Is It Patriotic to Advocate for Secession?

Can it be patriotic to advocate for secession? If one believes that his or her nation has veered from its core principles and the traits which made it great, can it be admirable to argue for a solution which includes the tearing asunder of that nation? Or is it rather always treasonous, whether by statutory, or alternatively moral law to work toward anything but the restoration of values one believes have been brushed aside, to fight for unity, to struggle for wholeness.

History doesn't provide many clues about the 'rightness' of civil strife, except one critical one; to the victor of a conflict go the rose-colored glasses of revisionist history. In America, for example, memories of the leaders of the Confederacy are (mostly) relegated to history books and smoky, dirty flannel-clad reinactments, while the heroes of their grandfathers' secessionist movement have been dubbed Founding Fathers whose many faults have been dissolved like salt in a stockpot and whose profiles grace coinage.

Both groups were fighting for something they believed in. Both were called traitors at the time they acted. However only the former group still carries that stain in most school textbooks. Yes, it is victory which, looking back, ensures that one's cause was righteous, and often nothing more than that. I suppose then that looking at calls for secession in real time is not such an easy exercise. However it is worth discussing as calls for secession have recently been ringing through the land.

Indeed, the question in the title of this post has been asked by many since the recent presidential election as dissastisfied voters have taken to calling for secession in the wake of President Obama's victory. These calls have, ironically, been most visible on the White House's own 'We the People' webpage which claims to facilitate the democratic process. Examples can be found here, here, here and here.

Some have dismissed these calls out of hand as racist. However, secession movements are nothing new, and an example which seems devoid of any potentially racist undertones was provided by Vermonters during the latest Bush administration. Therefore, while there could be some unfortunate racially-related reasons for some signing these recent petitions, there is enough support for the idea that secession movements are politically motivated to analyze them under this context.

In this context, secession is about what people believe federal control over local affairs is excessive. It is about Obamacare and taxes. It is about being governed by people with no relation to them and having a lack of a voice and hyper-polarization. It is about a version of America people aren't comfortable with. And, of course, most of those reasons have at least something to do with two-party control. I have used a quote from George Washington's farewell address before, and I will do so again here:

“All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.

However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion."
Washington penned those words in an unfortunately prescient response to what he saw as the dangers of partisanship. I have written here about various solutions in the past, mostly centered on the idea that the current election structure in America, and the difficulties it imposes for any party which wants a seat at the table, are killing the democratic process. While I can't say I can be 100% sure that enabling other parties to have a say is the right solution or even a viable one, the fact that many have argued the same is a recognition that things aren't right in America.

Other recognition has recently come in the form of political pressure groups like the Occupy movement or the Tea Party. Even organizations like Anonymous have worked to bring about awareness of the problems two-party control have caused.

Those who have signed secession petitions believe they are patriots who are exercising their right to be heard. For their sakes let's hope those running the website they posted on don't disagree, let's hope the powers that be don't ever consider them to be traitors. There is, of course, a difference between a request for a peaceful dissolution and taking up arms. While the latter would be catostrophic, the former is, at heart, a recognition that the American system is broken and a request for a different way of doing things.

I am not sure what end the current partisan struggle will come to. I am, however, certain that I would strongly dislike any solution aside from a political one. The alternative would create damage which would be irreparable. That said, I applaud those who have expressed their displeasure with the state of their country in a peaceful way. Perhaps, with some luck, such acts will one day lead to a nation where voices are heard and special interests don't rule the day.

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