Civil War Movie: What Kind of American Are You?

By John Kass

April 26, 2024

My family survived a terrible Civil War in Greece just before I was born.

Not in some Hollywood movie, with combatants issuing their pithy sayings, those bad fantasy hombres with just the right length of chin stubble as they squint through the sights, but a civil war in real life, with real blood and real bone, where people who knew each other and had histories together and murdered each other.

They grabbed each other by the hair and shot them, screaming, throwing bodies in a ditch. Or on the side of a hill. In the shadow of a building. In a quiet alley off a church square. A water reservoir with other human beings floating mute to the cruelties of men.

Anywhere. Everywhere.

I was born on the South Side of Chicago in 1956, just six years after that Civil War ended over there.

But we rarely if ever talked about the Greek Civil War, though we talked about everything else at those multi-generational extended family Sunday dinners in our two flats on Chicago’s South Side. Every Sunday. On special occasions the uncles might have one Peoria Street highball—whiskey, 7-Up, maraschino cherry, in a fancy glass with a swizzle stick–but not too many. No one ever got drunk or even tipsy. No alcohol was ever served without food. The men wore jackets and ties. We would not wear jeans to a Thea’s house. It was Sunday.

We had hard-core socialists and hard-core conservatives at the dining room table, from the left to the right and everything in between, and over the roast or pastichio and later fruit, coffee, maybe galaktoboureko, we’d talk about everything. From history to the wars in the news, even to parakeets and The Twilight Zone and student protests and blue jeans at school.

We’d crowd around the dining room table and everyone—even kids—were expected to participate. We could think and say anything with respect, no matter the topic.

The only thing we couldn’t do was act like a snowflake and demand others be silenced. We were Americans. We were free.

But they were refugees from Greece, and they’d fought the Germans, the Italians, the Greek Communists and famine to be free, and survived as a family. In the world they’d endured, snowflakes didn’t survive.

And if I could I’d ask them about that movie “Civil War” and the great actor Jesse Plemons who in that movie provided the epic meme for a divided America:

What kind of American are you?

Plemons is our great American character actor. He is young, in his 30s, a young father. His casual, almost offhand menace in the scene was worthy of an Oscar. He was terrifying.

You could have asked the same in all the countries that had suffered civil war, in South America, Central America, Africa, Asia.

But I wish I could ask my family about it at those Sunday dinners that are now just an old man’s memory.

Years ago, I did ask my dad once why our family didn’t talk about the civil war in Greece.

Nobody wants to remember it, he said. Nobody. He fought in it. He want any part of it. He fought house-to-house in famine ruined Athens, as my aunts in our family village were commanded to applaud the communist guerrillas in the town square.

And that was it.

We buried it and kept it down there where we put it, as far as we could, way down under the earth.

It was a subject to be avoided because it threatened what was important, the reason they were able to survive:

The family.

Years later my brothers and I talked to him about it. And my late cousin John Katsaros, a man of the left but a fair and honest teacher who loved all of us regardless of politics, interviewed surviving aunts and asked them about those years when the communists shot the teachers in a nearby village.

What was missing in the movie “Civil War” was that casual friendliness that could turn deadly with a blink, with a sigh. A pistol drawn and death in the once-open hand. The friendly menace of it all in  Greece, Central America, Asia. What kind of Greek are you? What kind of Nicaraguan are you? What kind of American are you?

The wrong answer means your death, and the deaths of your loved ones.

There was little of that in “Civil War.” I could have seen sections of Americans murdering each other over politics, since we’re already at the edge of it now, Americans screaming out as their final words:

“You played basketball with my little brother!”

“You had supper at my house!”

“You went fishing with our dad!”

“My mom was your teacher!!!”

WWJPD? What Would Jesse Plemons Do?

And then the screams and the final gunshots and the silence and perhaps later, the birds hungry for something to eat.

These were not in the movie. But if we don’t mend our ways they will invariably be there, in what we call “real” life.

In one bit of the movie with the usual suspect white rural men, one mentions off handedly that his blow-torch torture victim had gone to his high school.  The victim was tied to a pipe and I wondered: What would Hollywood and media do without rural white men to hate?

These are the same rural white men that the media and Hollywood celebrate as heroes in Afghanistan and Iraq, since the white guys die at much higher rates in combat.

But in the movie I didn’t see many threads and connections between the dead and the dying, wondering about their common high schools the way some of us might comment on playing touch football in the parking lot, and these common threads dipped in common blood are the truly grotesque aspects of civil war.

There is reference to “the president” on his third term, a nod to President Trump dragged by the heels and shot by a soldier.

The film sent out actors to insist it wasn’t supposed to be Trump, but Americans aren’t as stupid as many in Hollywood and the media think we are.

