Unclear on the concept: settled history edition

>> Thursday, January 06, 2011

So, umm, this shows up on Bob Cesca's blog today:

"Secession is an option," Rep. Jim Gooch, D-Providence, who has long been the Democrat’s top guy on the environment in the Kentucky House of Representatives, told me recently as I interviewed him for a story previewing what the Kentucky General Assembly might do on the environment this winter.

Now he wasn’t predicting that the General Assembly was going to vote to leave the Union. But the committee chairman of many years who expects to be returned to his natural resources committee post this week, was making the case for a strongly worded resolution against the EPA. Such a resolution would not have any force of law but it could perhaps embolden federal legislators to trim the sails of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


Gooch, who is a vice president of a western Kentucky steel company that does business with coal companies, and has taken provocative positions on the environment before, said he wanted Kentucky residents to know that secession was "an option," even as he described that as sounding "radical."

"If you keep pushing us, we are not going to let you totally destroy us," Gooch said of the federal government.

-James Bruggers, "Legislator: Secession is option,"
Watchdog Earth, January 6th, 2010 2011

Which, of course, recalls this bit of insanity back in 2009 from the other party in another state:

[Texas Governor Rick] Perry dismissed characterizations that those attending Wednesday's "tea party" rallies in Texas and around the country are "a bunch of right-wing extremists."

"But if you are, I'm with you," he said.

During the speech, people waved "Don't Tread on Me" flags and signs lampooning the Obama administration's economic stimulus efforts. Some shouted, "Secede!"


Perry told reporters following his speech that Texans might get so frustrated with the government they would want to secede from the union.

"There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that."

-Dave Levinthal and Gromer Jeffers Jr.,
"Thousands show up for Dallas 'tea party'; Rick Perry fires up rallies,"
The Dallas Morning News, April 16th, 2009

Didja happen to notice both quotes share a similar irony: I have an answer for Gov. Perry's "what might come out of that" that also responds to Rep. Gooch's "not going to let you totally destroy us" bit. Oh, wait! I even have a picture, which is (the saying goes) worth a thousand words:

Oh, look, it also has words, too, actually. If you can't squint and don't want to click on the image to embiggen, that caption would be:


Let's see: according to Wikipedia, that would be the result of 98,355 Federal soldiers led by William Tecumseh Sherman taking on "about 500" insurrectionists led by future South Carolina Governor Wade Hampton III. I imagine those proportions probably remain about right today: I imagine a battle between modern-day secessionists and a National Guard division would probably be at least at 196:1 odds. And I suppose latter day treason apologists with their rebel flag bumper stickers would point out that Hampton's five hundred didn't do too terribly for themselves: Columbia was rebuilt (and Atlanta and Savannah and the other cities and towns lying in Sherman's bloody-and-scorched tracks) and Hampton eventually did alright for himself with a successful political career framed around fighting Reconstruction.

So, y'know, good luck with that, etc, you crazy, wild-eyed modern ardent seditionists. If they don't bury you underneath Leavenworth, maybe you, too, can be a United States Senator. It's happened before.

But seriously: I realize that Gooch was probably being rhetorical and Perry was playing a crowd, and probably neither one of them actually meant what they were saying; if someone handed either one of them a Molotov cocktail and a Zippo and pointed them at a Federal armory they'd probably pee the lighter out. What's boggling is that they think it sounds good in the first place. This isn't really an academic or hypothetical question, this matter of whether states can or should secede: this is a matter of settled history, a matter of demonstrated proof. In 1861, a raft of states decided to test the issue, and instead of sitting back and saying, "Well, okay, but don't come crawling back," or "We'll see you in court," the Federal Government of the United States Of America deployed its full military might against the mustered might of the secessionists and after what is still the bloodiest war in American history, the response to a state's self-asserted right to leave the Union was soaked into the ground and buried in innumerable marked and unmarked graves from Pennsylvania to the American West.

Of course, I suppose we can't and don't remember that because we're a nation of morons. Earlier today, a friend posted a great piece on the latest effort to whitewash America's greatest novel and observed:

To be told that the United States has problems and that these problems have shaped our history, that these problems still need to be faced, accepted and solved – apparently this is too much for our tender souls these days.

