, this song is a beacon. You probably know the words. If you hear it in a public place in Muncie, Chicago, London, Berlin or Prague, people of all languages ​​will join you, singing in English.

Let “American Pie” become our flagship to move forward.


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