Monday, October 20, 2014

One Nation Indivisible? Maybe Not

I suppose before I write anything I should take into account the some folks will be offended by this post and take it the wrong way.  I will start this post with the disclaimer that I am not being purposely seditious or unpatriotic.  This post is meant as both satire and a thought piece.  It simply ask the questions about whether or not the patterns of history will repeat themselves and at what cost.  I am not actually advocating for what is being said here.

When Scotland recently voted to secede from the United Kingdom, I have to admit I was shocked.  As an American I guess I viewed the United Kingdom as a strong coalition of countries proudly standing under one flag.  I knew that there was some hostility to the English among the Welsh and Scottish and even more so in Northern Ireland, but it seemed hard to fathom how after so many centuries that these countries would no longer want the protection of the British.

How could I think such a silly thought.  The Irish certainly didn't want it.

Once upon a time all of the countries highlighted on this map were part of the British Empire.  All of them eventually left it.

Let's not forget I live in a country that was once part of the British Empire.  I'm sure there were many people outside of the US who couldn't understand why the colonies would revolt and become an independent country instead of being a part of one of the greatest political, economic, and military forces in the world.

The problem with empires is that they eventually fall.  They grow too large and become too hard to manage.  Some of the conquered peoples integrate and feel part of the bigger whole, but more often the local groups tend to identify more with their own ethnicities and local lands.  It eventually becomes too hard to contain these identity movements.  When the empire crumbles, borders are redrawn and new countries are formed.  Sometimes even those countries end up dividing into other countries as local groups fight to claim their own territory.

Although I enjoyed studying history in school, I think I found European history to be the most confusing and the most difficult to achieve good grades in. I always had so much trouble trying to keep up with the constant changing of kingdoms and redrawing of borders after the collapse of the Roman Empire.  What country are the books referring to?  Where is it?  What is that country now?  The patriotic view is to say that a nation is as it always will be.  History rarely proves that to be true.

I have heard a pundit or three speculate that  much of the trouble in the Middle East and Afghanistan today stems from the British Empire redrawing the borders of many of the countries after the Ottoman Empire collapsed.  Lands once held by certain tribal groups had to live within the borders drawn by a western conqueror.

Even in my own lifetime I have seen borders shift and new countries form.  For example next summer I will be visiting the countries of Montenegro, Croatia, and Slovenia.  Those countries didn't exist when I was born.  The Balkan peninsula has radically changed since my earliest geography lessons.  The collapse of another empire - The Soviet Empire - along with many internal wars, changed the borders there as well.

So what does that have to do with the "indivisible" United States?

The United States could be called an empire.  When the US first became a country, it was just 13 states along the eastern seaboard.  As Americans followed the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, the country eventually spread to the opposite coast through land purchases, war, and the genocide of indigenous peoples.  Other empires had previously claimed parts of the land the US now occupies.  Some of the territories were independent countries.  (You can see the building that once housed the Texas embassy to England in London. ) Indigenous peoples still had some land of their own. 

Like all empires, has the United States become too big to manage?  Political regressives love to talk about "small government", but how can a government be small when it has to handle so much territory and so many citizens?

One hundred and fifty-three years ago the political, ideological, and economic differences in different areas of the country had become so extreme, that half the country wanted to leave and form a separate country.  The result was a long, viscous and bloody war that saved the union, but left a huge amount of resentment on behalf of the loser, who was still forced to live within a country and under a government that not only wanted to punish them, but whom they didn't want to live under in the first place. The war served a very important purpose - it ended slavery - but it didn't solve any of the problems of ideological divides in this country.  Over a century later we have the same divides, often along geographical lines, but not always.  It seems that these differences are emphasized even more every day due to more channels of communication like the Internet and television.

