We’ll admit to a more than passing interest in our country’s Civil War – the one great great grand pap fought in way back in 1861-65 – and the one we thought Mister Lincoln put a virtual “period” on at the dedication of a National Cemetery sanctified by the blood of the recently fallen.
Following up on that interest we’ve walked the ground where those pivotal battles played out and marveled at the conviction that would drive men out in the open against massed musket and canister fire, and wondered why Lincoln’s words – meant to heal and unite – left a sizable portion of the country unconsoled, and seething.
In school, they boiled the struggle for the Republic down into a simple fight between blue and gray, of Johnny Reb vs. Billy Yank, a Civil War fought to free a people and unite us as country. But, in walking those embattled promontories, sunken roads and cornfields we’d read about in history books, we heard other names used: “the War of Northern Aggression,” “the War Between the States,” “the Second American Revolution,” “the Lost Cause,” and even, in a little cafe in southern Virginia “the Late Unpleasantness” – which seemed a little cavalier given that 620,000 Americans were thrown into its grinder.
Walt Whitman, who saw much of it, called it the War of Attempted Secession.
And now, seven score and 18 years after the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered its colors and arms and were saluted by silent ranks of northern soldiers as they marched off Wilmer McLean’s homestead in Appomattox, the “S-word” is back and being mouthed by congressional representatives who appear pumped and once again ready for conflict.
Whether to stimulate a flagging segment of their base or to genuinely raise the new battle flag of secession we do not know, but Republican firebrands are once again waving their canes – or their AR-15s – and talking about a “National Divorce.” That’s a new one for the list, but there it is.
“We need to separate by red states and blue states and shrink the federal government. Everyone I talk to says this,” Georgia representative Marjorie Taylor Greene put out there by Tweet.
Greene elaborated that she would like to see a “legal agreement” that would separate states to resolve ideological and political disagreements “while maintaining our legal union.”
Miss Greene isn’t alone in her thinking. Texas GOP chair Allen West proposed creation of a new union of “law-abiding states,” and Texas state Rep. Kyle Biedermann has said he would file a bill in Austin putting the question of Texas secession to voters. In this way, the New Secessionists argue, Americans can decide where and how to live and won’t “have to argue with one another anymore.” As appealing as that may sound on the surface, exactly which states would we be losing – or gaining, depending on your position – if this National Rift were to come to pass? Well, it’s looking like South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana (no more beignets… damn), Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina – and, yes, you students of history, those are the guys who broke away from the troubled union back in 1860.
What’s changed since then? Styles, for one… women in Congress… not to mention our weaponry. No more time-consuming muzzle-loaders, folks in those departing states have automatic weapons and explosives and appear ready and eager to put them to use. If us “furriners” are stopped at the borders and internal relations do break down within the, what? – New South? -it seems those 3 a.m. Waffle House fights could take on a whole new dimension, with the locals paying the price.
We know many of you are working yourselves up like a Blue Tick Hound on a opossum hunt right now, calling us out for our bias against the South and Southerners and people with guns who wear them in public. Nothing could be further from the truth. We’ve visited the states in question many times, like the people, have family living there, and grew up around firearms. They don’t scare us, people using them against others do scare us, as we’ve seen the damage they can do. Any New Separatist who says they don’t care would probably be scrambling for the nearest bucket after their first contact in the Third Battle of Bull Run.
We are also aware that some of you are thinking the shortlist of “breakaway states” is missing some possible Western additions, like Idaho, Arizona, and even our own Golden State, which some Bear Flag Secessionists have suggested could do better on its own than with the rest of the country.
Despite some secessionist cheerleading from the likes of Rush Limbaugh (Presidential Medal of Freedom if you can believe that) and Glenn Beck, American militias have so far resisted the urge to open fire on Fort Sumter or some other designated bastion of Federal Power.
Many feel such a split will never come to pass, with each state dependent on Federal money and services their people have come to expect. Some say that while current political divisions are extreme they don’t line up along state borders, and not everyone is in favor despite the claims of supporters. Others point to the legality of such a move, with the sacrifices made during the Civil War ensuring the powers of the federal government and giving it final say over any suggestion of secession.
That’s that then, right? This recent talk is some political smoke-blowing meant to invoke old rallying cries and mobilize voting blocs? We’ll see, we Americans can be a contentious and independent-minded bunch. We mean, just look at how we got here.