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Zombie and the American ‘Troubles’

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Jim Opionin By Jim Powers
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The Republican National Committee last week voted to censure Republicans Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. In that resolution they characterized the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol as “ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”

 Between 1968 and 1998 3,700 people were killed and over 30,000 injured during a civil war in Northern Ireland labeled “the Troubles.” While it was not a civil war exactly in the mold of the American Civil War, it featured all the hallmarks of civil wars that have occurred through history. There were constant bombings, street fighting, people were locked up without trial, etc., all characteristics of a civil war. The two sides stubbornly engaged in an unwinnable extended insurgency.

One of the senseless bombings toward the end of “the Troubles” killed two children and was memorialized in the song Zombie by a band called the Cranberries. If you haven’t heard the song, here’s a few verses:

Another head hangs lowly
Child is slowly taken
And the violence, caused such silence
Who are we mistaken?

But you see, it's not me
It's not my family
In your head, in your head, they are fighting
With their tanks, and their bombs
And their bombs, and their guns
In your head, in your head they are crying

In your head, in your head
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie
What's in your head, in your head
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie, oh…

After 30 years of war among themselves, most people likely no longer knew what they were fighting for. But the song asks an important question. What’s in the heads of people who would bomb children? After so long, the people engaged in the violence were like Zombies, mindlessly killing and maiming their own countrymen simply because they had done it for so long.

I’ve been a student of history my entire life and have read of more civil wars than I care to remember, and for the first time I see the signs of an impending civil war in our own country. Not a civil war like the first one, where we line up across a large field and shoot at each other, but one very much like the Troubles in Northern Ireland, an extended insurgency, where civil society collapses, and neighbor is pitted against neighbor.

In a real sense, this country has become ungovernable. The population is so diverse that consensus is impossible to achieve. The political left and right are so philosophically apart that no compromise is possible, and this is only going to get worse as the country continues to get more diverse racially, socially, and religiously. 

Changes in our society are inevitable, yet there have been those in many failed societies over time that have attempted to halt or reverse that change by force, as happened in our own civil war in 1861.

I wish I could say that things will be different this time, that by some miracle we will all gather around a campfire, sing Kumbaya, and everything will work out for the best. But I’m not very good at self-delusion. 

If we don’t get out of our own heads, escape our own bias, and stop listening to the noise of social media that’s being used by bad actors who believe they can benefit by throwing the U.S. into anarchy, we risk finding ourselves decades from now as Zombies, killing and destroying for reasons we can’t remember.

(Declaimer: As a matter of full disclosure, I am politically Left Libertarian. I include that because I am sure someone is going to speculate about my potential bias)

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