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?
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.