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Just War, Civil War, and Political Violence

If you opened this article, you might have opened it to read about Pope Gelasius’ two swords theory or perhaps the three categories (authority, cause, and intention) of Thomas Aquinas’ bellum iustum. You might have been interested in the wartime ethics of the American Confederacy during the Civil War, and the question of whether abolition can be considered an intention for the North. Maybe you’ve been noticing a major rise in political violence on the Left but don’t quite know where you stand on countering it. You hope that I, writer of articles, possess the wisdom to guide you through these quandaries, steeped as I am in history and philosophy, ready to stamp my views into your hot wax and ready you for battle.

I’m only writing, though, because I’m angry. Angrier than I’ve ever been. And I think you should be too, though that isn’t my goal here. I’m angry because I read the news and see people who have never been anything more than annoying Facebook commenters shoulder rifles and shoot down congressmen. I’m angry because black men in their 20s and 30s are out disrespecting and killing the public servants who risk their lives to preserve a shaky rule of law in their communities. I’m frustrated that tens of thousands of criminals are pouring into the United States, destined by hook or crook to become a left-wing voting bloc, while tens of thousands of much wretcheder refuse does the same in Europe (fuck voting, in Sweden it’s more like rape and murder). I’m furious that left-wing hipsters in black masks can round up a posse of thousands to burn down a city over a routine economic summit or a conservative speaker. What makes me angriest—and I’m ashamed to admit this—is that the violence all seems to be coming from one side. The Right, to their credit, wants to be in the right. And for the time being, it seems, that means pointing fingers instead of rifle scopes.

If our society were a real society, with unity of rule and purpose, with a shared narrative and rich cultural history, and another society breached its walls and flooded its borders to displace it, I would put my wife in charge of the house and strap on my sword. If I lived in any age but the Age of Confusion, when it’s hard to find a comrade who understands what we’re fighting and what we’re fighting for, I’d be surrounded by a dozen good, hard Men of the West wherever I turned: in the workplace, at the gym, in the media, at my kids’ school. But I live in twenty-first century America. In this sci-fi dystopia, there are so many well-meaning people—hundreds of millions—who live their lives by vapid slogans like “the pursuit of happiness,” “wag more bark less,” and “a better world for everybody.” They own tiny woodland creatures in cages to make up for barren wombs, have a soft spot in their hearts for Beatles music, see no problem with $600 billion spent on middle managers and compliance officers who make sure that our pointless foreign wars are politically correct, while pining for better days when there was enough money to go around and no identity politics. Some, I sense, would be up with me on the shield wall, if they could take off their horse blinders for five seconds and see what the Left is doing to their civilization.

Growing up in the downtown of a major city, getting the shit beat out of you was like a currency. Sometimes you were owed a beatdown, other times one came as an unexpected gift, and occasionally you were expected to deliver one. In an environment like that, the streets raised you: memories of pain on the blacktop were branded into your psyche, forging you. The collective left fists of three dozen angry young men were your mother; their rights your father. 

I’ve found that I remember my childhood better than most, and I think I know why. I’ve had friends tell me that their childhood is something of a blur for them, because as their experiences have broadened, each year feels more real to them than their last: going to college, becoming an independent adult, living it up, marrying and having children, their ship coming in. The memory of childhood slowly fades. I get it, and I’ve lived that to a certain extent. But the constant struggle of my youth, the fight to survive, I have never forgotten. My experiences have grown broader (who gives a fuck now about some neighborhood on the east side), but they’ve never grown deeper. Twenty-five years ago, they were pounded into my brain like a railroad spike.

Enough autobiography; what’s my point? My point is that most of you people (I’m allowed to say that), out there voting and tweeting and protesting and memeing and constantly consuming things that will permanently fund all that you hate, have never been punched in the face or baseball batted in the kneecap. Any talk about “a major increase in violence” is taking place behind three phenomenological walls, served up like a novella or an in-flight movie. It can be engaged with, and then turned off. But the hour is coming—nay, has already come—when the unemployed and dissatisfied military-aged males with no papers but on government assistance come to your door, for your property, for your dignity, for your life. Maybe you’ll be lucky: you’ll own a gun and be trained to use it, you’ll have the physical and mental toughness to survive a fight for your life. Or maybe you’ll be unlucky and you’ll be at work with just your wife and kids at home.

Make no mistake: when this happens to you or your family, the Enemy will be ticking all of its just-war boxes. The attack will be retroactively authorized by the State with a slap on the wrist for the perpetrator (possibly deported, possibly not). The cause will be iustissima. “The victim’s social media profile contained some offensive posts,” a left-wing media outlet will let slip. “The attackers’ motives were unclear” (but, we assume, pure as the driven snow). For them, the civil war is already on, and has been on since at least the 1960s. Their side’s willingness to use violence has been steadily gaining momentum.

So the question is not “Is this a war?” or even “What are the rules of engagement?” This is a war. The only question is where will be your battleground. There are no rules of engagement except the ones that help you survive on your streets, in your neighborhood. In a world without kingdoms, without (bilateral) wars of religion, all coexistence and no communities, all freedom and no feudalism, the old rules don’t apply. This is a new and dangerous world: a Cold Civil War, with a battleground in every country and multiple dimensions (physical, cyber, cognitive, spiritual).

What this means to you depends entirely on your ever-changing circumstances. Certain principles apply to all: St. Paul’s “Inasmuch as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Vegetius’ “If you want peace, prepare for war.”  Whether you don a skull-painted tac vest and more guns than you have hands for a little wetwork, or you stay home taking vigilant watch over your tribe and fighting "the Battle of Bedford Falls," will depend on where you live and what you’re up against. Take stock of threats and opportunities often. When your moment arrives, don’t hesitate.

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