HEADlines: Our Cracked Country

Published in The Mustard Seed Sentinel, September 26, 2020.

Two teens stood across from my book table at a national event. They weren’t yet old enough to vote. But perhaps when they are, they’ll cast their ballots to excise their part of Virginia to make it part of West Virginia–a harkening back to our Civil War. (Or our first Civil War?)

They are frustrated by legislators from the northern part of the state threatening to limit gun ownership and having voted to expand “abortion rights” more broadly than all but a few places around the world.

They are not alone in that way of thinking. Those hoping for Southern Virginia’s annexation to West Virginia will find a communion of spirit in Oregon, some of whose voters want to become part of Idaho. And California also has its own initiatives brewing. But those efforts aren’t about becoming part of an existing state. There are calls to split into multiple statesor even leave the United States altogether and become a separate nation.

Imagine what these efforts–if successful–might lead to.

Political pundits speak of the conservative part of my own Pennsylvania in terms of the T across the north and through the center with Philadelphia in the east and Pittsburgh in the west–although Pittsburgh sometimes joins the T.

The T carried our Keystone State for Trump in 2016–even in heavily Democratic Cambria County–coal country.

If voters in the T decided to follow suit with southern Virginia voters, the bulk of Pennsylvania might also join West Virginia.

Even the bluing state of Texas could end up splitting over voter ideology.

While proposals for state-splitting are still in their infancy–or perhaps in their early childhood–it seems a good time to consider some of the ramifications.

For example, would Philadelphia decide to become part of New Jersey? Could Jersey support the costs of the City of Brotherly Love that rural PA taxpayers have helped to bear for decades?

What if the rural/conservative voters of every state thought it best to cut themselves free from every city that wanted to limit guns and fund abortions throughout gestation?

Would cities’ leaders moderate some of their views to stem the tide of departure (and lost revenues)? Would rural folks bend? Can both sides occupy a middle ground for long?

Rural voters want to keep their guns. On farms or in nearby forests, guns have practical purposes completely unrelated to crime and unfathomable to many city-dwellers.

Conservative and liberal voters can only remain at an impasse over abortion. Room for compromise on this issue is scant because the unborn one either lives or dies. There is no state of in-between.

And there seems to be no room to bend among those who insist our abortion laws continue to go far beyond those of European countries that limit the procedure. The US is one of only seven countries that allows abortion after 20 weeks.

Secession and state-splitting sound far-fetched. But perhaps we are closer to making such dividing lines than we realize.

In American Secession: The Looming Threat of a National Breakup, F.H. Buckley writes:

“[W]e are now facing another constitutional crisis, as we did in the 1850s, when Congress was unable to compromise on slavery or avert the impending civil war. Today again, changes that must be made seemingly can’t be made because of our divisions and failure to compromise. The Constitution was designed for another country, one in which people agreed on fundamental principles, and that’s not today’s America. We are divided on things that used to unite us, and we don’t like politicians who compromise on things we care about.”

Explaining that the framers assumed secession was permissible (“by the consent of the governed“), Buckley lays out the arguments the Constitution’s crafters made as they shaped the document different factions today see either as pliable or etched in stone. It cannot be both.

He makes the case that California, for example, if it seceded, would save “$103 billion … [paid] in federal taxes [more] than it receive[s] back from Washington” and, therefore, should be able to pay for its plethora of social programs. He notes later that California has never had a majority wanting to secede.

But that may change as the middle class continues to flee the Golden State. It also remains to be seen whether $103 billion in extra revenues could truly create the entitlement utopia its leaders seek to create.

Even with such efforts and proposals on the table in multiple places, it may still be hard to imagine the fracturing of states or an actual secession attempt. But here’s part of what goodreads.com says about Buckley’s discussion:

“Across the world, large countries are staring down secession movements. Many have already split apart. Do we imagine that we, almost alone in the world, are immune? We had a civil war to prevent a secession, and we’re tempted to see that terrible precedent as proof against another effort. This book explodes that comforting belief and shows just how easy it would be for a state to exit the Union if that’s what its voters wanted.

“But if that isn’t what we really want, Buckley proposes another option, a kind of Secession Lite, that could heal our divisions while allowing us to keep our identity as Americans.”

Secession Lite would require a live and let live mentality. And just that option is under consideration in the state of New York. Conservatives in that state have introduced bills in the state house and senate that would divide the Empire State into three regions—New Amsterdam, upstate New York; New York; Manhattan and the five boroughs; and the Montauk Region, Long Island, Westchester, and Rockland.

