Revolt is in the air. Fed up with our corrupt government, Tea Partiers elect new, improved Republicans, those who will restore God, vote against gay marriage, tighten our borders and, above all, keep America strong militarily, even though she already has the most bloated (yet strangely inept) military in history, even though the military industrial complex is the very source of governmental corruption. Tea Partiers want to trim pork even as they feed this monstrous hog. We must support our troops.
Secessionists, on the other hand, have had enough of this madness. Why send tax dollars to Washington to be wasted on foreign wars? To save their own state or region, they want to get off this suicidal roller coaster ride, but what will happen when federal troops are sent in? The Civil War was fought over secessions. If the American empire is loathe to give up even its most distant outpost, why would it let go of, say, Vermont, without a bloody fight?
There are secessionist movements in about thirty states now. Among the more established is the Second Vermont Republic, founded in 2003. Besides political independence from Washington, it is also aiming for a more local and sustainable economy. “Life should be lived on a human scale,” it states on its website. “Small is still beautiful […] We celebrate and support Vermont’s small, clean, green, sustainable, socially responsible towns, farms, businesses, schools, and churches. We encourage family-owned farms and businesses to produce innovative, premium-quality, healthy products.” All of these goals are laudable but the SVR’s commitment to non-violence ensures that it’ll never succeed on any scale, I’m afraid. Big government is big business now, and it will not release its prey, I mean let go of its market share, without spilling blood. Big Brother will bare his fangs as soon as you cut into his profits. It will be the Domino Theory all over again. If you let Vermont fall (aside), then you’ll loose New Hampshire, Maine, then Massachusetts…
Even resorting to violence, the Kurds, Basques, Catalonians or Corsicans, etc., have not managed to secede from their respective states after many decades of struggle, but we also have the Soviet Union, which broke up into fifteen republics. Each of these new countries was an ethnic enclave within the Soviet empire, however. Several had only been absorbed quite recently. These peoples never saw themselves as Russians, and were only too glad to break away. We don’t have the same conditions here. The United States will not splinter along ethnic and racial lines, at least not without a considerable mess.
So if electoral politics, à la Tea Party, and peaceful secessionism, Vermont style, are both futile, should Americans resort to more militant actions? For several years now, James Howard Kunstler has conjured up scenes of fed up proles rising up to torch the manor of a blood sucking CEO. A typical, quite gleeful passage, “people with little interest in principle beyond some dim idea of economic fairness, will be hoisting the flaming brands out of sheer grievance and malice. By the time Lloyd Blankfein sees the torches flickering through his privet, it will be too late to defend the honor of his cappuccino machine.” In 2006, William S. Lind wrote even more ominously:
One of the things U.S. troops are learning in Iraq is how people with little training and few resources can fight a state. Most American troops will see this within the framework of counterinsurgency. But a minority will apply their new-found knowledge in a very different way. After they return to the U.S. and leave the military, they will take what they learned in Iraq back to the inner cities, to the ethnic groups, gangs, and other alternate loyalties they left when they joined the service. There, they will put their new knowledge to work, in wars with each other and wars against the American state. It will not be long before we see police squad cars getting hit with IEDs and other techniques employed by Iraqi insurgents, right here in the streets of American cities.
If disaffected Americans started to imitate Iraqi insurgents, the best they could hope for is to achieve the latter’s success, or lack thereof. For every American invader killed by an IED, how many insurgents have lost their lives? How many innocent civilians? For all the casualties they suffered, the Iraqis have won nothing. The United States still occupies their country. It has set up its Green Zone, built Enduring Bases, defended the Petro Dollar, stolen Iraqi oil proceeds and robbed American tax payers, so everything has gone according to plan, more or less. The loss of a soldier here and there has long been factored in. No biggie, this collateral write-off is merely a cost of doing business in any difficult neighborhood.
With its well-armed, confused and increasingly angry populace, the United States can quickly become the mother of all difficult neighborhoods, one would think, but so far, all is placid. We rally, rant and hold up cute signs, yes, but unlike the Thais, we don’t occupy the central commercial district for two months, then torch a mega shopping center and the stock exchange. We don’t riot like the French and the Greeks, or topple the government, like Icelanders.
The Obama card was a brilliant move by our ruling class. After eight years of Bush, they placated our liberals and blacks with an articulate and personable black effigy. After four years of Obama, they will likely appease the gun happy and ultra religious with a deer hunting mom of a combat soldier. Sarah is so “real,” she even has a reality show. Pacified momentarily by a fake head, many Americans won’t realize, yet again, that nothing has changed. Many will celebrate and weep, and equally earnest lines such as these will be written, “Citizenship is a passionate joy at times, and this is one of those times. You can feel it. Tuesday the world changed. It was a great day.” (Rebecca Solnit in The Nation, 11/6/08.) I have a feeling, however, that we may be nearing the end of being jerked back and forth like this, that even the most insensate and silly among us is about to explode.
LINH DINH is the author of two books of stories and five of poems, and the recently published novel, Love Like Hate. He’s tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, State of the Union.