We want "America! Hell yeah!"

We want to live in a fantasyland where problems belong to other people, so we don’t have to face or solve them.

Indeed. And isn't the climate of amnesia that produces idiocy like secession talk, now from Democrats and Republicans alike, part of the same fantasy mentality? It's a spoiled brat mentality that first denies an issue exists at all, and then when the truth becomes inescapable--that people disagree, that their will is going to prevail, that you can't always get what you want--instead of accepting that this is the way things are and the way a republic works, they float the idea of running away, they try to claim they'll be taking their ball and going home if they don't get what they want.

Well that's been tried. Short version: turned out it wasn't their ball after all, and the owners took it back.

Gods only know what we do about it. There's a pestilence of stupidity abroad in the land and maybe there's not a damn thing that can be done about it. I'd say it's the responsibility of America's leaders and ruling classes to educate the populace, but I suspect we've got the leaders we deserve and they're as capable as you'd expect them to be based on that. But I wish the nonsense would stop, I really do.


Janiece Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 2:43:00 PM EST  

You want to know what I love about you people?

You make me feel utterly, completely average.

elksmst = How far east an elk can travel in the time in takes Sarah Palin to shoot it dead.

David Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 4:22:00 PM EST  

Secession isn't an "option." Secession is treason.

But you are right - it is part of that climate of amnesia (great phrase!) that has enveloped this country that such discussion is out there and its perpetrators remain unhung.

What I find most annoying about it (and really, it's annoying from top to bottom) is the fact that it reveals how fundamentally anti-democratic these people are. They do not feel obliged to accept as relevant opinions that differ from theirs, even when those opinions have been reified through the electoral process into policy and law. It's a thoroughly self-absorbed, anti-Constitutional and authoritarian mindset, and it scares the hell out of me.

BTW - you did notice that the Teabaggers somehow omitted those parts of the Constitution dealing with slavery during their "let's read the Constitution" grandstanding today? So much for remembering the original.

Eric Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 5:06:00 PM EST  

Secession is treason, you're right, David, but that fact was forgotten more than a century before the current wave of amnesia. I have to wonder, honestly (and even as a Southerner and as an opponent of the death penalty) if the great mistake of Reconstruction wasn't letting the leaders of the insurrection off mostly scot-free. It seemed a good idea at the time, I understand, to heal wounds and bring order, and maybe hanging everybody would have backfired and triggered a relapse into war for a weary and sundered land. But the consequence of letting the traitors off the hook was that they became heroes within a generation (many of them, like Wade Hampton, became Governors and Senators), the War was reduced to a sort of "misunderstanding," a "noble" "lost cause" and the South allowed to turn its sullen resentment over its defeat into a mythos of bravery and martyrdom.

If the treason of Americans like Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, who renounced their citizenship and broke the vows they took as Federal officials and soldiers was "honorable," as the mythology of the post-Reconstruction South says it is, then no wonder so many of my fellow Southerners can talk about the same act of treason as if it was heroic and perhaps even obligatory. It's the damnedest thing, isn't it?

Nathan Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 6:12:00 PM EST  

If Kentucky ever did secede, we wouldn't need a war to solve the issue. We'd just close all their borders (and I bet that border patrol would be seamless), and let them whither. Withhold any "overfly" permission to the new Nation of Kentucky. I'd like to see a landlocked "state" get along without any outside trade or Federal funding. I'd give them about 3 weeks.

Eventually, the whole thing would be resolved with a demand to deliver the ringleaders into US custody.

Phiala Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 8:47:00 PM EST  

That first one is 2011, no?

Other than that, I agree with Janiece.

Eric Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 9:12:00 PM EST  

You're correct, Phiala, and I'm going to go fix that now. :)

Steve Buchheit Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 9:20:00 PM EST  

I actually got to use this in a conversation within the past month responding to a "The south will rise, we can always succeed from the Union" conversation, and I kinda love it, "And that's when we opened up the big can of whoop-ass and proved you wrong. I think you've forgotten that part of the plan."

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