“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another …”
So begins the Declaration of Independence of the 13 colonies from the king and country to which they had given allegiance since the settlers first came to Jamestown and Plymouth Rock.
The declaration was signed by 56 angry old white guys who had had enough of what the Cousins were doing to them. In seceding from the mother country, these patriots put their lives, fortunes and honor on the line.
Four score and five years later, 11 states invoked the same right “to dissolve the political bands” of the Union and form a new nation. After 620,000 had perished, the issue of a state’s right to secede was settled at Appomattox. If that right had existed, it no longer did.
What are we to make, then, of petitions from 25,000 citizens of each of seven Southern states – 116,000 from Texas alone – to secede?
While no one takes this movement as seriously as men took secession in 1861, the sentiments behind it ought not to be minimized. For they bespeak a bristling hostility to the federal government and a dislike bordering on detestation of some Americans for other Americans, as deep as it was on the day Beauregard’s guns fired on Fort Sumter.
Our Pledge of Allegiance still speaks of “one nation under God, indivisible,” but that is far from the reality in the America of 2012.
The social, cultural, moral and political revolutions of the 1960s, against which Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan inveighed to win their 49-state triumphs, have now captured half of the country.
One America believes our history is a catalog of crimes against people of color, that women have an inviolable right to abortions, that condoms should be handed out to sexually active teens in schools where Darwinism should be taught as revealed truth, while Bibles, prayers and religious symbols should be permanently expelled.
The other America sees all this as unpatriotic, godless and decadent.
One America believes in equality of rights; the other demands equality of results brought about through the redistribution of income and wealth, affirmative action, racial and gender set-asides, and quotas.
One America believes in gun control; the other in gun rights.
Now that Christmas and Easter have been expunged from public schools and the public square and the popular culture has been thoroughly de-Christianized, we Americans seem to have but one holy day of obligation that brings us all together: Super Bowl Sunday.
Where one America divinizes diversity, the other seeks out our lost unity and community. Half the country pays no federal income taxes, but half depends on federal benefits.
The occasions when we come together as one, as after 9/11 and during natural disasters such as Katrina and Sandy, seem few and farther between, and the resurrected unity rarely lasts.
Could today’s America come together to build an interstate highway system or send astronauts to the moon, as we did just seven years after John Glenn first orbited the Earth?
Environmentalists would have killed Ike’s highway system and the Hoover and Grand Coulee dams, as today they seek to stop the fracking for oil and natural gas and block the Keystone XL pipeline.
As for states seceding, however, is that really a solution to national disintegration? Tens of millions with Blue State mindsets live in Red State America, and vice versa. While folks in Texas may talk of seceding from the Union, folks in Austin talk of seceding from Texas.
Yet we should take seriously what is behind this desire to separate and sever ties, for it mirrors what is happening across our civilization.
The West is decomposing.
British Tories seek to cut ties to the European Union. Scots want to leave Britain. Catalans vote to divorce from Spain, to which they have been wedded since the 15th century. Flemish talk of leaving Walloons behind in Belgium. Northern Europeans are weary of carrying their profligate southern brethren and muse about cutting Greece adrift and letting it float out into the Mediterranean.
And Americans are already seceding from one another – ethnically, culturally, politically. Middle-class folks flee high-tax California, as Third World immigrants, legal and illegal, pour in to partake of the cornucopia of social welfare benefits the Golden Land dispenses.
High-tax states like New York now send tens of thousands of pension checks to Empire State retirees in tax-free Florida. Communities of seniors are rising that look like replicas of the suburbs of the 1950s. People gravitate toward their own kind. Call it divorce, American-style.
What author William Bishop called “The Big Sort” – the sorting out of people by political beliefs – proceeds. Eighteen states have gone Democratic in six straight presidential elections. A similar number have gone Republican.
“Can we all just get along?” asked Rodney King during the Los Angeles riot of 1992. Well, if we can’t, we can at least dwell apart.
After all, it’s a big country.