That Dangerous Alternate Reality

A week or so ago, I noted that, in their final essays, several students had suggested America might be heading for another civil war.

Despite our polarization, despite our increasingly toxic politics, that seemed farfetched. I still find it overblown–after all, this country has gotten through plenty of rough patches since our one (and so far, only) civil war without repeating that horrific experience. Granted, some episodes of civil unrest have been bloody, but they haven’t constituted civil war.

We’ve grown up, right?

Maybe not. This recent story from the Guardian made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

Washington state Republican representative Matt Shea and several associates regaled an audience with conspiracy theories, separatist visions and exhortations for listeners to arm themselves ahead of a looming civil war, at a gathering at a remote religious compound in the north-east of the state last year.

In recordings obtained by the Guardian, Shea and Jack Robertson, also known as radio personality John Jacob Schmidt, invoked their visions and fears of a violent leftist revolt in speeches at the 2018 God and Country event in Marble.

The Guardian last week published leaked chat records in which Shea and Robertson were revealed to have discussed the use of surveillance, “psyops” and violence against liberal and leftist activists.

Robertson – who aired fantasies of extreme violence against liberal activists in the leaked chats – told the audience at the 2018 event that they should be prepared for civil war.

In his speech at God and Country last June, which immediately followed Shea’s speech, Robertson said: “Of course, you all know that you should have an AR-15 and a thousand rounds of ammo, right? Because Antifa is kicking up and getting ready to defend, right?”

Barely a week after the Guardian reporter contacted Shea and asked for comment, Shea linked to an Australian white nationalist website post which had criticized the reporter making the call.

Robertson and Shea are evidently regular guests on each other’s broadcasts, which air  on a local “Christian” network. According to the Guardian article, the two of them often share a stage at “patriot movement” events. They’ve been associated with the Christian Identity movement, which interprets the Bible as establishing a racial hierarchy in which Jews and blacks are enemies of the white race, who are the true Israelites.

According to Christian Identity doctrine, the United States should be a theocracy governed by Christians in accordance with divine law (as they interpret divine law).

Years ago, a friend of mine told me, in all seriousness, that 20% of the people we pass on the streets–20% of our countrymen– are mentally ill, and that some number of them are delusional and dangerous. At the time, I thought his estimate was high; I no longer think so.

What neither of us foresaw was the election of someone who is seriously disordered (and none too bright), and the encouragement his Presidency would offer to others who live in a  dystopian alternate reality.

We’re in uncharted territory.


  1. Sheila writes, “According to Christian Identity doctrine, the United States should be a theocracy governed by Christians in accordance with divine law (as they interpret divine law).”

    Try researching the total number of “Christian denominations” on the internet. They are arguing it cannot be 33,000 and must be something less. Talk about a civil war…who would rule this Theocracy? Televangelists? The Pope?

    It’s laughable.

    As for yesterday’s quote of the day, “Incrementalism is defeatism, we have incrementalism to the point of a lack of any detectable movement.”

    ML is correct, and THAT is the point of the DNC…don’t allow any progressive movements except for selected social movements. Anything recommending changes to Wall Street/MIC structure is OFF the table.

    If you all remember, 2016, was coined the year of the protestant, I mean the year of populism. One party elected a reality TV host billionaire. The other one elected a career-long politician representing Wall Street.

    Have we satisfied populism????

    Once again, we are ALL being oppressed by Oligarchs. The people KNOW this, but they don’t understand the who, why and what.

    Looking at an organization who has over 25,000 denominations or “determinations of one ancient text” is hilarious in the mere ponderance. A debate between The Pope and Billy Graham would be great PPV.

  2. Trump can’t govern. He’s miscalculated. Civil War is the UNAVOIDABLE CONSEQUENCES of his election to the Presidency. Peace doesn’t have a chance with him.

