This story was updated July 5, 2018, at 6:30 a.m. EDT. The new American Civil War has not begun.
Irony is dangerous in 280 characters. Trolls are always all too ready to take you at your word. But #secondcivilwarletters, a Twitter game in which people imagine writing home about current difficulties in the style of the letters of the American Civil War, keeps making me, yes, laugh out loud.
And this as someone who has written extensively about the first U.S. Civil War, and about the current frightening divisions in American and European society.
Anyone who has watched the classic Ken Burns series The Civil War will recognize the elegiac tone as suffering soldiers and civilians write home about victories won, privations endured.
The multiple authors of these tweets were inspired by reports over the last couple of weeks, prompted in part by columnist Tom Ricks, and exploded by the infamous "InfoWars" preacher Alex Jones, that a new civil war may be on the horizon. Indeed, Jones predicted it would begin July 4.
Donald Trump and his supporters, long accustomed to making their own threats and occasionally violent attacks on those with whom they disagree, have been waxing hysterical about the possibility that Trump opponents might even become, in Trump’s memorable phrase, “Second Amendment people” ready to take guns and the law into their own hands.
True to form, Trump’s favorite pollsters at Rasmussen Reports published a survey informing readers that “most voters fear that political violence is coming from opponents of the president’s policies, just as they did in the second year of Barack Obama’s presidency, and nearly one-in-three think a civil war is next.” (Interesting phrasing there. In case you were as confused as I was, Rasmussen did not mean there were so many people worried about violent opponents of Trump’s policies in 2010. In those days, the concern was about violence aimed at Obama.)
The point of many of the #secondcivilwarletters is not only to mock such hysteria, but to get people on all sides to chill out.
Here are a few fairly random samples with references to, among other things, the Bowling Green massacre that wasn’t, the not so big inaugural crowd last year, and the limitless conspiracy theories surrounding liberal philanthropist George Soros:
And this from The Daily Beast‘s inimitable contributor Erin Ryan: