Tuesday, December 15, 2020

How would Secessionists secede from themselves?

Just in time to celebrate the 229th birthday of our Bill of Rights, we have talk of 'secession' making the rounds again, coming this election season from the Right, just as last election it came from the Left (with bonus points to the Left for 4 years of '#resistance!' - sheesh). While then as now it's a (dangerous) bi-partisan foolishness, as it has been brought up, it's worth taking a bit of a different perspective on the matter for those who think it a good idea, which this very worthwhile article has brought to mind. So if you think that secession would be a good idea, I've got a quick two part question for you to consider:
  • With which state(s), and with who?
What I mean by the first part of that, is that presumably you want some states to secede so as to distance yourselves from your fellow un-American states, and avoid being sucked into a civil war (...um...), right? So there must be one or more states you have in mind whose populations aren't as bitterly divided by 40%-60% of their own people fighting with each other over the very same issues that've prompted this secession talk, so that... you know... your seceding state(s) won't fall into their own internal civil wars... right? So for these state's whose populations are solidly 70% or more 'likeminded' with you on all of today's most divisive issues - I assume you have more of a basis for believing that than they all like the flag and stand for the Star Spangled Banner, right? What makes you think that these likeminded Americans of yours will have a better understanding of what America once was and should now be - did its people somehow avoid public schools? No? Huh. And as for the second part of that question: What will you do with that 30% or more of their populations who don't support your secessionary notions? And what if they would rather that your state went with their group of states?

Maybe you've got all of that covered, which would be fantastic news, but for you and your likeminded fellows who think they're up to the task of renewing America, I've got an even quicker question for you (see the opening of the article just mentioned), which, I should probably apologize in advance for, as I suspect it will likely decimate the ranks of your 70%. Brace yourself, it's a doozy - ready? Here we go:
  • What is the name 'Cincinnati' derived from, and what is its relevance to America and being an American?
What? Do you know? You do?! That is fantastic! Now, go ahead and ask it of your selected likeminded fellow Americans. I'll wait. It's ok, I don't think I'll have to wait for too long, because I, like the author of this article, have found that most people, and probably especially most of those with college educations who will imagine themselves to be your new leaders, have no clue whatsoever that 'Cincinnati' refers to anything other than the name of a city in Ohio.

So what, you say? So what, is that this is more than just a trivia question, it's a leading indicator of the kind of knowledge that is tragically absent from the minds and character of those living in America today. That little question is a reminder that the problems that we're facing today involve more than just what that 'other' political party, or parties, thinks or does, it has more to do with what we are no longer thinking of, or with, at all. I won't give away the answer (go read it, I'll wait), but I agree with the author, that,
"...Not that long ago, just about any American knew as much or, even more, probably could even have named a few of the most famous Cincinnati. Today, not so much. But our forgetting is not limited to interesting historical facts. What has been forgotten includes the purpose of essential elements of the Founders’ design...."
That is not a trivial matter, and it is of the utmost significance to anyone who'd rather help than harm America. Our nation was first and foremost founded from and upon an understanding of an ideal that was supported and made possible through a set of knowledge and beliefs which fired the varied peoples of those thirteen individual colonies into forming themselves up and into a new nation. We The People today, do not have that set of knowledge and beliefs - and so more pointedly the question becomes, with whom are you going to secede and reform America?!

IMHO we don't 'get America back' without a population that understands and believes in what made America possible in the first place. Having a population who've simply been born here and grew up watching many of the same TV shows and sporting events, isn't going to cut it. If you disagree, if you think that your birth certificate is all it takes to make you an 'American' (look around you), I'm sorry to tell you that the 'blood & soil' thoughts you've been thinking with have far more in common with ideas of tribalism, monarchism & fascism, than with what first made America possible and exceptional.

The problem here is that America isn't something that can be established by a physical fight alone, in the way that an ethnic nationality or kingly bloodline could just fight over land and then... be themselves. America began as a set of ideas that were known and understood first, and only then were they able to create the tangible 'thing' of America which could then be physically fought for.

John Adams described the moment when the idea of America was lit in the soon to be revolutionaries hearts and minds, which was during an assembly in 1761, when James Otis rose to speak out against King George's 'Writs of Assistance' , when, as Adams recalled it,
"...Otis was a flame of fire! With a promptitude of Classical Allusions, a depth of research, a rapid summary of historical events & dates, a profusion of Legal Authorities, a prophetic glance of his eyes into futurity, and a rapid torrent of impetuous Eloquence he hurried away all before him. American Independence was then & there born. The seeds of Patriots & Heroes to defend the Non sine Diis Animosus Infans; to defend the Vigorous Youth were then & there sown. Every Man of an immense crouded Audience appeared to me to go away, as I did, ready to take Arms against Writs of Assistants. Then and there was the first scene of the first Act of opposition to the Arbitrary claims of Great Britain. Then and there the Child Independence was born. In fifteen years i.e. in 1776. he grew up to Manhood, & declared himself free..."[emphasis mine]
We no longer even recognize the relevance of 'a promptitude of Classical Allusions' which Otis fired his listeners with, let alone an eloquence that could stir men's souls with the firm goodness required to stand and fight for that understanding of liberty which meant more than simply doing whatever you felt like at the moment. We don't have that understanding in enough numbers today to be able to confidently recognize each other as being worthy of rallying around. The question isn't whether or not we have enough people with patriotic feelings, it's are there enough patriots who know and understand what they'd actually be fighting for, to the point that they wouldn't soon fall to fighting amongst themselves soon after? As you've guessed, IMHO the answer is 'no'.