A friend of mine, the writer Michael Ledwith, a former U.S. Army officer, noticed that Hollywood played Trump as something of the Romanian Communist strongman Nicolae Ceausescu. The character was begging for his life, dragged through the White House, shot dead by a black female sergeant.

“Hollywood wanted to kill the president, so they killed him,” said a man in the near-empty AMC theater on a Saturday night. “They killed him.”

He had that look I didn’t want to argue with. The film’s “fictional” president was on his third term, and so it obviously pointed to Trump…but wait! Aren’t we really suffering now under Barack Obama’s third term, with his meat puppet China Joe Biden gaffing it up, getting lost at speeches, unsure of where to turn, even reading “pause” on his teleprompter?

But Hollywood wouldn’t dare kill such a president? They loved Obama. But Hollywood hated Donald Trump.

In real “fake” life, the presidential meat puppet continued to do only staged campaign events opening himself up to ridicule.

“Four more years, Pause!” said Joe Biden the Meat Puppet as if he were famed anchorman “Ron Burgundy.”

This too was roundly ignored by most mainstream media.

Is it fictional?

Of course.

But look at how far we’ve come:

President Joe Biden, Obama’s meat puppet, has been installed in office and protected by Deep State intelligence operatives who wrote the infamous propaganda letter that son Hunter Biden’s laptop was created by the Russians. It was a lie. We know that now. Later, Biden tried to portray American parents concerned about “drag queen” story hour in their kids’ school as being potential terrorists.

President Donald Trump meanwhile is constantly ridiculed on national media by the lead witness against him in his porn hush money trial, as his mouth is stuffed shut by a judicial “gag order.”

Jewish students are hunted on elite university campuses by supporters of the terrorist HAMAS, as Biden does little and worries about losing pro-Palestinian votes in Michigan. And his puppet master, the sainted Obama–to whom Chicago builds a great temple of adoration and fealty on priceless lakefront land–also says nothing. Geppetto and his meat-puppet from Scranton carefully avoid saying much. And the Jewish students are afraid and the Democrats say nothing as they mealy-mouth their way through interviews.

I suppose that this column began as a movie review that I should make a recommendation. I guess you could waste the money if what you want is senseless violence.

Or you could wait and if we keep going the way we’re going, you could see it out your window.

I have told some people to see it as an exercise, but smart people with brains, not those susceptible to media manipulation. But now after writing this, I’ve changed my mind.

I’ve  come up with a simple answer that even our presidential meat puppet would understand:


Bury it, until you see it happen outside your front door. But then you realize that won’t be able to get a popcorn refill.


About the author: John Kass spent decades as a political writer and news columnist in Chicago working at a major metropolitan newspaper. He is co-host of The Chicago Way podcast. And he just loves his “No Chumbolone” hat, because is a “No Chumbolone” Zone where you can always get a cup of common sense.

Comments 19

  1. I won’t! Promise. The Cosplay stooges of Hamas are play-acting at revolution (now, at the dysfunctionally imitative Northwestern, as well) and our supine Ron Burgundys at WLS, WGN, WTTW and CPS clutch pearls.

    We are on a dark path thanks to Killer Joe the abortionist’s Archbishop, but I see hope in the corn fields of Indiana, where the Westville Blackhawks play baseball in 30 degree weather and salute ” Mr. Hickey” at high volume when he climbs into his caprice after a day in the classroom. Two parents teach their teens the lessons of faith, family and country and the message has taken hold,

    If our nation divides, these youngsters and their teachers will be on same side and they will play dress-up patriot.

    1. Sorry hit the key too soon-

      I won’t watch it! Promise. The Cosplay stooges of Hamas are play-acting at revolution (now, at the dysfunctionally imitative Northwestern, as well) and our supine Ron Burgundys at WLS, WGN, WTTW and CPS clutch pearls.

      We are on a dark path thanks to Killer Joe the abortionist’s Archbishop, but I see hope in the corn fields of Indiana, where the Westville Blackhawks play baseball in 30 degree weather and salute old ” Mr. Hickey” at high volume when he climbs into his Caprice after a day in the classroom. Two parent families teach these teens the timeless lessons of faith, family and country and the message has taken hold,

      If our nation divides, these youngsters and their teachers will be on same side and they will NOT play dress-up patriot.

      1. I’m heading to Madison for my son’s last Miflin Street block party. Bunch of Northwestern kids are going to. My son says the students there would never allow these protests.

        1. So true!
          As a side note I had to go back to Sunday’s column to find this one. Very powerful column but only 7 relies so far. Is there a glitch with getting emails?