  3. Yesterday I commented on the “separation within the races” regarding “Voting Their Interests”. The separation is within races and families and neighbors regarding race and religion with all issues now firmly set in political separation at levels not seen since the Civil War. Maybe we need to look at the term “civil war” from a new angle; we already have blood in our streets at an unbelievable level, traced to the roots of race, religion and politics and openly approved by the Trump administration with their “do nothing” deconstruction of this government.

    The hundreds and hundreds of shooting victims during the past two plus years will continue to escalate as long as the current administration is denying this country protection of our democracy, Rule of Law and ignoring the Constitution of the United States of America. The number of school shootings, the shootings in houses of worship, the shootings in places of entertainment such as the Washington, D.C. ballpark, the concert in Las Vegas, the bar in Orlando which could be due to race or anti-LGBTQ hatred. The Charlottesville, VA, White Nationalist/White Supremacist killing of an innocent woman by driving a car into the crowd on a public sidewalk. I look on all of this and all of the shootings I didn’t list as a form of civil war; an unorganized, unofficial civil war as Americans turn on each other with easily obtained weapons for differences of opinion…which was the basis of the Civil War. Slave or free; still an unresolved issue.

  4. Todd,

    It’s not so laughable. Trump isn’t about religion. He’s a SOCIOPATH that has latched on to FASCISM and like Nazi Germany is using anti-Semitism to his utmost advantage.

  5. One has to wonder what percentage of developed countries in the world go to bed at night worrying about future actions of the United States and wake up with nightmares. If crazy Christians out west are encouraging citizens to arm themselves, what are talk show hosts in Europe telling their followers?

  6. Second Civil War in America? Ever observe the personal fitness of attendees at a gun and knife trade show? Just because you own an AR-15 doesn’t mean your fit enough to carry sufficient ammunition into a ground fight. If a combatant cannot pass the new US Army Fitness Test chances of survival in the first 90 seconds of an active shooter fire fight is slim to none. There is benign disdain for vigilante wanna bees among our military commanders. Civil War over abortion and vaccinations, especially spurious interpretation of Second Amendment? The Christian Right know they cannot win that one. That is why members like McVeigh resort to terrorism even if most of the casualties are white toddlers. So much for claiming ‘patriot’ identity. There is more room at Terre Haute.

  7. Your post has certainly given me pause. However, because I am powerless to change the course of history, I will make it through the day remembering all the violence the country has endured throughout history whenever one era comes to an end and a new one begins. I particularly remember the late 1960s and early 1970s and how worried my WWII Era parents and their friends were because of all the violence precipitated by the Vietnam War protests.

    The violence subsided and the country, excluding me, moved into acceptance of the “Reagan Consensus.” That period is now ending and we are embarking on what some of us see as a new Era of Enlightenment or Progressivism. As Robert Kennedy said in 1964, “There are people in every time and every land who want to stop history in its tracks. They fear the future, mistrust the present, and invoke the security of a comfortable past which, in fact, never existed.”

    We survived the Civil War in the 1860s. We will survive this one too.

    do anything to fix

  8. I’m not so sure this moment is particularly new to our political discourse, per se. What is new is the easy availability of contact with those who agree with us. Without our advanced communications, we might still be in the time of the know nothings.

  9. To paraphrase Churchill, this is not the end of Christianity. It is not even the beginning of the end of it, but, perhaps, it is the end of the beginning of its destruction.
    When the violent nationalists latch onto it, it loses all credibility as a religion of love and peace. They definitely have latched onto it now, and it remains to be seen if the leadership of ‘the religion of love and peace’ peels their fingers off it. There have been times when it didn’t, and the results were never happy — not for hundreds of years. WWI started the modern movement of the destruction of it, and right now we’ve just started the second 100 years of the next go ’round.

  10. Stephen,

    So far it doesn’t look too good. Virulent hatred MASKED in Christianity has been spreading, continuously, since Ronald Regan combined forces with Jerry Falwell’s MORAL MAJORITY.

