Bad mix for sanity

I have about decided I can either study history or keep up on current events, but I shouldn’t do both. It’s just too depressing and/or frightening.

I’m listening to a lecture series about the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the rise of nations. It covers a period of time full of wars, rebellions, civil wars, cultural clashes, power struggles, and conflict. The trouble is, it’s far too easy to see parallels between then and now. For example, today I listened to the beginnings of the English Civil War. It began with a power struggle between King Charles and the Parliament. Charles was trying to increase his own power, especially to create and raise taxes, while Parliament were trying to secure more rights for themselves and the people. Round One ended with Charles invoking his right as king  to disband Parliament. They were out of session for more than ten years.

It would have been longer, but Scotland invaded. Needing the power of Parliament to raise taxes to pay for the war, Charles called them back into session. They promptly got to work–passing laws and trying to get them put in place without the King’s signature. When Charles tried to have their leaders arrested it would be only a short time before Parliament threw in with Scotland to fight against their own king.

In the intransigence of both sides I couldn’t help but see parallels with today’s situation. This and many other similar situations throughout the history of Europe have me nearly convinced the United States of America is doomed. Unless we find a way to set aside this “scorched earth” approach to politics I predict we’ll be either embroiled in a civil war or no longer united states within ten years. This latest partisan staring-match is perhaps nothing new, or is it? One side began the “discussion” by absolutely refusing to negotiate on any point. The other side followed suit. There was no attempt to resolve their differences. Indeed, they as much as promised this back in April when they refused to try to reconcile conflicting budget bills.

We like to think we’re more civilized these days, but certainly our talk is not. Lawmakers have been speaking in violent analogies, and the public has surpassed that to actual death threats. Where our talk goes, our actions cannot be far behind. Once each side decides they must hold their ground and that that the other side is beyond reason, then extreme actions are all that are left. Breaking up the country peacefully is the best-case scenario. Devolving into a massive, nasty civil war is more likely.

We think it can’t happen. We would be wrong. For all our technological advancement, in many other ways it’s 1640 all over again.

This is one prediction I really hope I get wrong, but recent events reveal a deepening frustration and sense that the other side is incapable of bending. This sort of zeitgeist seldom ended well in Europe. I hope we don’t need our own Thirty Years War to convince us something is wrong with this country, and that we need to fix it before it’s too late.