Citizenship and Civil Disobedience10-13-2018
We'd Like to SayA Special Thank You to All Who Attended This Year's Conference, "Citizenship and Civil Disobedience! We are thrilled so many of you attended, watched, and enjoyed our 11th annual conference "Citizenship and Civil Disobedience." The talks and discussions were exciting, with probing questions and the kind of provocative thinking Hannah Arendt inspires. If you'd like to watch the conference, or revisit particular talks, you can view the webcast in its entirety here. We are also making available the text version of Roger Berkowitz's introductory address: "Citizenship and Civil Disobedience: Reflections on Civil War and Civil Disobedience," which you can read below. Don't forget to mark the date, October 10 and 11, 2019, for next year's conference: "Racism and Anti-Semitism."Form more information visit: https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2018/09/29/643386327/no-cash-needed-at-this-cafe-students-pay-the-tab-with-their-personal-data
Happy Birthday Hannah Arendt!
Form more information visit: http://www.hannaharendt.net/index.php/han/article/view/95/156"Hatred and love belong together, and they are both destructive; you can afford them only in the private and, as a people, only so long as you are not free.”
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"Citizenship and Civil Disobedience: Reflections on Civil War and Civil Disobedience"
In the years leading up to the Civil War, there were more than 70 violent clashes between Representatives and Senators in Congress. In her book "Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and Road to Civil War" Joanna Freeman tells a story of a raucous antebellum Congress replete with bullying, dueling, and fistfights. Even now amidst the bitter animosity that pervades Washington, DC, it takes some effort to imagine our elected officials engaging in regular canings, duels, and fistfights, or to learn that they were brandishing pistols and knives and even flinging the occasional brick in the Capitol Building. But all this was happening in Congress in the two decades before the Civil War. The fighting culture in Congress reflected the country at large. In four months during 1835 alone, there were 109 riots across the United States. The murderous battles of "Bloody Kansas" in 1850 actually played out a mini-civil-war between pro-slavery Missourians and anti-slavery Kansans from the North. And John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry unleashed a tide of anger on both sides of the national divide over slavery. While the violence in Congress began with Southern Democratic Congressmen intimidating Northern abolitionists, something changed in 1856. Suddenly, a new class of Republican Congressmen decided to fight back. The abolitionists stood up to intimidation from the South and met threat with defiance and force with force. As a result, the 34th Congress was the most violent in history and culminated in the barbaric caning of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner after his "Crime Against Kansas" speech. The speech insulted Southern slaveholders by name, insinuating that they were holding on to slavery at least partly for reasons of sexual mastery. This led Representative Preston Brooks-a relative to one insulted Senator-to walk up to Sumner and cane him mercilessly until Sumner was carried away bloody and barely conscious. I bring this up not to suggest we are about to have a second civil war--although I don't rule out that possibility. Last year, Foreign Policy Magazine asked a group of National Security Analysts to evaluate the chances of a civil war in the United States over the next 10 to 15 years. The answers ranged from 5 to 95 percent. The average was 35 percent. And this was before the Unite the Right March in Charlottesville. Keith Mines, a special forces officer turned diplomat estimated the probability of war at 60%. He said:
"Violence is “in” as a method to solve disputes and get one’s way. The president modeled violence as a way to advance politically and validated bullying during and after the campaign. Judging from recent events the left is now fully on board with this, although it has been going on for several years with them as well - consider the university events where professors or speakers are shouted down and harassed, the physically aggressive anti-Israeli events, and the anarchists during globalization events. It is like 1859, everyone is mad about something and everyone has a gun."Well, it is like 1859--and it is not. Hannah Arendt reminded us not to see too much wisdom in history. She warned repeatedly that the present is always unprecedented and we must look upon it fresh. But in her essay "Civil Disobedience," Arendt writes that history can teach us about the causes of revolution.
"If history teaches anything about the causes of revolution...it is that a disintegration of political systems precedes revolutions, that the telling symptom of disintegration is a progressive erosion of governmental authority, and that this erosion is caused by the government's inability to function properly, from which spring the citizens' doubts about its legitimacy. This is what the Marxists used to call a 'revolutionary situation,'-which, of course, more often than not does not develop into a revolution."It is fair to say that we are today in at least some version of a revolutionary situation, one in which large numbers of citizens reject the legitimacy of our established institutions. This week in the New York Times, Emily Badger offered an insight into the depth and breadth of the popular anger against the Establishment. Even today, two years into the Trump Presidency, 47% of Trump supporters feel like strangers in their own country. At the same time, 44% of those who disapprove of Trump report they feel like strangers in their own country. It is not simply that people disagree; an overwhelming majority of Americans-people in power and people out of power, persons of color and white people, and women and men-all feel alienated, rootless, and powerless in their own country. We are at one of those rare moments at which the country sits on a pivotal point amidst a conflict of fundamental values. At such moments, as in the 1850s, violence and even civil war are very real possibilities. We should not be shocked that violence is a possibility in America today. One of the most prescient observers of America, Hannah Arendt well understood how the United States is a fertile ground for violence. In her essay "Is America By Nature a Violent Society?" Arendt writes: "It seems true that America, for historical, social and political reasons, is more likely to erupt into violence than most other civilized countries." American propensity to violence coexists with the country's deep respect for law.... Read the rest of this Introduction to the Conference here.Form more information visit: https://medium.com/@arendt_center/citizenship-and-civil-disobedience-reflections-on-civil-war-and-civil-disobedience-4481e7a447fa