    We’re talking, just about, 40 YEARS AGO.

    See “Inevitable Surprises: Thinking ahead in a time of turbulence” by Peter Schwartz ( Gotham Books, New York, 2003) p. 5-6.

    “We can’t know the consequences in advance or how they will affect us, but we know many of the surprises to come. Even the most devastating surprises—like terrorist attacks and economic collapses—are often predictable because they have their ROOTS in the driving forces at work today. On September 11, 2001, we saw the tragic consequences of ignoring those predictions. The terrorist attack that day was perhaps the most FORECAST event in history.”

    “……..I have become increasingly aware of the critical forces that will affect the world, in ways that most decision-makers do not automatically expect. These forces are what scenario planners call “predetermined elements.”: forces that we can anticipate with certainty, because we already see their early stages in the world today. We know they are inevitable because they have already begun to take place. They are going to surprise us because, while the basic events are virtually predetermined, the timing, results, and consequences are not. We do not know exactly how these events will play out, or precisely when they will occur. But we can anticipate the range of possible results, and the ways in which the rules of the game may change thereafter.”

  11. Republicans and right-wing extremists need religion to support their otherwise anti-social ravings. They use the basic tenets of all religions, fear, guilt and tribalism, to create their own mob mentality. EVERY Trump rally is an expose’ of that process.

    Yes, Trump has embraced fascism, because it serves his immediate purpose of distracting the media and his moronic acolytes from his crimes, grift and cheating. He is more than a sociopath. He is a PSYCHOPATH. Not all psychopaths are outright killers, but they ALL have the same traits that Trump exhibits.

    Sadly, if somehow Trump is “removed” from office, the right-wing crazies WILL bring their guns out and start shooting. It will be like Krystalnacht, but more violent. It won’t matter whether or not those jelly-butts are fit enough our not. What WILL matter is the number of police and military personnel who will defend the Constitution and the rule of law.

  12. Vernon,

    You’re a little more pessimistic than I am, but you might be right. Maybe I was being too optimistic in labeling Trump just a SOCIOPATH. We all practice denial to some extent. That’s an unfortunate trait of us humans. From my experience, the animal kingdom is much better at facing the truth.

  13. I have relatives who are younger liberals and they are extremely upset with the Democratic party and the state of their lives. Wages are low, they struggle to make a decent living, even though they work hard, they have crushing student debt and will never be solvent or able to buy their own homes. They can’t afford decent health care and most employers don’t provide good benefits anymore. It is easy for older people who have good lives to be critical of them, even though they are drowning. If things don’t improve for them soon, I can totally conceive of a leftist uprising. I have been shocked at some of the things I have heard from them, and I think we are way out of touch with what is really happening with them.

  14. So we have now come down to the one great issue facing America: Simply put: Is Donald Trump, the President of the United States of America, just a SOCIOPATH or much worse, a PSYCHOPATH.

  15. Vernon has ruined my weekend. Unless things can change, Vernon’s prediction of our future @ 8:39 Eastern Standard Time is about as accurate that we can be, at this point in time.

    At the end of my tenure as a lawyer, I had my office in Quinlan, Texas [more, specifically, East Texas]. It was strategically, located between two counties, one of which was Raines, with a sitting Klan Judge. I was, fortunately, able to stay alive, FOR SOME TIME, because of the lasting goodwill of my ex-wife’s great grandfather, who was the first attorney in the county.

    As Vernon, has so well pointed out, VICTORY with these folks can be much worse than losing. I had to learn that lesson the hard way. As the baseball immortal, Lou Gehrig said at his retirement, ” I am the luckiest man alive.”

    Nevertheless, I had an amazing opportunity to UNDERSTAND and, most importantly, RESPECT our adversaries at a very deep level.

  16. Hopefully, after this next civil war, we, having learned from the mistakes of the past, will inflict appropriate and significant punishments on the rebels, rendering them culturally and politically impotent for good.