Chris Enloe writes:

“’New Amsterdam & Montauk regional governments would have the power to repeal these unnecessary NYS regulations and bad laws that are killing jobs,’ Divide New York State Caucus explains, [Gannett journalist Julie] Sherwood reported. ‘While the New York regional government could enact those changes it wants for NYC only that upstate currently blocks.’”

The bill remains in committee. But if it passes, it won’t need approval from the US Congress as it would if it were proposing splitting New York into separate states.

Perhaps Buckley has found a philosophical mean that could ensure freedom of conscience. For example, freedom for children to openly pray in schools governed locally. Freedom for municipalities to respect life, if they choose. Freedom for pharmacists to refuse to provide the means for chemical abortion. And that could only happen if the Supreme Court—whose membership is a new battleground for our day—will refrain from dictating what must be for the whole country.

The ideas of secession, state splitting, and regional secession light sound crazy. Buckley tells us they’re not. They or some form of them are real and on the way.

The unprecedented is what we’re experiencing in 2020. Our divided house hovers over a chasm of chaos. And chaos will continue unless we find a Golden Mean of citizenship we can agree on—or navigate how to go our separate ways.

Photo Credit: NASA (Unsplash)

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

A Golden Mean Between Galt and Gone

Aristotle wrote his Nicomachean Ethics 340 years before Christ was born. Within that text, we find the Golden Mean–a call to virtue, the mean between two extremes, a deficiency of a virtuous quality, and an excess of the quality.

For example, if courage is the mean, rashness would be the excess, and cowardice would be the deficiency.

Today in America, we struggle to find a mean between Galt–a reference to Ayn Rand’s objectivism–and Gone–absolute rejection of American tradition.

Galt refers to a character in Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. John Galt attended Patrick Henry University, a fictional institution of higher learning.

Galt’s philosophy, the mirror of Rand’s, exalts the human spirit, capitalism, and atheism.

In alluding to Patrick Henry, Rand lauds his revolutionary quest for independence but rejects his faith.

And she wasn’t neutral in her renunciation of faith. She was virulently atheistic.

Not so Patrick Henry. When he argued that the colonists must go to war against the British, he declared that “An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!” Henry built his argument on a foundation of faith.

Many in the Galt camp today are gearing up for arms without God. A 2013 study claimed that 30 percent of those surveyed believed an armed revolution may be necessary to secure our constitutional rights.

We are no less divided now than we were then.

The Galt faction professes an excess of American bravado, absent the balancing influence of faith. It has moved beyond deficiency in faith to hostility.

The Galt excesses of bravado and hostility to faith eliminate the effects of faith: “Objectivism rejects the altruistic premise of self-sacrifice”–a pillar principle of Christianity.

The Gone faction in America is also hostile toward Christianity. But unlike the Galt perspective, this deficiency (of faith) and excess (of hatred for it) includes a rejection of American values. It equates Christianity, a conservative moral code, and a capitalist economy, with all the evils of slavery.

Gone urges deficiencies in order and faith and an excess of chaos. It preaches the message of critical theory–that society is comprised only of oppressed and oppressors. Every person is one or the other. There is none else.

Neither of these extremes can ever bring us to a peaceful, virtuous mean.

F.H. Buckley has written American Secession: The Looming Threat of a National Breakup. Here’s part of what goodreads.com says about the book:

“Across the world, large countries are staring down secession movements. Many have already split apart. Do we imagine that we, almost alone in the world, are immune? We had a civil war to prevent a secession, and we’re tempted to see that terrible precedent as proof against another effort. This book explodes that comforting belief and shows just how easy it would be for a state to exit the Union if that’s what its voters wanted.

“But if that isn’t what we really want, Buckley proposes another option, a kind of Secession Lite, that could heal our divisions while allowing us to keep our identity as Americans.”

Secession Lite would require a live and let live mentality. I’ve written before about the divide between city and country–the demarcation of much of our disagreement over faith, economics, and morality.

Perhaps Buckley has found a philosophical mean that could ensure freedom of conscience. For example, freedom for municipalities to respect life, if they choose. Freedom for pharmacists to refuse to provide the means for abortion. Freedom for children to openly pray in government-run schools.

Localities could be free to democratically decide what to do about crime, immigration, and education.

The idea of secession today sounds crazy. He tells us it’s not. It’s real and on the way.

Crazy is what we’re experiencing in 2020. Our divided house hovers over a chasm of chaos. And crazy will continue until we find a Golden Mean of citizenship we can agree on.

Or see our nation destroyed for its lack.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”