What the American civil war looks like today
In this excerpt from the Growth Now Movement, podcast host Justin Schenck interviews Peter Montoya about his latest book and asks him about the nature of the second American civil war and our nation’s political division.
So the first civil war, where was the battlefield? Well, the battlefield was very clear. It was, you know, Gettysburg and was all the places to the south where they actually fought battles.
What was the dividing line? Dividing line was incredibly clear. The dividing line was federal versus state rights and slavery. We knew exactly what the issue was. All right. So two questions. What’s the battle over today? Why are we at each other’s throats?
In the most simplest of ways is we have we’re arguing about who has the right version of reality. That’s a very, very simplified version. My version of reality is right and yours is wrong. You’re an idiot. I’ll put my quotation marks.
You’re an idiot for believing your version of reality. I don’t think that’s true, by the way. That’s not true. But that’s what we think. And then the question is, where is the battlefield? Where is it being fought?
I’m going to pose it. When do you, Justin, where is the battle being fought? Because it’s not out. Sometimes it is on the streets. There is some hot battle, but that’s not really where it’s being fought. Where is this war being fought
on, on the Internet, through social media?
No, that’s one place that ultimately that is just a proxy for where it’s really being fought. I’ll give you I’ll give you one more guest. Where is the battle being fought?
I have no idea. In our in our homes, I don’t know.
Yeah, you’re in the right direction. The battle is being fought in your mind. Hmm. Oh, no. The media personalities, the shock jocks, the fear mongers, the political party, they want to own your mind. And so what they’re going to do is use every technique possible to make you feel that they’re watching out for you, that they are
your savior, your protector, your hero, and the other side is trying to take something away from you. And when you buy that narrative, they own you. And now you are watching their show or listening to their podcast or paying the subscriptions fees or buying their advertising on their show.
The battle is being fought in your mind. So if you want to stop, that is fairly simple. You just stop playing the game. You exit the battlefield, which any American can do at any moment they choose.
Yeah. And, you know, obviously leading up to the story you told about your father in law, you were somebody at one point you were on the battlefield. Right. You attacked him? Yeah. Via email, because he was sharing his opinions.
And maybe and maybe he did it in an aggressive manner. Who knows? But so he didn’t. But like I’ve seen my friends, you know, who I disagree with. But we’re still friends, mind you, who I disagree with. And they get very upset.
And I just I just go, okay, like there’s nothing for me to get upset about. Like it doesn’t you know, it’s not going to affect me in any way, shape or form. But what was your other than sitting down with your father in law and having that discussion, what was your big shift in understanding, OK, this is
how I need to handle this going forward, and here’s why.
And so I began a lot of research. So I read every book about politics. And it wasn’t that they weren’t partizan politics. You know why the Republicans are right or wrong or why the Democrats are right or wrong.
I read books about political psychology, and where I got most of it was a field of study called evolutionary psychology. If you want to have your mind blown. Spend some time reading books about evolutionary psychology, about how our minds developed.
And what I thought is that, well, I’ve I’ve transcended my lizard brain. Sure. I know that I’m related to apes, but I don’t behave that way. Look at me and I don’t have fur all over me. I’m civilized.
I went to college. I’ve read 500 books in the last 20 years. I’ve listened to thousands of hours of podcasts. I have transcended that Neanderthal. It’s inside my brain. No, I haven’t. I’m every bit as tribe or I was every bit as tribal as anybody else.
And so when you pull it all away, we are still incredibly tribalistic. So every… I’m going to oversimplify and generalize. So most conversations about politics are not about politics. So it sounds like let’s talk about policy.
Do you believe in, you know, guns or you believe in the higher minimum wage or do you believe in climate change? And you think you’re having a conversation about policy? Virtually no conversations about politics are about policy. The conversation is very, very simple.
Are you on my team or not? So we all have these things called tribal badges. A tribal badge can be physical. So sometimes you can look at somebody and see that they have a piece of purple hair. They go, OK, I know what tribe they’re in.
Maybe they got a little blue stripe on a pin somewhere. OK, I know what tribe you’re in. Oh, you got a flag put on up on your truck? Oh, OK. Sometimes they’re physical like that. Or maybe it’s a tattoo. And it was just never forget or always remember or country before party.
And you see these little badges and we instantly go, OK, I know what tribe you’re in. But more and more often for most of us, it’s verbal. And we go out we go, hey, did you hear about X?
Did you hear about what happened in Afghanistan? And both of the information silos have created talking points and the talking points are filtered down. And if your friend repeats the same talking point, which you have heard, you go, OK, this person’s on my team, they’re safe.
However, if they echo a different talking point, which is not part of your narrative, your little tribal brain goes, oh, this person’s an enemy. And so even though we’re civilized and even though we don’t pull out spears and stab each other, our minds are still reacting the same.
Our mid brains are completely inflamed. And we are in fight or flight mode wondering how this friend of ours who we thought, oh, they were our friend, how we thought they had a good sense of morality is completely out of their mind.
So that’s why we don’t have conversations about politics, because it isn’t about politics. It’s nothing. It is the same conversation that you may have had when you were in third grade, Justin, when you argued, argued who was the best Marvel superhero?
It is exactly the same as that. It is a I think my dad can beat up your dad conversation. We just do it with a slightly more sophisticated slant.
And it’s so interesting. And this is something that the great divide, right. Our country is becoming more and more divided. Republican, Democrat. Mask, no mask. Vaccine, no vaccine. Who started this storm? Who did this? Global warming, not global warming.
It’s unbelievable how the narrative continues to divide. I want to get to the important part of this conversation is how do we begin to heal? How do we begin to come together as one, how this country is supposed to be?
You mentioned on your website. You know, think about the times our country came together. Often I think about after 9/11, you know, when we were attacked. And I was I was a senior in high school when this happened.
But I remember I remember wholeheartedly also. I also worked at Wawa, which is a convenience store in my area at the time. And I remember people buying coffee for the next five people in line, you know. It was about that togetherness.
How do we begin? It’s not going to happen overnight. The Civil War ended. There was still no peace. Right. But how do we begin that healing process?
It’s a really, really good question. And by the way, my book is political. It’s called The Second Civil War: How to Heal Our Fractured Nation. But it really is very, very practical.
So explains kind of why we are this way. But more importantly, I want to give I give lots of practical steps on how to heal, how to heal both yourself and this country. So the first one is, is to upgrade your tribe.
And so what most of us have done is we have chosen a political tribe as our primary tribe rather than America. So 20 years ago, it wasn’t Republican against Democrat, Democrat for the purpose of trying to annihilate the other side.
Twenty years ago, it was Republican and Democrat versus our collective problems. So if there is some part of your brain where you’re going, OK, the only way for us to move forward as a country is the elimination of the other political party.
You are misguided. That is not the way forward. We are not going to leave any part of this country behind. So you have to basically go, you know what my primary allegiance is to country first. So I am an American and every other American is an American.
And they are included in my tribe. Making that distinction of country over party is a huge shift and they can go farther. Everyone hates this recommendation just and no one agrees with me on this one. But you should go independent.
You should drop your political affiliation. You should become independent for the very reason is it helps you, helps you see the world a little more objectively. It removes a little bit of bias. So you can the whole idea is to interrogate ideas based on their merits, not just because your party told you to vote that way or think that way.
If you are more committed to national unity than partisanship, please check out my book, The Second Civil War: A Citizen’s Guide to Healing Our
Fractured Nation. My book will challenge you to improve your relationships with friends and family. Click the link in the description below.
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