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Front Page » November 20, 2012 » Opinion » Secession is not the answer
Published 619 days ago

Secession is not the answer


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

After the election, a number of people seemed to feel that things have gone too far the wrong way for them, so they want out of the United States. But rather than leave the country themselves, they want their geographical area to secede from the federal government and become a country of their own.

When I was a young man, in the middle of the Vietnam era, there was a bumper sticker that said "America. Love it or leave it." That was usually posted on cars driven by conservative people who believed deeply in the United States. The meaning of that sticker was about individuals who did not believe in the country, so they that put them on their cars were inviting them to leave. But now people of seemingly similar ilk to those who posted those words, now want to do just that.

A number of states have petitions signed overall by hundreds of thousands of people that want out of the union. The state that leads the list is Texas. That is not surprising.

Texans have always been an independent lot. It is one of two states that were at one time their own country (California was the other for a short time). Most of the natives (and many of the transplants) have always thought of themselves as Texans first and Americans second.

As of this writing Texas has enough signatures on a petition for secession that they will have to recognized by the White House and acknowledged. That doesn't mean the President will give them the right to leave the union, but I suppose the movement will get some kind of message.

But I believe the idea of secession to solve the problem is a poor one. If it is allowed, where will it stop? For instance, there is presently a petition in the city of Austin, Texas that asks that if Texas is allowed to withdraw from the union, that they be allowed to be a state of their own and still belong to the present United States.

One of the things that has always made the United States strong has been its unity. While regional and even state differences often cropped up, we still were all citizens of the country. We would fight like hell with each other, but in the end we were all still united under one flag. Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, conservative, moderate or liberal, we may have not always liked each others views, but we were still Americans. Obviously some now want to change that. They believe that they can do it better alone, without the present federal government. I have received several letters from people since the election expressing just such thoughts about Utah or at least about a group of western and mid western states combining to form a new country. None of those letters have come from liberals. Most want any new country to return to the roots of America, that they say made it great. I guess it is a question of how far back to our roots one wants to go. Based on the letters I have seen some want to go back 80 years while others want to go back 220.

How would such a country look, not so much in terms of geography, but socially and politically? Based on the principles of the founding fathers as interpreted by some, what would be different? Who would be allowed to vote? Would we return to the days of only white men that owned property being able to cast ballots? What about personal rights? Would innocence have to be proven rather than assumed in court? Would poor houses return for those who got to old to work or were disabled but had nothing to live on? Could charities and philanthropy make up the difference in these areas like social programs do in our present country today? Some of the proposals I have heard pretend to be what the proponents think we once were, but some of what I heard sounds a little too much like a police state to me. The questions about what they would be like can go on and on.

And what about when these new countries had elections and eventually (as it always comes out to be in what I hope would be free societies) it was closely divided between liberal and conservative wants and needs. Would then the liberal elements in those countries be able to secede like the conservative ones did from the United States because the election didn't go the way they thought it should?

Here's the problem, and Abe Lincoln knew it when he faced the south pulling away from the union after he was elected President. If you let states pull away from the central government on principles that should be decided by the whole and not the part, then you may eventually end up with anarchy.

When George W. Bush beat Al Gore in 2000 by 500 and something votes (all from Florida, yet Gore had actually won the popular vote in the country) I never heard anything about states leaving. I never heard liberal leaning states like New York, Washington and Oregon threatening to make their own nations. Many complained, but I heard no secessionist talk.

The fact is that generally in a republic there are always going to be those that are happy with the way things are going, and often a near equal number of people who won't be happy. But that is better than the alternative where countries are fascist, communist or in a state of anarchy. Just ask the people of Somalia what it is like to be living under a state of anarchy. They've been doing it for two decades.

It is frustrating when one lives in a place where they feel their votes and views are not being heard and acted upon. Almost everyone from Carbon County has experienced this based on our relationship with the state government in Utah. It seems to me what many of these secessionists want is to have their views be the super majority, while others who don't hold their aspirations in the same favor just languish within the system, getting the bits and pieces they are handed.

When it comes to politics, people who hold almost any view always think they are right. I have met many a conservative that has told me once they were liberal. But they then go on to tell me how they saw the light and changed. I myself have become much more conservative over the years about many things than when I was 20. If I saw myself as I am today then, I would have thought I had gone down the wrong road. Still the idea of not being part of the United States I love and think is wonderful would make me crazy. Of course I could "love it or leave it" too, I suppose. But this is home to me, and I wouldn't want to give that up.

The way to fix the country's woes, no matter what political bent one feels, is not to leave what is, but to change it from within. It is like the story of the grass being greener on the other side of the fence. Secession may look good right now, but the pitfalls are many. In the heat of what some conservatives consider an almost hopeless situation, it would be easy to entertain such ideas, but like the proverbial sun coming up in the morning, life will go on.

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