  2. The violence was worse in the late 60’s with the assassinations and into the 70’s with Viet Nam. Both sides were actually shooting at each other with the cities burning in the background. That doesn’t make the current situation better but it did happen back then. I remember one conversation in ’68 with a cop friend in Peoria telling me it was his turn that night to stand up to draw the gunfire as the battle went on down at the public housing. Things were bad.
    This now is different. Those that didn’t learn history are blindly trying to repeat it. And there are new variables. Those military-age Middle Eastern men that wandered across the border is one of them, Maybe USC was warned of a credible threat.

  3. If Xi doesn’t use this opportunity to leverage the paralysis of this Obama 3.0 collapse by blockading Taiwan, you can be sure he has no plans to.
    The certain presence of PRC irregulars infiltrated here is a decapitation threat beyond even the best trained domestic civil warriors.

  4. Once, back when AI first crashed into our search engines, somebody asked ChatGPT to write a poem about gun control and 2A in the style of Dr. Seuss- a putzy thing to do, but nevertheless rather an unanticipated result. The lines that stuck in my head the most were:

    Liberals in the USA
    Love to nod their heads and say,
    “You bought your guns from a store!
    You can’t fight a civil war!
    Fight the army, you will lose!
    They have jets and tanks to use!”
    That’s not where the story ends!
    They have homes, and kids, and friends!
    Tyrants threaten you with bombs?
    Just remember: they have moms!

    So yes, that’s civil war, and while the style is what is considered childish, even some nursery rhymes started as disguises for the politics of the day, under the cover of childhood play.

    “They have homes, and kids, and friends!” “They have moms.” Kind of cavalier of AI to write off the opposition’s family and property. And that “kids, homes, friends, moms” works both ways. But that’s what civil war is. Sometimes necessary, but a huge, horrific price to pay.

    No wonder the family didn’t want to talk about it!

  5. Very well stated, John.

    No, I will not spend money and time getting depressed. I’m depressed enough right now.

    The scariest part are the people who continue to vote the brain dead, inept, clueless morons in all over the place. They just don’t have a clue.

    And when that civil war occurs, instead of looking in the mirror, they’ll blame someone else.

  6. As a man in my early sixties I truly am coming to the conclusion that there will be no retirement for me in the manner anticipated in previous years but most likely some form of death in a local skirmish with either weaponized federal LEOs, vicious criminals, or insanely irrational “protesters”. Oh, well. Probably better than dying of old age in a federal re-education camp.

  7. John,
    Why did I have to read this at Real Clear and not through my email? I got today’s column and one earlier this week but not this on. What’s up? I don’t like to have to “find” you elsewhere.
    Wayne Cassells

  8. I am awe struck…where did all this hatred come from? The throngs of mostly white people…yeah, not just “students” and YES, mostly white… screaming hatred, supporting terrorism & terrorists, camping out for days at a time, spewing hatred for days at a time…where did they find the time to be indoctrinated? All these home-grown dissident haters appeared right under our noses. I could understand the down trodden, the under-priviliged, shadow people, and some minorities feeling outrage & disrespect for America. But these haters? C’mon…and the media indulges them.

  9. Yianni,
    Who needs to go the theatre to see a civil war? It’s unfolding right before our eyes, and will soon be at each of our doorsteps. The mind can only take so much, absorb so much, bulls–t, before it snaps. And then, all hell breaks loose. We’re almost there now. Seeing the anti-semitic “demonstrations,” (aka riots and mob actions,) we must understand that anarchy cannot stand in this country, and eventually, the cops, national guard, sheriffs, highway patrols, SWAT, will lay down the law. Unfortunately, it will not end well for the demonstrators, that have greedily pocketed George Soro’s funds to protest on behalf of the Palestinian “cause!” BTW – anyone hear about a Palestian solution? Of course not. There isn’t one, cause they don’t want it, they just want to eliminate Israel and all Jews from the face of the earth. Hell, they don’t even know what “from the river to the sea” really means. The civil war is here, now, and the vacuous “leadership” in Washington is powerless to stop it. God help us all….

  10. On target as usual. It’s surprising to me that Trump has escaped harm given the absolute drum-beating hatred of him by the media. I hate to bring this up, but as we all know in our fine country we have a habit of murdering people who run for the Presidency and those who attain it. I almost wish he wouldn’t run.

  11. What kind of American am I?

    The kind of American who left The City to live with rural folk. You know, the kind of people the left demonizes. The kind of people who know that they don’t have to be your best friend, but they will break their backs to be your best neighbor. The kind of people who make the time to take the time to “neighbor” with each other.

    The kind of people who make you want to be a better person, so you can follow their lead to be Best Neighbors.

    I’ll tell you truly: I’d rather live with the people of rural America than the self-immolating creatures who inhabit the cities.

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