American Conservatives are “Conserving” Us Right into Another Civil War!

Recall in CWI, the Revolutionary War, American conservatives were eager to to kill their fellow Americans in order to conserve subservience to king and church and loyalty to authority, law and order, tradition, heritage, honor and their “way of life.” Of course, all of these, not coincidently, were part and parcel of a status quo which served their own advantage and privilege, and in joining the British cause (and the military superpower of the day) they perceived — quite rationally — that they, the Tories, could bolster their positions further with rich rewards from the surely quickly to be victorious British military. Thankfully, (alas, for them), things didn’t turn out so cheerily for the Tories.

CWII proponents had the same greed but no such rationality on their side. Indeed, of all the stupid American wars, this was the stupidest… and bloodiest. There would be no “superpower” on their side. Quite the opposite. While the American patriots in the Revolution were fighting primarily against a military force that had to cross an ocean to get to the battlefield, the Confederates would do battle with a much more war-capable behemoth an inch across its land border. The Confederates were as certain of their victory as were the Tories, and turned out be just as wrong, but whereas the Independence patriots’ victory in the Revolution was, indeed, against the original odds, the Confederate defeat could be clearly predicted by any with an unclouded mind.

Here is Union General William Sherman’s assessment — before the war — of Confederate martial prospects against the Northern states:

“You people of the South don’t know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization!

“You people speak so lightly of war; you don’t know what you’re talking about. War is a terrible thing! You mistake, too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight, too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it…

“Besides, where are your men and appliances of war to contend against them? The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make. You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical, and determined people on Earth-right at your doors.

“You are bound to fail. Only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with. At first you will make headway, but as your limited resources begin to fail, shut out from the markets of Europe as you will be, your cause will begin to wane. If your people will but stop and think, they must see in the end that you will surely fail.”

Fail, the Confederates did. Spectacularly. Traitors to the United States. Defenders of the evil “institution” of slavery. But, look, they are still revered by quite a large segment of modern America. Even as some of their monuments of admiration are now coming down, there is not a small contingent that would put them back up in a New York minute. Passive acquiescence to this toxic ancestor/heritage worship has not served America well.

What were the Confederates conserving? Pretty much the same shit as the Tories. No king involved this time, but still culturally enforced churchiness, authority, law and order, tradition, heritage, honor, “way of life.” Oh yes, and at the very epicenter of all of those “virtues” was slavery. State’s rights? Well sure… the right for its citizens to own slaves! That — and only that — was the reasoning behind secession. And they had their eye on the entire Southwest for expansion of that “peculiar institution.”

Four years later, after Sherman’s predictions had all come true and the South lay in wreckage, here is what another Union general, Ulysses S. Grant, had to say about the sad affair:

“. . . [No foe] fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought!”

The worst causes… funny how conservatives always seem to be busy, busy, busy on just such enterprises. The Civil War certainly didn’t stop them from bad beliefs and bad behavior… which continues unabated as I type and you read. A quick scan: spreading the vilest, most corrosive lies, keeping their proverbial boot on the neck of the equal rights and individual autonomy of women, installing draconian — no mercy on the reluctant mother — abortion bans, drawing up wildly gerrymandered voting districts so as to ensure minority rule in state legislatures, plotting to steal future elections, persecuting transgender kids, gearing up to repeal same-sex marriage, shutting down immigration altogether and willing to throw out of the country even people who came, undocumented, to America decades ago as children, blocking any and all gun control, pushing for more and more fundamentalist religious control over society, and, certainly worst of all, doing everything they can to accelerate the planet burning.

Which brings us to today’s American conservatives. What are they conserving? Well, the shit still has the same old stink. Kings and slavery are not so much on the table anymore — though never discount how quickly they might approve resurrecting these “traditions” from their shallow graves. But the rest — the churchiness, which they are determined to enforce upon American society, the authority, the “tradition,” the “heritage,” the “law and order” (fully on display on January 6, 2021), the “honor” (bullying as it may be) — are all still present and accounted for.