  17. Yay, so where do we sign up? What shall we call ourselves..the Geriatric Brigade? It WOULD be an intimidating sight for all the gun nuts if we joined the Army. They could put us in the front ranks. A slow…steady..shambling wave that couldn’t be stopped would scare the Hell out of anyone.

  18. Gail; do you want to pit your younger people struggling to survive on wages they consider unlivable (and they probably do live paycheck to paycheck) against the seniors and disabled struggling to make it paying the same bills, except for student loans, on barely above poverty level Social Security checks. We watch daily as the Republicans seek ways to cut our Social Security and our Medicare; the Social Security and Medicare we paid into while working, the Medicare payments continue to come out of our Social Security checks before we receive them but our health care has been cut. So we must pay for supplemental Medicare coverage. They blame the national debt on Social Security which is our money invested in our future and they have “borrowed” trillions of our Social Security dollars and never repaid a cent.

    Now the Republicans are reporting more available jobs than the number of people out of work; what is the pay level of those jobs, where exactly are they and why are people not applying for them? What is wrong with this picture? It is all part of our current “dangerous reality”; the reality of survival while living in fear wherever we are each day. The younger generation has a chance at working for change and to better their life standards; the older generation does not have that option.

  19. George,

    “Yay, so where do we sign up? What shall we call ourselves..the Geriatric Brigade?”

    Not such a bad idea. Have you read Michael Kinsley’s book: “Old Age: A Beginner’s Guide” (Tim Duggan Books, New York, 2016)? I think Kinsley might make a good recruit.

  20. Mass shootings by some ideologue, or simply some crazy person with no apparent motive make the headlines. You can be sure the “News Networks” will gather like vultures to give the latest breaking news.

    It irks me, when I see these fat-ass, militia wannabes in their camouflage gear, trying to act tough, with all their firearms.

    What worries me more than fat-ass militia wannabes are stories similar to the below.

    According to preliminary police numbers, in Chicago, the third largest city in the U.S., there were 561 homicides between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2018. That’s a decline of about 100 murders compared to 2017.

    White privilege has allowed us to ignore all the homicides taking place in our major cities. There is a war going on right now in our major cities. I cannot imagine what it must be like to grow-up in major city outside of gentrified neighborhood and have to live in constant fear.

  21. There’s only ONE proven way to stop this devastating, POLITICAL TSUNAMI. It’s thru the formula: P2T [Pre-emptive Targeted Truth]. We’ve been doing a little of it, TODAY.

  22. Gail @ 8:55 am “I have relatives who are younger liberals and they are extremely upset with the Democratic party and the state of their lives.”

    Gail they have a right to be upset. Even though I am a Boomer, the Corporate Wing Democratic Party since Bill Clinton has served the interests of Wall Street.

  23. Sheila,

    “What neither of us foresaw was the election of someone who is seriously disordered (and none too bright), and the encouragement his Presidency would offer to others who live in a dystopian alternate reality.

    We’re in uncharted territory.”

    Not completely, this is the same type of phenomenon that was fought SUCCESSFULLY in the decade long battle, during most of the ’80s and the beginning of the ’90s in Dallas.

    President George Bush lost that battle. See

    Thus, we have both WARNING INTELLIGENCE and HISTORY on our side. GAME THEORY teaches that once you lose an encounter, you must change your strategy. If not, you will lose the game.

    George Bush and his boys didn’t change the game. Unfortunately, Trump and Bannon didn’t know all about that. It’s called MISPERCEPTION which usually leads to MISCALCULATION.

  24. I wonder why a woman that has 3 daughters with the son of J. Paul Getty had a record number of weapons and ammunition in her home (worth 7 million) in Bel-Air California?

  25. These people are tribalists. Race, religion, state… they are simply followers who are too stupid to resist the human urge to fear the Other. What we need is effective leadership. Obama was a good president but not a great leader. Neither was Clinton or Carter. We Democrats should nominate a leader, not an ideologue.

