I am completing a bit of unfinished business following the April 15 Tea Parties and the fallout from Texas Gov. Rick Perry's statements on secession. Specifically, I would like to help Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr., deal with his "jolt of unrecognition, that instant of worry for the state -- and future -- of the Union." Mr. Pitts' writing is worthy of respect. He won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2004, and his concerns for the Union reflect those of many Americans today. He deserves a thoughtful response, which I hope this post will provide.
Gov. Perry, at a Texas Tea Party said,
"When we [Texas] came into the Union in 1845, one of the issues was that we should be able to leave if we decided to do that. My hope is that America, and Washington in particular, pay attention. We've got a great Union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, who knows what may come of that?"
That remark struck Mr. Pitts as "surreal." He considers it "borderline traitorous" that a Governor of Texas (as opposed to a "yahoo from some group of gun-toting goobers") would make such a statement. From his perspective, it appears to be a case of the losing party in an election wanting out for ideological reasons.
"Country, after all," he writes, "is supposed to be that which pulls us together after everything else -- politics, race, religion -- has pulled us apart." This is a noble sentiment, and in different times, I would agree with him; but the issues raised at the Tea Parties, and which Gov. Perry is addressing, run much deeper than mere political posturing. They run to the very core of our being as a nation.
The title of this post is the one originally assigned to Mr. Pitts' column by the Miami Herald. The Columbus Dispatch attached a different headline, "Whatever happened to putting one's country first?" Secessionism is gaining strength, because the United States of America no longer has a Federal government dedicated to the purpose established for it in the Preamble to the Constitution:
"We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
"Forming a more perfect union" was achieved with the ratification of the Constitution by nine States. Consolidation into a single national government is not perfecting the union, it is abolishing it from the top.
"Establish justice"? This blog is full of reports of Federal abuse of the justice system.
"Insure domestic tranquility"? You may establish law and order at the end of a gun, but domestic tranquility means more than that. Domestic tranquility is the ability to go about your business secure in your knowledge of what is right and wrong according to the law.
"Provide for the common defense"? Can you honestly say that terrorism would be a threat if the United States did not have a military presence in the Middle East? Even if you wish to be so crude as to suggest that oil is indispensible to us we can stop purchasing it from the Arabs. There are fields we can still develop, and there are alternative sources of supply. My point is, were it not for our presence in the Middle East, radical terrorists would have no motivation to attack us. Eliminating their motivation strikes me as a much more effective defense strategy than the one we are currently pursuing.
"Promote the general welfare"? Dependence on government is not welfare. Enabling the economy to work with minimal governmental regulation lets the free market do the heavy lifting to ensure the prosperity of all of us.
"Secure the blessings of liberty"? Clearly, the record since at least 2001 has shown the Feds moving in the opposite direction.
Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence,
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from consent of the governed -- that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness." (Emphasis added).
Mr. Pitts, there are times in history when unconditional loyalty is dangerous. Consider where we would be if the Thirteen Colonies decided to put King and Country first. Consider how different the world might have been if the Germans in the 1930s had decided that there were values higher than country.
Our founding fathers taught us that loyalty should be conditional. If the Federal government acts in our interest, we will respond with deep and enthusiastic loyalty. If it does not, and all other means of asserting our will fail, then we have an obligation to ourselves and our posterity to institute new government. We may decide that the problem was that governmental power is too big and too distant to keep us safe and happy, and if that is the case -- and many of us are convinced it is the case -- then secession is a peaceful remedy that gives the greatest respect to the rule of law. The only alternative is violent revolution. I, for one, would prefer not to annihilate myself and a large percentage of my countrymen in its pursuit.