Although I participated in the countercultural “revolutions,” antiwar protests and racial conflicts of the 1960s, it wasn’t until August 2016 that I had my first truly unnerving intimations of a full-blown American civil war: Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump told a rally that if Hillary Clinton “gets to pick her judges, judicial appointments, nothing you can do, folks. Although, the Second Amendment people — maybe there is. I don’t know.” By June 1, 2020, Trump’s seeming afterthought about “Second Amendment people” had metastasized into something truly scary. He and combat-fatigues-clad Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, along with Attorney General William Barr, strode from the White House to Lafayette Park, where a peaceful demonstration had been dispersed brutally by National Guard troops. Trump’s insistence only days earlier that the U.S. Army itself should be sent against the protesters — a demand echoed by Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton in a now-infamous New York Times op-ed — reminded me of Julius Caesar leading Roman legions illegally across the river Rubicon from Gaul into Italy in 49 B.C. to subdue Rome’s own citizens and, with them, their republic. Kenosha, Wisconsin’s closest approximation to the Rubicon is the tiny Pike River, which flows from Petrifying Springs into Lake Michigan. Its closest approximation to a military crackdown was the police mobilization against violent protests after a police officer shot and paralyzed an unarmed young Black man in August of last year. Those police failed to challenge Kyle Rittenhouse, the illegally armed, […]
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