Wednesday, November 14, 2012


When I heard that upwards of 30 states have filed papers with the White House, seeking to secede from the United States, I immediately thought of September 11, 2001.  In those days after 9/11 the country was uncharacteristically cohesive.  We were all the country and the country was all of us. I had only felt that once before, and that was when John F. Kennedy was killed in 1963, but I was so young at the time that I did not get the full implications of that nationalistic moment.  Those two times, 2001 and 1963 were what we all really want the country to be about.  But this moment, when 30 states are taking this largely symbolic mega-step to withdraw from the country – well, this moment is unprecedented, and not in a good way.

I am surprised how affected I am by this.  That so many people would cavalierly sign their names to petitions to secede just seems thoughtless to me. Do you trade off your country that swiftly and mindlessly?  Do you deliberately damage the international profile of your country simply because you are angry at the outcome of one presidential election? Do you that easily dishonor your entire civic heritage? I just don’t think so.  It is appalling to me to see this. 

Those who would withdraw from their country are petitioning the government through the We thePeopleprogram at the White House website.  In honor of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees citizens “the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” the web site invites Americans to express their civic desires. Each of the petitions requests to “peacefully grant the state” the right to withdraw from the union.

To those who have signed their names to this, I want to ask you a few questions.  First, let’s take Louisiana, for example, where I live.  As of this writing about 20,000 Louisianans have signed on to this ill-conceived movement to secede.  What happens if the
Port New Orleans, the fifth largest in the nation (right) is attacked by international forces? It’s not beyond the realm of possibility. It’s a highly vulnerable spot on the Southern edge of the country. With no affiliation with the federal government, and as an independent entity, who will protect you? It’s not as if the state is even populated enough to produce a military force.  Has anyone even considered that during their misguided quest to claim independence?

How many of those Louisianans who signed their names are on Medicare, I wonder? Were the states to stand alone, unaffiliated with the U.S. government, Medicare stops. Even if you’re not on Medicare, let’s talk health insurance. Not widely publicized is the fact that in March of this year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
intervened on behalf of nine states, including Louisiana, when it found that two health insurance companies had proposed double digit rate increases.  HHS investigated and determined the rate increases were not reasonable. So, without this particular federal entity, those insurance companies may have steamrolled their way into Louisiana and price-gouged thousands of citizens with increase of up to 24 percent. It’s this kind of issue that the secessionists are overlooking. Their lack of patriotism notwithstanding, their ignorance of the consequences of secession is stunning.

About those consequences: Did you know that if your state secedes from the union that your money in the bank is instantly no longer covered by FDIC? Oh, and did you know that your state’s sections of interstate highways will no longer be funded by the US government, and where exactly will the money come from in your state to take care of those roads? You can forget about federal funding for unemployment compensation, and your state clearly cannot afford to take up the slack. So, if you lose your job, there will be no money available for you.  What about those hard-fought laws that protect your civil rights?  Those are federal laws. Without them, you’re on your own. Are your ready for that? I don’t know about your state, but our state legislature in Louisiana moves at a snail’s pace, and little gets accomplished for the people. I can only imagine the chaos that would ensue if Louisiana had to suddenly create its own currency, farm subsidies and disaster relief plans. 

And what about the U.S. Constitution?  If a state secedes from the United States, it no longer falls under the protection and order of the Constitution. So that much beloved freedom of speech
and religion we enjoy as a nation – chances are it gets eighty-sixed. Oh, and that right to bear arms? Maybe, but maybe not. Don’t count on the previous protection of the fourth amendment; you know, the one that prevents unreasonable searches and seizures? It seems apparent that those who have drafted these petitions to secede have never really read the Bill of Rights. If they want to know why the feds are not their natural and forever enemy, I suggest they read it until they get it. 

Social change will never happen without its detractors. Here we have a president who was so bold in his first term that he said on national television that he believes gay people should have the right to be married. That statement was every bit as life affirming and respectful of humanity as the day that President John Kennedy ordered openly racist Governor George Wallace to comply with federal court orders allowing two African-American students to register for the summer session at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Obama’s courage to formally recognize gay citizens and also enable gay military personnel to serve openly, and Kennedy’s desegregation of Alabama were both met with severe resistance from large population segments. It comes with the socio/political territory.

Those detractors live in a culture that supports their right to disagree and express it. But in no way are American people so thin-skinned that they simply quit on their government because they disagree with something it does. So I want to say to those who would secede, you all need your country. And oddly enough,
your country needs you, because it is the ongoing and spirited mix of ideas that makes us what we are here. So I’m baffled why so many tens of thousands of Americans want to walk away from the national conversation at a time when the exchange of ideas is so critical to our well-being. My take on this whole thing? I believe most of the citizens who signed these petitions did so in a knee-jerk reaction to the recent presidential election, and very few have thought through the ramifications of their act. Stay put and fight the good fight that has always defined America. You are, for better or for worse, Americans.

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