American Decline

A new book imagines a looming civil war over the very meaning of America

By Carlos Lozada Washington Post
Journalist Stephen Marche envisions multiple scenarios propelling the country into conflict.

THE NEXT CIVIL WAR: Dispatches from the American Future

By Stephen Marche. Avid Reader Press. 238 pp. $27.

To glimpse the coming dismemberment of the United States of America, just stop by your local bookstore.

“How Civil Wars Start” by Barbara F. Walter, one of the most-discussed titles of the moment, warns that the signs typically heralding such conflicts are now evident at home. “Divided We Fall” by David French, published weeks before the 2020 election, pictures the cleaving of the United States into two culturally distinct states, united only in their mutual detestation. On the magazine racks, the Atlantic argues that the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol was merely “practice” for the more effective democratic subversion that’s now underway. And on the fiction shelves, you can pick up a paperback of Omar El Akkad’s 2017 novel, “American War,” a grim vision of environmental destruction, youth radicalization, internally displaced populations and biological warfare in the United States, a vision rendered less fashionable only by its timing (here, the second American civil war is not waged until the latter half of the 21st century).

Into this crowd steps Canadian novelist and journalist Stephen Marche with “The Next Civil War: Dispatches From the American Future,” which takes the realities of a politically tribalistic United States — burdened by racial and economic injustice, packed with social resentments, awash with guns — and imagines its move toward all-out conflict. “The background hum of hyper-partisanship, the rage and loathing of everyday American politics, generates a widespread tolerance for violence,” Marche writes. “Eventually somebody acts on it.”


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