An oft unstated but presumed quality that conservatives always bestow upon themselves is “superiority,” of faith, of common sense, of race, of gender, of honor, of loyalty, of virtue. Today’s Wackabirds share this same certainty, which is actually but another self-serving myth, with their Tory and Confederate ideological forebears. Just as the Tories believed themselves the morally superior and loyal defenders of king and country, and the Confederates felt they needed a new country which would serve their superior civilization of gallantry and chivalry, so, too, do today’s American conservatives — whether corporate or social — believe themselves the “real” Americans and thus entitled to rule and to enforce their superiority upon those inferior women, liberals, blacks, browns, immigrants, gays, trans, atheists, non-English speakers and other various and sundry socialists, misfits, non-conformists and other “others.” A nuttier, less historically accurate, assumption could hardly be contrived, but it is bedrock “truthiness” for conservatives.

It is because of this presumed superiority that conservatives justify their oppression of all others (with one exception, their showy display of overwhelming compassion for the one and only group that never talks back to them, never demands anything more of them, and has a literal term-limit for how long they need be morally supported: fetuses). Being “Pro Life” provides conservatives their one and only “moral” and “compassionate” social and political position. Otherwise “righteous” meanness, often spilling into violence, is the means which easily justifies the end. What end? What conservatives conserve: their own advantage, privilege and power.

Conservatives have an over-abundance of surety, arrogance, swagger, confidence and willingness to believe… and do… pretty much anything to get their way, all fully justified by their self-presumed “superiority.” Such a wellspring of these attributes easily flushes out competing, threatening, attributes: truth, rationality, empathy, compassion and belief in essential American ideals. Indeed, the ideology of selfishness has no place for any semblance of liberty, equality, justice and pursuit of happiness for all of those inferior “others.” Conservatives don’t want a level playing field; they want the system rigged in their favor.

And so, if allowed to fester and spread, which is precisely what is happening now, it is not a question of if conservatism will blow up in America’s face again, just a matter of when.

The first violent skirmish has already happened: January 6, 2021, when thousands — maybe tens of thousands — of conservatives, believing themselves American heroes, but actually gullible rubes brainwashed by their cherished authority figure and cult leader that the American election was truly stolen, violently attacked the United States Capitol with the entire Congress and vice president inside with the intent to “Stop the Steal,” beating up and killing cops and fully able and willing to murder elected leaders of the nation in service to conserving their own advantage, privilege and power. Attempting to destroy America is what passes for conservative “patriotism.”

More clashes are dead ahead as Republican state legislatures in over twenty states are hurrying to pass laws that will allow them to remove stalwart election officials trying to conduct and count the legal vote, and change the outcome to — you guessed it — conserve their advantage, privilege and power. This is what conservatives conserve… and nothing else. Again, conservative “patriotism.”

In the meantime, conservatives are giddy at the recent Supreme Court decisions that have struck down federal rights and protections and regulations, and passed back to the states the ability to rig these as they deem fit, which will be a very ugly spectacle, indeed. America is about to be “Balkanized.” While continuing to proclaim to be champions of “individual rights,” conservatives will continue to whack away at the individual rights of everyone not rich, white, male and/or fundamentalist Christian. Then, about two years from now, all hell will break lose when they attempt to “legally” steal the 2024 presidential election. Unlike their complete dearth of evidence, only a comic book full of the wackiest conspiracy theories, that the Democrats really stole the 2020 election there is a mountain of evidence building that Republicans are planning to actually perpetrate the very crime that they screamed bloody murder over, and violated the Capitol and democracy itself to prevent, when they believed (entirely falsely) that Democrats were doing it. Somehow, in their minds, if Democrats were to steal an election, it would be traitorous, but if they do it, it’s heroic.

Tories. Confederates. Trumpers. They haven’t changed much. Given the right circumstances, the Trumpers would install a king and restore slavery. Why wouldn’t they? Morals? Ethics? Compassion? Ha! Read the erudite and convincing (to those that long to be convinced) arguments for king and church and slavery that American conservatives put forth back in the day. The only thing that matters to them is their own advantage, privilege and power. God? Jesus? These are just illusions they believe they believe in, and make a huge deal about because it provides a superstructure of justification for their presumed superiority. But their actions speak louder than their thoughts and prayers (and self-soothing charity giving). Conservatives believe in nothing but their own selfishness. And civil war is an option they will barely hesitate to enact. Again.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Rusty Reid

Rusty Reid


Rusty Reid is a songwriter, journalist and essayist. Originally from Texas, he now lives in the Pacific Northwest.