Monday, July 25, 2011

Against secession, or a warning about secession?

This editorial, by R. Jagennathan in Firstpost, a national newspaper in India, criticizes a statement by Arundhati Roy favoring secession for Kashmir. While the opinion piece is clearly against secession in general (and not totally without reason), the most salient point is actually a warning to secessionists about what could happen if they get their way:

The writer, obviously, has not changed my mind on the subject, but the warning is worth repeating and remembering:
The most fundamental liberal value is the right to free expression of speech – within the limits set either by one’s own sense of decency or by law to ensure that our exercise of freedom does not curtail someone else’s...

The logic underpinning secession is this: every individual is free to be what he wants to be, subject only to the limitation that he does not transgress other people’s rights. What an individual is entitled to, groups of similarly committed individuals are also entitled to. This is where the right to secession comes from...

[S]ecession leads not only to ethnic separation, but the creation of new minorities of several kinds. It follows that those who want to secede must guarantee and demonstrate not only that they are willing to let their current minorities be, but also give the same demonstrable guarantees for minorities that may emerge in future.
The writer then shows how the partition of nations has led to greater ethnic and sectarian violence, particularly in the former Yugoslavia and in parts of the former Soviet Union. These points are valid; however, the article lost me with this politically correct but historically incorrect blunder:
Abraham Lincoln went to war with the American south – his own conservative minorities. He fought for the idea of freedom – which is about living together and sorting out our issues through dialogue and compromise.
No, Abraham Lincoln fought for the idea of central government. He injected into the American soul a virus that has slowly killed off the idea of freedom -- a virus that may soon kill the patient. Ethnic and religious groups who have been persecuted by their governments have the human right to form their own nations when all other recourse is lost -- but they then have the obligation, once independent, to guarantee freedom to their own minorities.

In the American context, secession is the last step toward protecting a free society when all others have failed. In the past, I recommended that we wait until nullification has run its course; but nullification assumes a respect for the Constitution by both the federal government and by the people. Unfortunately, the federal government has persistently shown a contempt for the Constitution, and too many of the people are ignorant of what their Constitution means. Consequently, the time is right to begin considering Ohio's secession from the Union. Ohio is itself a diverse society, bound together by a common language, a commonly-understood legal tradition, and a Constitution whose protection of freedom is superior to that of the U.S. Constitution.

The risks that R. Jagennathan wrote about do not apply to us; so we should not allow them to become stumbling blocks in our struggle for freedom.

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