Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

The US Civil War continues

By Stephan Richter (China Daily) Updated: 2013-10-11 07:23

A big hoax of American history is that the Civil War ended in 1865. It has not ended yet. What was achieved then was more of an armistice.

As the current logjam in United States Congress makes plain, the Civil War is still going on in today's America - and with virulence that most other civilized nations find as breathtaking as it is irresponsible.

The US Civil War continues

A DC policeman checks the locks on a gate at the National Gallery of Art's Sculpture Garden on Oct 1, 2013. Sun Chenbei / China Daily 

Plenty of US commentators are trying to make light of the government shutdown. They argue that it is just a bunch of Tea Party Republicans who is causing the current mayhem. Such an interpretation underestimates the forces of history and the continuing deep divisions in American society.

The reason why the Civil War was declared to be over was the military defeat of the South. But can anyone seriously doubt that, culturally, the same anti-Union spirit is still heard in the halls of US Congress today?

The fight against "Obamacare" (President Barack Obama's healthcare law) is cast by Republicans as fighting the authoritarian - and, in the words of some conservative commentators, "fascist" - views of the Obama administration and the American "left". In their eyes, the Republicans are staking out the democratic and libertarian political high ground, all in the defense of "freedom".

The fight in Washington thus is not about any of the things in the headlines, the budget, debt or Obamacare. These are proxies in a fundamental battle over the structure of American society.

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