The hyperbole is running rampant these days from the lips of the pundits and commentators regarding the national debate on health care. Those opposed to the House plan are often characterized as bent on some sort of revolution or over throw of the government. They speak of the opposition to a government health care take over as being composed of people who favor a nazi -like regime or using extreme language comparing those in power to nazis. They can’t seem to make up their mind about whether the opposition is comprised of nazis or they are making unfair comparisons of the current administration’s headlong flight to expand government as a nazi-like grab for power. However they are interpreted there has been a barely below the radar expression of concern about some sort of revolution in the country that would be fostered by extremists and right wing hate groups. Well, I don’t think we need fear that kind of revolution any time soon. There was much play in the press about some town hall protesters against the health care House bill carrying signs with the Jefferson quote about the tree of liberty needing replenishment with the blood of tyrants ever so often. There has even been severe criticism of burning some congressman in effigy. We have a long history of that in the US. It was a common practice during the Revolutionary War and was done extensively during the War Between the States by many of those opposed to Lincoln. During the draft riots in 1863 or 1864 in New York city it was done many times. I am not one to want to participate in that kind of activity but it is an expression of free speech. I don’t condone it or approve it but recognize it as a right. It is not un-American as ms. Pelosi might contend.
The history of the world is replete with revolutions and civil wars. When such a movement gains true traction the first major concern is always what will the military do when faced with two opposing camps claiming authority over it. The history of Rome is ripe with such examples. The Roman Empire went through literally dozens of civil wars and revolutions over its history. Julius Caesar was a revolutionary when he crossed the Rubic0n because he was defying the civil authority by bringing his army within the confines of the heart of the Roman world which was forbidden. Thus we have that expression to this day, crossing the Rubicon, about taking a step where there is no turning back once taken. He was going to emerge the new leader or end up dead or at best in exhile as a result of his action. A bit later it was Augustus and Marc Antony that engaged in a civil war. They both commanded Roman Armies but each was loyal to opposing sides. The Roman Empire managed to endure in spite of these turmoils and uprisings for four more centuries.
The moment of truth in any civil war is when the troops are called upon to take military action against their fellow countrymen. Will they do it? That is always the critical step. The better trained and disciplined the troops the more likely they will follow the orders of their immediate superior right up the chain of command until you reach the “political” level of authority. There is where the rubber meets the road. You might have seen the recent very so so movie, Valkyrie, about the plot to assassinate Hitler. The outcome of that coup was very much dependent upon who the military would obey when faced with conflicting instructions. At the beginning of our civil war we had no clashes during the early stages at all. The Federal authorities withdrew voluntarily from all federal facilities across the south including military posts. It was only when Lincoln decided to make an issue of it by reinforcing Ft. Sumter that the first shots were fired. That was done as a PR ploy to make sure it was the south that fired the first shots. It succeeded.
Napoleon when he left Elba and returned to France and was on the march again to regain power faced his major challenge outside Lyon. He had gathered a fairly small force that was marching with him north toward Paris. The King had dispatched an army lead by one of Napoleon’s former commanders (of course they all were in that category) to stop him and arrest him. The big concern was what would happen when those two armies met. Napoleon would have been defeated as his force was small compared to the opposing army. When they came face to face Napoleon when out personally to address the opposing troops. He reminded them of their past glory and what he had done for France and the revolution. He told them that if they opposed him they could shoot him on the spot. They gave a hurrah and no harm came to Napoleon that day. The “civil” war in Fance was won by him without firing a shot. He lead a united France to Waterloo and his ultimate defeat.
If the tempers ever reach the boiling point in the US it is a hard call to make whether the troops would fire on their fellow citizens. It probably would depend on who was in the opposing crowd. If it was a lot of blue hairs and grannies I don’t think they would. If it is long hairs burning the American flag then they might. Would they take aim through the cross hairs at their neighbors or turn the weapon on their own commanders? Will we face a day where we turn to the bullets rather than the ballots through frustration and anger? I truly don’t know. We are divided badly now but we have faced divisions before and survived and even thrived through it all. Have our opposing fundamental views of government reached such a demarche between the sides that we are headed for the abyss? The historians of another age will have the answers and will offer ponderous explanations whatever the outcome.
When you look at yourself in the mirror the image you see is reversed as we all know. Your right hand appears as a “left” hand in the mirror. The mirror reverses the image. Since that is true then why aren’t up and down also reversed? www.olcranky.wordpress.com