Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Making secessionism respectable

(Disclaimer to fellow secessionists: I shall be mildly critical of some of my fellow travelers; however, I do subscribe to the Middlebury Institute's Statement of Collegiality)

While I am a new to public participation in the secessionist movement, I have been thinking about this subject for many years. I have discussed it privately with my friends and acquaintances; and frankly, Ohio secessionists have some baggage to carry that those in other states may not.

First, to recite the obvious, Abraham Lincoln and the Radical Republicans of his day did an excellent job of brainwashing the American public into thinking that secession was illegal. This sense of illegality is strengthened by three court decisions: Texas v. White (U.S. Supreme Court, 1869), Chancely v. Bailey and Cleveland (Georgia Supreme Court, 37 Georgia Reports 532, 1868), and Kohlhaas v. State (Alaska Supreme Court, 2006).

Secondly, also obviously, the same people planted it into the heads of generations of Americans that the purpose of the Civil War was to abolish slavery; therefore, secessionism in any form is inherently racist.

Thirdly, Ohioans share with other Midwesterners a strong sense of the practical. This has served us well in history, since we are noted for our inventiveness; but it also means that we don’t deal very well with philosophical abstractions. To put it in plain English: if we can’t see the practicality of an idea up front, we reject the idea before even considering its other merits. When the subject of secession comes up, the usual first response is: it won’t work!

Finally, Ohio has a special problem. Ours is, and always has been, a diverse state. In the Nineteenth Century, being located along many of the major transportation routes across the continent, we faced waves of immigration from the English, French, Germans, Irish, and Swiss; followed by Italians, Greeks, and various Eastern European nationalities. Our industrial base in the mid-Twentieth Century attracted Afro-Americans; and today, we experience immigration from Hispanics, Asian Indians, Chinese, Japanese, and various nationalities from the Islamic world. However, Ohioans historically have also had a very strong commitment to the English language as the medium of political and commercial communication, and (at least until the early 1980s) a strong commitment to limited state and local government.

This diversity is what makes Ohio so interesting to the national political pundits. We are neither a red state nor a blue state. We are a rich purple – or to carry the analogy to its breaking point, we are a gradient: solid blue in Cleveland and Youngstown gradually turning into solid red in Cincinnati.

This also means that, unlike New England and the Deep South, we do not have a provincial tradition. In fact, at least since the Civil War, Ohioans have been very self-conscious about being self-conscious. We seem to want to blend into America as a whole. Except for a special ceremony in Chillicothe on Statehood Day (which relatively few of us know is March 1), we passed our Bicentennial in 2003 very quietly, being mostly remembered for our painted barns and Bicentennial bells in each county.

We must be prepared with more facts than theories, and show our people a great return on the investment of time, effort, and emotion that such an enterprise will require.

I do not think Ohio is alone in these challenges. I imagine the same can be said for the secessionists in the upper Midwest, California, and the Pacific Northwest, among others. If secessionism is to become a pan-American movement, then, we need cooperation from our fellow travelers:

1. Let’s show some decorum in our communications, and show some respect for the Presidency of the United States, even if the incumbent doesn’t deserve it. Thomas Jefferson stated in the Declaration of Independence that “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes” President Bush’s term of office ends January 20, 2009. The republics we seek to create we want to outlive us.

2. In the same vein, I appreciate humor as much as anyone; but secession involves changing established ways of thinking, and a radical change to our way of life. Of course we believe it to be for the better, but it would help if we held back on flippant remarks in our blogs.

3. Most of us need to make a special effort to ensure that our movements are open to people of all races and creeds. Without sacrificing the essential principles of decentralism, we need to remember that the secessionist tent has to be the biggest one of all, because it involves everyone in our area. We need to have the active involvement of, and access to governance by, a cross-section of our populations: men, women, Caucasians, Afro-Americans, Asian-Americans, Democrats, Republicans, and the huge mass of the people who are fed up with both.

4. I have always believed in political campaigns, it is best to balance the negative with the positive. Each time we send a negative message about the economic disaster to come, or the follies of the “Empire,” we need to balance it with the positive advantages of independence. Contrary to conventional political wisdom, I believe that Americans are now open, more than in many years, to people with positive visions – including ours.

What this means for the Ohio secessionist is that we have the challenge of making our independence even imaginable for our people. If we act like adults with a serious message, open our movements to all who support our objectives, and balance our negative and positive messages, we will ultimately succeed. And ultimately is what counts.

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