The Corner

“A cold civil war”

Is that where we’re headed? William Gibson used the phrase a year or so back in his novel Spook Country; the Hyacinth Girl picked it up at her website; and I ran with it for a column north of the border. Now the Hyacinth Girl has returned to the topic.

David Warren thinks another literary concept applies. “Two solitudes” is a term popularized by a Hugh MacLennan novel set in Montreal and, though the phrase originates (if memory serves) with Rilke, it came to sum up the relationship between the English and French in Canada. Mr Warren believes the concept has headed south:

In the United States, especially in the present election, we get glimpses of two political solitudes that have been created not by any plausible socio-economic division within society, nor by any deep division between different ethnic tribes, but tautologically by the notion of “two solitudes” itself. The nation is divided, roughly half-and-half, between people who instinctively resent the Nanny State, and those who instinctively long for its ministrations. And every kind of specious racial, economic, cultural and class division has been thrown into the mix to add to its toxicity.

He regards these as “two basically irreconcilable views of reality”:

Only in America are they so equally balanced. Elsewhere in the West, the true believers in the Nanny State have long since prevailed.

Democrats and Republicans have become two solitudes, and so, the result of the election will be ugly, no matter which side wins.

(PS Mark Levin, as listeners well know, prefers the term “quiet civil war”. I incline toward “cold civil war” not just because it combines two types of actual war but because it gets the idea of a psychological Iron Curtain cleaving our politics. Of course, in that sense, the problem with this election is that Senator McCain is running like one of those 1970s West German chancellors wedded to detente uber alles.)

Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.


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