Fair Weather Citizens

One thing I am thankful for this year, and every other year, is my unbelievably good fortune to have been born in the United States.

I have no idea whether this is the Greatest Country on Earth—I have only spent about two weeks of my life outside our borders—but it has treated me well enough thus far, and I have no immediate plans to leave.

This is not an especially controversial sentiment most of the time.  However, if the headlines of the last week are to be believed, not quite as many of my fellow Americans share this view as I might have thought.

In light of Barack Obama’s re-election as president, good citizens from all 50 of our states united have filed petitions, through the White House website, to peacefully withdraw from the American republic.  As of this writing, petitions from seven states have amassed at least 25,000 cyber signatures apiece—the amount required for an official White House review.

We need not worry ourselves too much about this curious outbreak of contrarian civics.  It exists within the wonderful anonymity of the Internet—people “sign” only with their first name and last initial.  We have no way of knowing how many of these documents are serious, and anyway, secession is fantastically illegal.

In this discussion, secession itself is a red herring.  No serious political figure has uttered the “S” word, and we should not expect it in the near future.  (Texas’s governor, Rick Perry, broached the subject in 2009, but his standing as a serious person is very much in doubt.)

The attitude undergirding the more genuine elements of this grieved movement is the one that repeats every four years—namely, the premise that a country ruled by the candidate you did not support is a country not worth living in.

Surely we all know what we’re talking about here.  There was an enormous amount of bluster during the 2004 campaign, for instance, by people who vowed to relocate to Canada, Europe or elsewhere should President George W. Bush be re-elected.  Four years back, Tina Fey cheekily said she would be “leaving Earth” in the event of a Vice President Sarah Palin.  Rush Limbaugh, for his part, picked Costa Rica as his destination should Congress pass the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

The underlying sentiment in all these instances, naturally, is patriotism.  These are people who love their country so much that they will flee at the first sign of trouble.

In football, the term for this is “fair weather fan.”

To an extent, we should appreciate the freedom to abandon a free country (individually, that is) as one of the great American contradictions, in the way that the right to burn the national flag is represented by the flag itself.  And don’t even get us started about how the words “all men are created equal” were written by a man who owned more than 200 human beings.

Yet I cannot help but view these would-be rebels as a gaggle of shortsighted, freeloading cretins.

One has every right not to love one’s country.  However, to proclaim that one does—as most Americans do—carries an implicit promise that, as with a husband or wife, one will stand by said country through thick and thin, the good times and the bad.  Love means never having a mistress country on the side.

Meanwhile, we can take comfort in the fact that, with few exceptions, these shortsighted, freeloading cretins are also liars and cowards.

Hardly anybody who pledged to run for the exits should Bush/Obama prevail actually did.  It was all a bluff—a blowing off of steam, rather than any kind of serious threat.

But that doesn’t make it any less excusable, because it completely overlooks what is so great about America in the first place, which is that if you do not like the present state of affairs, you have the right and the power to try to change it.

Secession—or the mere threat of it—is a lazy evasion of one’s responsibilities in a free society.  It amounts to opting out of the system, rather than engaging with it.  There is something acutely contemptible about the whole business, and those who do not even have the decency to mean what they say should do us all a favor and knock it off.


One thought on “Fair Weather Citizens

  1. This strikes me as rather one-sided. What if demography is destiny? What if American democracy is now a one-party system? Rather coincidental that you mention Ted Kennedy, whose 1965 Immigration Act paved the way for Democrats to import an endless supply of voters and change the fabric of America. By and large minorities vote as a bloc, despite the GOP pandering to Hispanics and appealing to them as ‘natural conservatives.’ Essentially, there is an irreversible demographic shift.

    Secession seemed crazy in 1865, but when people lose freedom of association and self-determination they tend to get angry. They don’t worry if it’s “illegal” because the government that they pay for doesn’t acknowledge their existence anyway. It’s hard to deny that entitlements and policies that encourage, politely stated, lower-class people to breed can only end in complete disaster.

    Look to Chicago, home of our dear leader. It’s one of the most segregated cities in America, and now, the national leader in violent crime. Mayor Emanuel is out suppressing the ‘hate’ speech of Chick-fil-A, when the South Side of Chicago is turning into Mogadishu. I’ve had the good fortune of living in a nicer area of Chicago, but friends at UChicago (near the South Side) were afraid to stay out too late because it simply wasn’t safe. Afraid to venture outside in their own country. Freedom of association is natural, and it’s clear that multiculturalism has failed (see Europe, continent of, for further examples).

    Secession is a return to natural order, where like-minded people form a nation. I favor self-determination for everyone, so we can split America into many nations. Everyone has a place where they can be happy and live amongst each other. Of course, no place would be 100% of one race / culture, but immigration policy should protect national identity at a macro level. A favored liberal argument is that the South NEEDS the federal government because they take in more federal funds than they provide. This is 100% true, you got me there. In a new nation though, maybe a meritocracy even (*gasp*), policies that favor social parasites will be gone. What is the government so afraid of? Seems like a win-win to me.

    If secession happens, people will not ask permission. Taking control of your destiny when your government has failed you is anything but fair-weather citizenship. You’re correct that most are just bloviating, but the fact that this has hit the mainstream has many a young mind thinking. And the hope is that thought will lead to action.

    (excuse the lengthy post and please don’t perceive my message as hate speech, my only hope is that people realize the hypocrisy in our country’s policies and the need to exercise their Constitutional rights)

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