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Secession Movement: It Is Neither Cute Nor Funny

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Let's be clear that the secession movement is racist no matter how vigorously that may be denied. There would be no movement if a white man was sitting in the Oval Office. The economy continues to recover in all sectors, unemployment continues to inch down, the auto industry is healthy and the stock market is 65 percent higher now than when Obama took office. Yet from this progress comes the need to secede. So let us ignore the reality of a growing economy; let's forget that we fought a bloody war to settle this question; in spite of that we will go with the flow. I have a proposal.

The epicenter of secession fever is, not surprisingly, in Texas. So we should use that momentum to everybody's favor, and designate Texas as the new Republic to which all secessionists move. We strip American citizenship from all people who sign secession petitions and assign each a temporary Green Card to allow them legal residency in the United States for a designated period. We allow Texas to secede and create an independent New Texas Republic. We then encourage all secessionists to move to their new Republic; we do so by having the Green Card expire in five years. At the date of expiration they need to either be residing in New Texas or be subjected to deportation to the new country. As part of the secession process, New Texas will have to agree that current residents of Texas who do not wish to leave the Union retain their U.S. citizenship with no limits on residency and no restrictions on any rights afforded to U.S. citizens. Since only the U.S. federal government can print money, New Texas would have to create its own currency. The new country would also have to issue passports and create all the other trappings of an independent country. Citizens of the new country would forfeit their Social Security, have no Medicare and have to compensate the United States for lands and improvements like federal courthouses, prisons, military bases and parklands.

Think how much better off we all would be if all those who thought so little of the United States that they wished to leave the Union were actually gone. Good riddance; we should actually encourage them. We can live without Texas. Our political discourse would return to the center with no anti-science, anti-intellectual, religiously intolerant extremists to skew the debate. Give them Texas; let the loony right create a concentration of crazy; let those who wish to create a Christian nation do so; let them create a state of intolerance in which all abortions are banned, Creation Science is taught in place of evolution and climate change is a liberal hoax. And then let us move on.

Oh how that would feel good; but talk of secession is irresponsible. We need to be adult about this and recognize secession for what it is, and to do so we need to revisit our history. Southerners have explored this territory before, so let us look at their logic and see how they fared.

Southerners who claim a deep national pride celebrate their ancestors' efforts to dissolve the very union of states whose flag they now so proudly fly. They honored then and again now a campaign to divide our country while claiming the mantle of patriot. That makes no sense. The contradiction is always swept under the rug with lots of flag waving. But that includes the confederate flag. A southern loyalist or any secessionist cannot be a patriot; the two ideals are mutually incompatible. You cannot simultaneously love the United States and love the idea of destroying the United States through dissolution. To claim both is insane, the equivalent of declaring that you love all Mexican food but hate enchiladas. The claims are each exclusive of the other and therefore by definition both cannot be true.

The last time Americans spoke of secession more than 630,000 soldiers were killed or wounded in four years of hellish war. To put this in perspective consider that the entire population of the United States at war's end was 35 million, putting war casualties at nearly two percent of the total populace. Equivalent rates of casualties today would result in 5 million dead or wounded, dwarfing our losses in World War II, or any other war. This talk of secession is irresponsible, and ugly, and disrespectful to those who died preserving our Union.

Why did two percent of our population suffer death or maiming? So many Americans died because two sides differently interpreted the meaning of state sovereignty and the Tenth Amendment (ratified in 1791). The text of the amendment is simple enough: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." But we also have the Supremacy Clause of Article VI of the Constitution, which says, "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."

Eleven southern states seceded from the Union in protest against federal legislation that limited the expansion of slavery claiming that such legislation violated the Tenth Amendment, which they argued trumped the Supremacy Clause. The war was indeed about protecting the institution of slavery -- as a specific case of a state's inherent right to declare any federal law null and void.

The inherent tension between Article VI and the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution has kept lawyers busy and wealthy since our founding, and the argument goes on today. Nevertheless, Lincoln saw clearly that in seceding from the Union on the basis of the Tenth Amendment the southern states by default declared the U.S. Constitution dead. The Union could not possibly survive if secession was left to stand. Once the principle of seceding is established the glue holding the Union together would soon dissolve. Proof of that is in the fact that during the war the Confederacy began to dissolve through the secession of Southern states from the Confederacy. South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union, also threatened later to secede from the Confederacy, as did Georgia later in the war. The legitimacy of secession could lead to nothing but balkanization, a group of independent states much like we see in Europe. The United States of American could not exist under these conditions.

The president of the United States, sworn to uphold the Constitution, had no choice but to take whatever measures were necessary to fulfill his commitment. You need not agree with that; the war settled the question whether you like it or not. Losing a war has consequences. We have had the argument and fought the war and the result is in. We have more than 600,000 dead and wounded to tell us that the Tenth Amendment does not trump the Supremacy Clause. Secession is not viable; we have been there and done that.

Anybody signing a secession petition should be deeply ashamed. The petition soils the memory of those who fought this battle before. By definition, nothing could be more un-American than an attempt to leave the Union. Secession is treason. Waving the American flag while promoting the effort to tear down that flag through disunion is untenable. Make a choice; be a proud American or a proud Secessionist. You cannot possibly be both.

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