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Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2010-02-18 05:57
Subject: [politics] The patriotism of secession
Security: Public
Tags:language, politics
patriotism, n. — devoted love, support, and defense of one's country; national loyalty. [ dictionary.com ]

secession, n. — 1. an act or instance of seceding; 2. (often initial capital letter) U.S. History; The withdrawal from the Union of 11 Southern states in the period 1860–61, which brought on the Civil War [ dictionary.com ]

Per my question of yesterday to the Tea Partiers, I still don't understand why promoting secession is seen as patriotic. See here, specifically this: Texas Gov. Rick Perry fired up an anti-tax "tea party" Wednesday with his stance against the federal government and for states' rights as some in his U.S. flag-waving audience shouted, "Secede!"

As Justice Scalia, not exactly a noted liberal-progressive, has said, If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede..

I spent some time yesterday trying to get my own head inside the weltanschauung where secession could be seen as patriotic. So far, I've only come up with two answers.

One, conflating secession with revolution. The Tea Party strongly identifies with the Founders. My own understanding of American history makes it very difficult for me to view the American Revolution as an act of secession in the contemporary (and Civil War historical) sense of the term, but I can see where someone might reach this conclusion, depending on their interpretation of both facts and vocabulary.

Two, if one's worldview includes the Reaganite assumption that government is the problem by definition, and "government" is interpreted to specifically mean the current incarnation of the United States Federal government, then secession could be seen as a return to the "Real America" that Palin and other conservative leaders continue to invoke in their rhetoric. Not so much secession, in point of fact, as kicking the rest of the country out of the Real America.

From my own perspective, I don't find either of these viewpoints tenable. Each of them relies on a pairing of strong counterfactual assumptions and a wilful disregard for both history and current events. (Not to mention a failure of vocabulary.) But I see the passionate appeal of the idea, especially to a citizen with a specific set of frustrations.

The question is, how does someone with my worldview speak to someone who can sincerely hold these ideas? And where is the common ground that as citizens in a democracy we should be able to find?

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Keikaimalu
User: keikaimalu
Date: 2010-02-18 15:25 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think that's an excellent question, particularly since you said "speak to someone" not "change the mind of an idiot." I grow increasingly weary of the vitriol and bile on both sides of the political spectrum, and I honestly believe that we lefties have more facts and logic on our sides, at least than those tea-partiers and other conservatives highly visible in the media.

I think it's human nature to have a powerful emotional reaction to something and then gather "facts" to support the conclusions you prefer. Not saying this is just a conservative thing; I think we all do it in various areas of our lives. But I can't help but think that the scientific approach of observing facts, developing hypotheses, testing the hypotheses, and then either solidifying or rejecting them based on results is a crucial tool for setting policy. Not sufficient, but necessary.
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Jay Lake: politics-rifleman
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-02-18 15:32 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:politics-rifleman
I grow increasingly weary of the vitriol and bile on both sides of the political spectrum

I do too, but there's also a risk of false equivalency here. Look back at Newt Gingrich's manual for dealing with Democrats in the 1990s, or Frank Luntz's ongoing 'keywords' memos that go out within the GOP's political operation. Vitriol and bile have been an explicit, carefully cultivated GOP strategy since Ailes and Atwater brought them back to power in 1980. Which is mostly answered on the Center (and whatever Left there is in mainstream American politics) by policy statements and appeals to fact and reason. I'm uncomfortable with the "plague on both your houses" view of political discourse, simply because one house has been demonstrably and self-admittedly setting fires for the 30 years, while the other has been trying to fight fair. To assert equivalency is to endorse that behavior, in my view.

I think it's human nature to have a powerful emotional reaction to something and then gather "facts" to support the conclusions you prefer.

Confirmation bias. I do it all the time. Lately I've been trying a lot harder to do less of it.

I also can't shake the notion that so much of this current Tea Party movement has a racist undercurrent. The Right hated Clinton with, if anything, even more passion than they seem to hate Obama, but the attacks were quite different. Or maybe that's my own memory playing tricks on me.

Edited at 2010-02-18 03:33 pm (UTC)
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jimvanpelt
User: jimvanpelt
Date: 2010-02-18 15:33 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I wish I could answer your last two questions. There doesn't seem to be a possibility of a rational discussion with someone waving a "Obama is a Jihadist" poster. Their world view is totally incomprehensible.

