Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[politics] The patriotism of secession

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?

Tags: language, politics

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