A Civil War in Words


On any given day, reading the print or watching the screen, we may wonder at the performative absurdities of a Marjorie Taylor Greene — her latest a scream against Interior Homeland Secretary Mayorkas, claiming he had sex with a Russian spy, and then blaming him for “killing people” with fentanyl. 

“When Mayorkas tried to defend himself, Greene cut him off, shouting: “You’re a liar!”

But a long Zoom conversation this week focused less on Greene, or Trump, or Tucker Carlson or myriad others who thrive on false accusation and twisted fact, and wondered more about those who vote for them, fund them, bring cult-like fervor to their rallies.  

To understand it, to get inside the minds of those who want to hear falsehoods and conspiracies, believe them all, and vote for those who deliver just what they believe/what they want to hear, is a vital part of the American conversation now – vital if we are ever to get back to a less divisive and more fruitful politics.

That insight is the work of a Jeff Sharlet book – his tour through Trump and Greene’s world of supporters, getting to know more about them, and writing down what they told him:

“He [Trump] stands up there and says what we all think,” Gene said. “We all want to punch somebody in the face, and he says it for us.” 

“He takes what we all say on the back porch and puts it on the front page,” a White woman named Kate Worthington told me at a Trump rally in Fountain Hills, Arizona,   [Those  Democrats] “Oh yeah,” said the Trumplican. “Actually,” said Jones, “they’re pedophiles.”  “Perverts and murderers,” said a woman in Bossier City. 

One needs no diplomas to know truth, no “data” contrived by “experts.” Knowledge lies not in scholarship or information but within, “the gut,” as Trump had long maintained.”

— Sharlet, ‘The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War’

It’s another thought world, impervious to reason, to fact and counter argument, a place where the other is not just someone with different ideas, but an enemy to be scorned, even hated. 

Older writers – I am one – won’t see the outcome of this “slow civil war” but we know the final lines of a poem from another threatening time.  They hover ominously now:

  “..what rough beast, its hour come round at last, 

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

—— The Second Coming, W.B. Yeats

Mike James
Mike James
Mike James was a long-time anchor newscaster at KING TV.


  1. In order to survive this Madness, we have to retain some faith in our people. Despite this internet driven crap, people have brains and most have the ability to use that organ. We all have to keep talking, engaging and writing common sense. There are conservative thinkers out there who are rational and not susceptible to the likes of MTG, Graetz, and their ilk.I do think they have the primary responsibility to fight back, but all of us have to “speak rationality to craziness” without condemning or belittling. Enough water will eventually extinguish a fire. It may not be in Mike’s or my lifetime, but if we act, truth will prevail. You gotta believe that to survive.

  2. I would add an additional line from “The Second Coming”:
    “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold…”

    This seems to be foretelling our future, as well.

  3. These people wouldn’t just drift into these attitudes and beliefs in a natural process of making sense of the same world everyone lives in. The politicians mentioned have been profiting from it, but like flies enjoying the scum on top of the pond – they couldn’t have created it. Something is literally driving these people nuts.

  4. With regard to wanting to punch the racist/sexist/authoritarian supporters of Trump, as a student of the history of the US Civil War and WW2, I can assure them that the feeling is mutual.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comments Policy

Please be respectful. No personal attacks. Your comment should add something to the topic discussion or it will not be published. All comments are reviewed before being published. Comments are the opinions of their contributors and not those of Post alley or its editors.