What really bothers me is that I want to assume that people elected to roles of leadership are there through a long, thought-producing process. That politicians, by their nature, are brighter than the poster waver. But what I keep seeing are two equally disturbing possibilities: that I'm wrong about bright people being elected to leadership roles, or that I'm right about them being bright but that many of them have no interest in principled or rational leadership. They are Machiavellian princes who seek power at all costs, including hurting the people who elected them.

The entire discussion about our health system shines a bright and penetrating light on our political failures. I can't come up with a logical, defensible explanation why all of our leaders aren't trying to change it. Clearly, it is a broken system if so many people can't afford it. Clearly, it is a broken system if entire classes of people are denied access and coverage.

How anyone could defend the status quo is baffling, and my answers for why they are defending it send me into almost Lovecraftian terror. It's like our political system, at least at the national level, only looks rational. Underneath there are dark, inimical forces. It's not just the Republicans either. Have we sent to Washington people who represent not the people but the colour out of space? Is the best way to understand politicians to compare them to the Dunwich horror?

There's a shadow over Innsmouth, and we elected it.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-02-18 15:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The entire discussion about our health system shines a bright and penetrating light on our political failures. I can't come up with a logical, defensible explanation why all of our leaders aren't trying to change it. Clearly, it is a broken system if so many people can't afford it. Clearly, it is a broken system if entire classes of people are denied access and coverage.

I was trying to explain this to fjm a day or two ago. She's a British academic, holding at least one of her degrees in American history. She has a much better understanding of American culture and politics than most Americans do. (Labor history, I think. Among other things, she's something of a Nixon expert. Her views on him are... interesting.)

The only thing I could come up with is that the 'America Is Best' meme which is a bedrock tenet on the Right puts people in the position of being unable to acknowledge that any significant part of our society and culture is inferior to Canadian or European or other solutions. To even admit that the healthcare system is seriously broken is to deny the "We're number one, and everything we do is the best because we do it" ethos of American Exceptionalism.

This is parallel to how even very economically disadvantaged conservatives support tax cuts that are (a) irrelevant to their tax bracket and (b) actively damaging to their social needs. Everyone thinks they're going to make it big some day, and they'd rather be able to keep all their lottery winnings, or pass it on to their kids, than give it to the government that they have been brought to view as the source of their problems in the first place.

On the topic of government being the problem, did you see this older post of mine?

http://jaylake.livejournal.com/1905515.html
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A large duck
User: burger_eater
Date: 2010-02-18 16:06 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think a more useful way to think of this is as a religious schism. A segment of the population becomes convinced that the current incarnation of their government has strayed too far from the original intent, and the only solution is to break away a get back to basics--or whatever they imagine basics to be.

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Erik Amundsen
User: cucumberseed
Date: 2010-02-18 16:20 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I like to think of it as sports team fandom.
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Rafe
User: etcet
Date: 2010-02-18 16:12 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"Don't let the border hit you in the ass on the way out."

But I'm an intolerant dick when it comes to the willfully stupid, so I really don't think I'll miss them if they figure out how to leave.
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Erik Amundsen: Republicans are People
User: cucumberseed
Date: 2010-02-18 16:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Republicans are People
I think you are downplaying the actual Secessionist secessionist element in there, people who continue to nurse grudges from the Civil War and Reconstruction that are out of living memory of living memory and have become a memetic mutant that, while probably not the dominant strain of ideology, still exist, persist and spread and encourage the two strains you did mention.
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Kevin Standlee: Not Sensible
User: kevin_standlee
Date: 2010-02-18 16:20 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Not Sensible
Another 1776 quote, this time from Benjamin Franklin, seems apropos of the people justifying their talk of secession and rebellion, where he chides John Dickinson for describing the actions of the American colonists as an "illegal rebellion:"
"Why, Mr. Dickinson, I'm surprised at you. You should know that rebellion is never illegal in the first person, such as our rebellion. It is only in the third person -- their rebellion -- that it is illegal.
And actually, I think Franklin's character is right. Had the Confederacy won the American Civil War, their rebellion would have been "legal" to themselves. After all, Americans aren't taught that our rebellion against the United Kingdom was illegal -- we won, didn't we? Mind you, I think the resulting country, built on a shaky legal foundation, might well have further split up and we'd be facing a highly Balkanized North America today.