  26. Everyone is afraid of and angry about an oncoming future that is completely different than the reality that we know. Just read the comments here. Change is hard. Uncertainty is frightening. Loss of control makes us angry.

    The choice is between conservative entitlement and denial of the need for change, and liberal adaptation to the reality of an unavoidable unfamiliar environment.

    Of all the individual experssions of the emotions du jour the ones that concern me most here are those of liberal democrats fallen into a conservative extremist mindset.

    We don’t have nor need perfect politicians. We need unity. We need to work to restore democracy and Constitutional government. We have leaders who have personally maintained a liberal adaptive mindset and respect for the people we have always been.

    Becoming extremists in response to extremism is not a solution, it’s a problem.

  27. I dissent in part from today’s flow of pessimism. Most religious people I know today are not a part of the Falwell crazies who are armed and dangerous; it is rather a minority of loud mouths and the usual “antis” who seize on any opportunity to wreak havoc. Yes, there will be some bloodshed, but no, there will be no civil war. We’ve had one, and are still involved in its results where, in addition to racist policies now approved by Trump, new plantation owners on Wall Street have replaced the massahs of the old South.

    Yes to scattered civil commotion (some of which is already present); no to civil war. We are not at the Fort Sumter stage and won’t get there.

  28. Gerald,

    Yes to scattered civil commotion (some of which is already present); no to civil war. We are not at the Fort Sumter stage and won’t get there.

    Who said we were at the Fort Sumter stage? I understand your disappointment. But, don’t forget you didn’t think Donald Trump would be elected President.

  29. Thank you all for your thoughtful, learned comments. Sheila Kennedy is one of my most favorite voices of reason.

  30. What we need is for everyone to get out and vote in the Democrat Primary and then everyone to vote in the General election aligned with the eventual Primary winner.

    The country is under attack by a headline grabbing minority movement not a fundamental change in who we are.

  31. What Vernon said @ 8:39 is called reality, as well as it can be stated, at this point in time. Why don’t we try to face it, before it gets completely out of control? Haven’t we learned anything from the early ’30s in Germany?

  32. Kramer/Schwartz: “These forces are what scenario planners call “predetermined elements.”: forces that we can anticipate with certainty, because we already see their early stages in the world today. We know they are inevitable because they have already begun to take place.”

    That insight convinces me there will be no civil war because we will soon be entangled in a major military operation in the Middle East. A U.S. carrier strike group, along with B-52s, is moving into the Persian Gulf. A patriot missile battery is being positioned to confront hypothetical (no proof has so far been offered)Iranian aggression. America’s collective I.Q. has lowered to the nadir necessary for people to buy the phony story that Bolton and the hawks are concocting (Bush Jr. taught a master class in how to lie effectively to sell a war) so he can realize his lifelong dream of attacking Iran. The machinery is in motion. Since we will be engaged in combat with religious fanatics, we need to send our heavily armed evangelicals (all of them) to take on their Iranian counterparts. There will be blood.

    Besides its pointlessness, the most striking thing about a war with Iran is how costly it will be. Iraq came to $3 trillion. In a country with more than twice as many people, an Iranian war is likely to far exceed that number. Lincoln, musing abut the Constitution, wrote that, “Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This, our [Constitutional] Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us.”

    Theoretically, the House of Representatives could block the authorization for the use of military force by not voting the funds necessary to pay for it. However, for political reasons this seldom happens. The administration is laying the predicate for war so carefully (Bolton has been working on this a very long time) that a mostly jingoistic Congress will play the puppet or be accused of not defending America in its hour of need.

    Add to all of the aforementioned that Trump desperately needs a massive diversion to keep him out of jail and to get himself reelected; lobbing Patriot Missiles at Iran becomes an almost irresistible option. I don’t pray, but if I did it would be for the youngsters who will return to America in body bags and the families who were duped into believing that their child’s sacrifice had something to do with national security.

  33. Marv – Some of us learned something from the early 30s in Germany, but many have not learned and worse, show no inclination to learn. You are right to face it before it gets completely out of control, and the time for us to face it is now – right now – in resisting every authoritarian measure Trump lays on us, from minutia to destruction of our democracy, and relentlessly.

  34. that guardian story,my be a prelude,or a discussion in what ifs.. as im around some of these people at times,the talk always is to blame goverment for any so called goverment marshall law,and twin towers being done by goverment implement marshall law. though i believe,if the god,guts and guns sect were to act,they have a deep understanding,they loose thier gun rights, and braging rights if they act,without direct provocation by others. we have a left wing theory,why slap the problem,just understand it. we have potential for a civil unrests.but,they also know, they are on lists,NRA,politcal lists,fbi lists,and no matter how you discribe it, local finger pointing. the few who step out,are quickly dispatched.others are being watched,while some,just have a death wish. we have first amendment rights,and they know as we do, end that,they get shut out to. if mcconnel gets his way,and this country turns its laws into a boardroom meeting,gun owners maybe seen as a threat,and then,theres no second amendment,to save their guns… we may have a sadam type goverment just over the hill..

  35. Gerald,

    TRUMP is putting the whole planet at risk.

    From the front leaf of “The World as a Total System” by Kenneth E. Boulding (Sage Publications, Beverly Hills, California, 1985):

    “Economist Kenneth Boulding, an acclaimed social historian, theoretician, and visionary, has written a much anticipated sequel to his “Ecodynamics: A New Theory of Social Evolution” (Sage, 1978). That highly lauded work, in applying the tenets of evolutionary theory to the social sciences, examined what patterns, if any, occur in the development of societies. In “The World of a Total System, Boulding goes one analytical step further. He examines the extent to which the Earth is a TOTAL SYSTEM of interacting parts as well as the degree to which it is a “great mosaic” of isolated systems having little or no impact on one another. In addition, he paints, with what he calls a broad brush, some of the more important of these “static” and “dynamic” systems.”

    This was all written before the impact of the internet and the, resulting, empowerment of international criminals, such as Donald Trump & Steve Bannon.

  36. Jack,

    “……..we may have a sadam type goverment just over the hill..”

    Another possible scenario, all of which are DAMNING.

  37. To be as candid as I can, I believe our best shot would be a documentary, available on the internet, starting in 1935 with the testimony of General Smedley Butler before a Congressional Committee on the threat of Fascism, much like the effect from the futuristic movie: “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”

    That’s why, 7 days after Trump announced that he was going to run for President, I purchased the URL: TRUMPCARD.VIDEO and have renewed it every year since that time.

    I believe you really have to see it, to believe it. That was the consensus of those who left Germany before Hitler took over, and fled to countries like Sweden, and, after the war, discussed the mistakes they had made: “Instead of rhetoric, we should have used description.”

    Words are not enough.

  38. Rep. Shea is brought to you by the same mentality that voted for Maureen “nurses play cards all day” Walsh to the state legislature and Cathy McMorris Rogers to the U.S. House. Washington State is roughly divided by the Cascade mountain range…east of the Cascades there must be something in the water. Rep. Shea’s only regret is that he was caught. It was this very mindset and the active presence of the neo-Nazis in nearby Hayden Lake, Idaho that propelled me from my parents’ (very affordable) retirement home in Spokane back to the land of my birth — the San Francisco Bay Area. And even here, we see California politically divided along the same geographical lines as those in Washington State, with an even deeper separatist mentality manifested in The State of Jefferson movement.

  39. Linda,

    You’ve had to face “unchecked” anti-Semitism. It’s going to become much WORSE unless it is dealt with. And that is a very difficult thing to do. There is no better example than this blog.

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