Are we headed toward a second Civil War? Has, in fact, one already begun?
Was the violent insurrection at the nation's Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the Fort Sumter of this war — when the first shots were fired?
I don't really know the answers to those questions, but I feel confident in saying that a new Civil War would in no way resemble the previous one. That is, there won't be competing armies facing off against each other in pitched battle over territory.
No, the new conflict, if it is here or nearly here, would be more like guerilla warfare of the sort that plagues African and South American countries. That seems to be a real possibility; see, Jan. 6 as an example.
The reason for such pessimism is the growing division in this country, fueled by a media that has divided into two distinct camps: Fox News and assorted right-wing websites on one side, CNN, MSNBC and such traditional media as The New York Times and The Washington Post on the other. These days, we seem to be divided into two competing realities with little inclination or motive to seek consensus.
And although the attack on the Capitol was a singular abomination, the "left" side of the equation should not be ignored: the sometimes violent demonstrations last year in the wake of the murder of George Floyd were in themselves abominable.
But it has to be said that last year's unrest pales in comparison to the riots of the late 1960s, especially the widespread torching of many major cities in the wake of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1968.
It seems to me that there are two main rallying points in this national division. The first is the vaccination/anti-vaccination divide. This divide has seen a full 20 percent of the American population saying there is no way they are going to get the "jab," despite all the credible evidence that the way out of this COVID-19 pandemic is to get vaccinated.
The second is the "Big Lie" being advanced by former President Donald Trump, who can't admit that he lost his bid for reelection in 2020, fair and square.
It is hard for me to understand how the vaccination/anti-vaccination divide has become such a political issue, but it has and seems to be growing in intensity with each passing day.
As for the Big Lie, that's easy to understand. Polls show that some 70 percent of Republicans believe it. That, of course, translates into about 30 percent of all the voters, which is still quite an astonishing number of true believers in the falsehoods being continually promoted by Trump and his followers
This 30 percent base of support for Trump is surely enough backing to see him into the 2024 presidential election and his all but certain bid for reelection
First, however, will come the mid-term elections later this year, when we will see if the Republican efforts at voter suppression and election oversight will bear fruit; if it does, that could pave the way for a violent reaction from Democrats should Trump eke out a contested win in '24.
And maybe by that time we will know definitively if we have entered a second Civil War.
Tommy Stevenson is retired associate editor of The Tuscaloosa News. Reach him at email@example.com or 205-292-2236.
This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Have the first shots been fired in our second Civil War? | AT LARGE