Voting Away America
And here's another very non-trivial question, for those of you who are (rightly) up in arms about the latest election:
  • When did America first consciously take constitutional steps to distance itself from its Founding?
The answer to that is in 1913, when, before the two party system was fully cemented into our body politic (it was a big part of the final preparations for it), in that year We The People we took two very large steps backwards, first with the 16th Amendment, which established the federal income tax & federal reserve - and was tragic - but even more critical to our problems today, was the 17th Amendment. This same article notes how the 17th Amdt has had a great deal to do with the weakened state of our federal system and the sickly nature of 'the vote' as we know it today, and of how its power is now being used so very differently than it once was:

"...Many of us do not know that senators were originally chosen by the state legislatures—and this change was made not that long ago. In 1913, around the beginning of the Progressive Era, the 17th Amendment to the Constitution tossed aside this critical feature of the Framers’ design, replacing it with the direct election of senators we have today.

The Founders would certainly have opposed the 17th Amendment because they would have understood that it would throw the system they gave us completely out of balance, as it, in fact, has done. It was perhaps the single change that would do the most to undo what the Founders had accomplished by means of the Constitution.

Americans in 1913 showed by their votes they had forgotten the purpose of the Framers’ design for the Senate. We today, by and large, have even forgotten that generation’s forgetting.

The consequences of this change to America’s constitutional order have been many and profound. Probably the most obvious has been the inevitable erosion of the independence of the states and of their ability to counterbalance federal power.

The Senate was once a barrier to the passage of federal laws infringing on the powers reserved to state governments, but the Senate has abandoned that responsibility under the incentives of the new system of election. Because the state governments no longer have a powerful standing body representing their interests within the federal government, the power of the federal government has rapidly grown at the expense of the states. State governments increasingly are relegated to functioning as administrative units of today’s gargantuan central government...."
How we elect our elected officials - particularly Senators and the President - is an extremely important and non-trivial issue, and in much the same way that the 'Cincinnati' question is not a trivial question, what the relation of 'the Vote' is to Representative Government, are not trivial issues, and our treating them as if they are, is the very means by which our once vaunted sense of American Exceptionalism, has been trivialized to the point that it has been today.

We got to this point slowly, 'progressively', and I think it'll take a long stretch of time to get back out of it. Our slide began in the schools with an evermore corrupting form of 'education' (even by respectable Founder's such as Noah Webster, who devised the educational poison of modern 'Textbooks' so as to help steer students away from learning a 'promptitude of Classical Allusions'), and it'll take a return to an actual education, to correct it. If you'd like some advice on how we might begin our journey back from this pro-regressive nightmare, here's a couple steps that I think would actually be useful:
  • Step 1 - get your kids out of the schools, and get your friends & family to get their kids the hell out of the schools, and talk - a lot - about what needs to be known to become an American.
  • Step 2 - establish a consistent, verifiable voting system where paper votes can be securely cast by legitimately registered (and breathing) citizens who - except in isolated instances - cast their votes in person, and establishes a secure audit trail.
  • Step 3 - spread steps 1 & 2 and... wait.
The bottom line is that if you want to fix America, we should each of us first start with ourselves so that we can at least be certain that the population of actual Americans living in America will have been increased by at least 1. The good news is that you can begin doing so together with friends & family and so increase the population by several persons all at once.

That 2020 Vision
I still am not willing to guess at who'll be sworn in as president at the end of January, because I know it would be nothing more than a guess (keep your eyes on Jan 6th though), and that says more about the chaotic nature of our voting systems and of what We The People know of our own laws, than about the bizarre nature of 2020. There is one thing I do know has led us into this mayhem, and that's that the election laws we currently have - while they may enable charging particular individuals with having committed electoral crimes, they are pitifully inadequate for applying to broader organized electoral fraud, and they are entirely unable to do anything at all, once a ballot (or a pallet of them) have been added to the 'ballot box'. At that point, a legitimate ballot and one stuffed in, cannot be distinguished, and the final count of votes is something we are then left with taking on faith.

That's a problem.

What's an even more disturbing problem, to me, is that it's beginning to seem that the nature of the 'Secret Ballot' - a 19th century innovation which I've never questioned the value of before - essentially ensures an unaccountable system which invites corruption and the suspicion of it. 

Could our voting systems be made more effective, secure and auditable, by replacing the 'secret ballot' with a 'private ballot' - where ballots are cast in person (on paper) by an identified, legitimate, and registered voter, so that each ballot could ultimately be traced back to having been legitimately cast? Could that be done without actually identifying that individual voter? And if not, would applying even more legal penalties for unauthorized 'peeking' at a citizen's voting history than is incurred for doing so with tax returns, keep that history private? 

Those who've had their Tax Records leaked or mysteriously 'audited' by the IRS are probably shaking their heads No.

That too, is a problem. Nevertheless, looking around me today, I'm thinking that our current unaccountable system needs to come to an end. Fast.

In short: The system is the way it is, because of the way it is - if we want a change, we'll have to make significant changes to the way it's set up, and that'll likely mean doing so on the federal level (repeal the 17th Amendment!), and also state by state, locality by locality, and person by person.

But to begin with, let's try taking Step 1, Step 2 & Step 3, and rinse and repeat... and please, lets try doing so as Americans, together - the alternative can be nothing but worse.

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