There is a somewhat apocalyptic and profoundly sad fantasy that I sometimes entertain concerning the future of the United States. In it, I see the country eventually dividing up into smaller countries: the northeast, (call it New England,) the southeast, (call it Dixie,) the Midwest, (call it Lakeland,) the southwest, (call it Ranchero,) and the west coast, (call it California.) Maybe there’ll even be another one; call it Texas. What validates this view is apparent on the voting map of our recent election.
            It is hard for me to see any glue holding all of us together forever. The partisanship, the various regional motives, and the cultural fictions we entertain about ourselves, all seem to act against cohesion. America was created and designed by our forefathers to be a pluralistic, secular democracy, with the specific motive of preventing any single religion or political philosophy from becoming our official philosophy. We only need to look at the history of Europe to see where the idea came from, and why. I like the arrangement. It’s not a ‘problem’ that needs to be fixed.
            So I wonder what my father would have thought about the current calls for secession. He was an auto-didact historian, and had a full appreciation for rebellion; after all, that’s how our country was created. But he was also a die-hard patriot – “my country, right or wrong” – and he taught me this. While I don’t extend my ideology as rigidly as he did, I do subscribe to Mark Twain’s admonition: “Love your country always; the government when it deserves it.”
            I accept the rule of law, and do not automatically reach for the flintlock the minute a bill is passed that does not square with my values. So I view the current secessionist movement as treason. It reflects what political scientist Melissa Harris-Berry, in her Chautauqua lecture on race relations, (August 26, 2011) called “a deep and broad ignorance about American history.” Citing “Gone With the Wind” and “The Birth of a Nation” as examples, “It also reflects,” she says, “how we are particularly uninformed about the histories of marginal peoples: black Americans, non-white immigrants, women of all races, workers, and of course, gay Americans.”
            I am sure that if Dad had lived long enough to see these events, he would have recognized the right-wing fanaticism at the core of this bad behavior. It is not surprising that this movement is based in the southern states. It is there that the dominant ethic, wrapped around fundamentalist religion and entrenched ignorance is where people have always refused to accept the tenets of democracy. The national popular vote just reelected our current president, and this riles the feelings of the region.
            If this is because of the misguided and uninformed Tea Party, I want to ask them what they are fighting for. Are they fighting in defense of the privilege of the rich? Do they really believe a Conservative Republican government won’t raise their taxes? What benefits do they hope to get from their protest? It’s hard to see this stupidity as anything more than blatant racism. White good-old-boys are livid because the country is being presided over by an African American. Such bias and blindness has citizens in the poorest and least educated states working against their own interests.
            Here is what I think: if those states are serious about secession, I say – let ‘em go! What does the south contribute to the rest of the country? Let them subsist on the largess of the dwindling oil industry; let them mop up their own oil spills. The movement is a residue of what Harris-Perry calls “Confederate Nostalgia,” the idea that “romances traitorous action against the state,” and “allows revisionist history about secession” to influence our American story. As she says, it is about claiming legitimacy for a “movement that is actually breaking the country apart.”
            I know my opinion is a flippant dismissal of a problem that threatens to grow into a new Civil War, with all its attendant 21st Century potentiual horrors. But if they persist, then I say – cut ‘em free! Especially Texas.