One of the biggest hoaxes of American history is that the Civil War ended back in 1865. Unfortunately, it has not ended yet. What was achieved back then was an armistice, similar to the situation between the two Koreas.
As the current logjam in the U.S. Congress makes plain, the Civil War is still very present in today’s America – and with virulence that most other civilized nations find as breathtaking as it is irresponsible.
There are plenty of U.S. commentators now who try to make light of the current situation in their country. They argue that it is just a bunch of crazy Tea Party Republicans that are causing the current mayhem. Such an interpretation underestimates the forces of history and the continuing deep divisions of American society.
The reason why the Civil War was declared finished, according to the history books, is the military defeat of the South and its secessionist forces. But can anyone seriously doubt that the same anti-Union spirit is still to be heard loud and clear in the halls of the U.S. Congress today?
The fight against Obamacare is cast by Republicans as fighting the authoritarian – and, in the words of some conservative commentators, “fascist” – views of the Obama Administration and what they label as the American left. Meanwhile, in their own eyes, the Republicans are fighting the good fight of staking out the democratic (!) and libertarian political high ground, all in the defense of “freedom.”
This underscores that what is really going on in Washington today is a replay of the Kulturkampf, a period of German history that occurred in the 1870s. At the time, that country’s modernizing forces resolved to fight back against the economically retarding influence of conservative religious forces, mainly the Catholic Church.
Germany’s mid-19th century Catholic Church, a very powerful economic force at the time, fiercely resisted any suggestions of modernizing the social structures of society – just as many Republicans do now. It sought to preserve the economic power of the well established, largely feudal-era interests, i.e., its own – much as Republicans do now.