I ask myself, "Is it time to redraw the borders in the US?"  Sometimes the way I see people argue so viciously, threaten the government and their ideological opposites with death and violence, hurl insults at each other, and even threaten to secede outright, I begin to wonder if the United States can still survive as a single country.  There are too many groups fighting over how the country should be run and I just don't see a compromise anymore.  Every group claims that its members are the only "real" Americans and that everyone else is wrong. Compromise is seen as surrender.  We see this at the highest levels of government and not just among the general citizenry.

What countries do I think could exist among the current borders of the United States?  What ideological groups do I think would be best together?

I think the libertarians should have their Galt's Gulch (President Rand Paul, Vice President Paul Ryan).  Here is the country where the government has been drowned in the proverbial (we hope) bathtub.  There is little to no public investment here.  All services are privatized.  Whatever your needs are, you have to pay to play, and if you can't afford it, you'll have to do without.  There are no regulations on any business and no regulations on morality of any kind (including discrimination laws).  In Galt's Gulch the individual is king, and if you can't make it here, it's your own fault. 

The liberals can have their Liberaland (President Bernie Sanders, Vice President Elizabeth Warren).  Here the emphasis is on fair wages, equitable taxation systems, and large amounts of public investment (from infrastructure to education to a safety net).  There is strong emphasis on education.  The rights of the individual matter, but so do the rights of group members. 

Religious dominionists can finally have their Republic of Gilead (President Mike Huckabee, Vice President Jim Bob Duggar).  In Liberaland and Galt's Gulch religion is left up to individual choice.  In the Republic of Gilead, evangelical Christianity is the law of the land.  While it won't be illegal to not follow the state religion, nonbelievers will not receive equal protection under the law.  Morality, including that of individuals, is strictly legislated according to the government's interpretation of Biblical texts.  Women who own property will have to give it up to their husbands when they marry.  Working mothers are forbidden, or at least strongly discouraged.  Controlling family size is forbidden.  Tithing is not optional. Social services are handled by the state church and if you are not a member, you are not entitled to them.  Education is also handled through the church.  Businesses will be run pretty much the same way as they are in Galt's Gulch.

Texas (President Rick Perry, Vice President Ted Cruz, and Bush family members in the cabinet) and Alaska (President Sarah Palin - DUH!) would be independent republics.  They have been threatening to secede all along.  Let them be their own countries.

Lastly, we need to give a good chunk of land back to indigenous peoples.  It's not going to make up for the fact that they no longer have their former tribal lands across the entire continent, but it's something.  I don't know what their government and their laws would be.  Perhaps they will split into even smaller countries according to tribal ancestry.

The unfortunate part is that this could never happen bloodlessly.  Other than Texas and Alaska, who would take what land?  Would the liberals want New York for the culture?  That might be tough when both David Koch and the robber barons of Wall Street live there making it the ideal capitol of Galt's Gulch.  Should Washington D.C. be the capitol of one of the countries, and which one?  Should the Native Americans have Nevada (and would The Republic of Gilead allow tourists to leave the country and go there) or is that just a racist cliche`?   Would the Republic of Gilead simply reside in the current Bible Belt?  How much forced relocation would there be?  How many lives would have to end before the land was divided up into new nations?  No one is going to go willingly even if they don't want to live under the government he or she doesn't like.

There is no easy answer.  I don't see any reconciliation or healing in this country's future.  We are just becoming angrier and more bitter as the years go on.  Politics are all about money and the people with no money suffer and look for any place to put the blame.  Politics are tearing families apart.  It seems to be perfectly acceptable to make hateful statements about others if their ideologies don't match yours.  Politicians, people who have dedicated their lives to serving their country, doing a thankless and difficult job, are treated as subhuman.

If you look at a current map of the world today, you won't see the same countries you saw from a map from 100 years ago, or from 200 years ago, or even 50 years ago.  How much longer before we see new countries forming right here in North America?  For now we will remain one nation, indivisible.  I'm wondering for how long?  Revolution won't be easy, but keeping the country as it is seems just as hard.

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