Anyway, the one thing that I've observed is that the party not in power always "rediscovers" States Rights. Indeed, during the worst excesses of the Republicans when they were in ascendancy and were complaining that the Democratic party should just get out of the way, I noted that states with Democratic/liberal governments were prone to saying, "We won't cooperate with you on this."

Whoever is in charge of the federal government says, "We won, get out of the way," and whoever is not asserts states rights. The only time this has completely failed was when we hit a completely unresolvable issue, that being slavery, of course. I'm unsure whether the disagreements of today are really at such a fever pitch, although the rhetoric may make it sound that way, as to cause a political singularity.

I must admit that it's an amusing thought experiment to say to some of these would-be rebels, "Okay, take your state out of the USA. You can stop paying Federal taxes. We'll set up customs and immigration checkpoints at all of the border crossings, and we'll bill you for your share of the national debt, and of course we'll stop sending federal funds into your state to run all of those things we were funding." Most of these people have no idea how dependent upon federal funding they are. In their hearts, they seem to think that government is unnecessary in all forms. I wish we could run their experiment and show them that taxation is the price you pay for civilization, but the harm it would do isn't worth it.
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Laurel Amberdine: sky
User: amberdine
Date: 2010-02-18 18:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:sky
A few days back when james_nicoll posted about scenarios where the USA breaks up into five regions in the near future, I kept thinking, "Really? And duplicate all those federal services from scratch?" However much one section of the country may dislike other sections (and I think this is greatly exaggerated in the media) it'd take so much effort to start your own country with modern-USA-level services. I can't imagine any group actually bothering. Anyone competent enough to do so would be smart enough to avoid it!
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heatherdoodle
User: heatherdoodle
Date: 2010-02-18 18:14 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
This is a very interesting question.

On a similar note: here in California, I am believing more and more firmly that I want to cecede from my state. In other words, split off from those other people with ideological differences from me. I haven't done my research on this, but I am starting to see that a) the state is too big; and b) there are irreconciliable differences between liberal and conservative; and c) these differences are ruining the state. It's why we're still in such horrible shape while the rest of the country is starting to feel the strain letting up a little.

I work in education, and so does my husband, and I'm telling you, it sucks right now. And it's getting suckier by the minute, very fast, very bad. At all levels. I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't close the State University system by this time next year. And schools for children are starving to death.

The question is: how would you split it? North and South? Coastal and inland? Two pieces or three? And will the Federal government mind? Like I say, I haven't done my research, but it is just as much of an ideological question (though a little less radical) than ceceding from the nation.

Oh, God, but I wish it were so.
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heatherdoodle
User: heatherdoodle
Date: 2010-02-18 18:20 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Sheesh, I shoulda looked at how you spelled "secede." Duh.
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User: otterdance
Date: 2010-02-18 19:13 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The Tea Party, like the GOP, knows how to hammer home their talking points. If you say it often enough and loud enough, people will think it's true. And it works on people who want to believe. It's not a tactic I admire, but sometimes I wish the Democrats could pick up the habit.

Edited at 2010-02-18 07:14 pm (UTC)
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Danny Adams
User: madwriter
Date: 2010-02-18 23:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I know this may not be useful in a lot of cases, but I've often made a lot of headway in getting someone to rethink secession not by arguing against it, but by trying to get them to talk more about it...and discovering, often not to my surprise, that they can't.

"Secession" is a great word, but they don't think it through. When I start asking questions deeper than "What will be your system of government?" (because it's always the Constitution or some form thereof) like "What kind of tax structure would you use?", "How will you provide for defense?", and so on, as often as not there are no answers.

I'm guessing this is because they haven't actually considered it as a positive--that is, something actively engaged in and maintained with all the consequences thereof, rather than a negative reaction to what they consider a socialist / fascist / (insert your own catch phrase here) federal government--dreaming of the marriage and honeymoon without considering married life. It never occurred to them that "We'll break away!" must naturally be followed by a "Then what?"
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-02-19 00:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"Then what" being a government of some kind, unless conservatives are proposing either literal anarchy or collectivism. Which, in order to do *anything* must have income of some sort. Taxes being the most ordinary method. Etc. etc. etc.
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