Blindly American

I’m not sure if it is cool to write about a book you aren’t done reading. A book you have only read the introduction to and the first three chapters. Yet, I am going to. It is a fascinating book and others, people who are interested, might like to read. My title talks about myself, but this blindness isn’t necessarily mine alone. Other countries also tend to ‘not see’ what is happening around them. So, the title of the book is ‘How Civil Wars Start and How to Stop Them‘ by Barbara Walter. She’s a part of a group of world wide persons who study civil wars and how they start. She shares that ‘anyone can access dozens of high -quality datasets…related to how civil wars start, how long they last, how many people die, and why they fight.” This collection is now housed at Uppsala University, in Sweden. (p. xv)

In her first chapters, she cites many countries who were new democracies or older democracies that have descended into civil war. Oddly, not because of ideologies, but because of identities. Factions created around identities rather than beliefs. (p.35) “Identity based parties make it impossible for voters to switch sides; there is nowhere for them to go if their political identity is tied to their ethnic or religious identity.” (p. 38) Factions are created and can become superfactions- fracturing a democracy and country decisively. The leaders want to push their agenda and congregation of believers. As in Sarajevo, Bosnia. As in India, Northern Ireland, Iraq, and elsewhere in the world. The road to democracy is dangerous, rewarding, yet fraught with pitfalls.

“One of the greatest worries of the 21st century is not only is democracy declining, it s declining in some of the largest democracies around the world. Whereas politics…once revolved primarily around differing visions of government…politicians and their parties are increasingly coalescing around identity: religious views, racial backgrounds, urban and rural values.” (p.53)

“Average citizens may not foresee civil war. But experts who study civil wars know where to look and it is often not the group most people would suspect.” (p.57)

As I was reading, I realised how often I never paid attention to the mass murders of peoples across the world. Ukraine has captured our attention because of the speed and devastation involved. But, why didn’t I notice the Muslim men, women, and children killed and thrown off the Drina river bridge? Why didn’t I pay attention to the 87 day siege in Vukovar, Croatia in ’91? Yes, I was a young mom, but what happens in our world elsewhere, makes for changes in my own town.

Ukraine is a country at war with another country, so far. A bigger country with a leader wanting to push an agenda. A leader who said (and am not exactly sure where I read this. Maybe BBC news?) that democracy was failing. I read those words and scoffed and was angry, yet, after reading just a few chapters by an author who works with others to study civil wars, I am now concerned. America is one of those large democracies and it cannot be taken for granted anymore. We, here in the US, are just as easily taken in by misinformation and the change in economic and cultural power grows. The United States is not immune or better than anyone else, we are a diverse people who needs to remember what is in our melting pot. We can’t be concerned with trying to keep those bits separate. Like a good stew, all those different ingredients mix and meld and make it better. Trying to isolate and remove those ingredients will only ruin the entire pot.

Yes, I wear red on Fridays. I have red, white, and blue earrings. I enjoy fireworks on July 4. I adore The Avengers and Captain America. But, being aware of history and unaware of what is making history today, is not a good idea.